Visit Cork City Gaol, where prisoners were held in gruesome conditions for almost a century during the 1800s and 1900s. Learn about this historic prison’s famous inmates, their crimes, escapes and executions while walking between the well-preserved cells. Cork City Goal opened in 1824 and became an all-female prison in 1878. It held a mix of well-known prisoners and poor citizens, many convicted of petty crimes such as stealing clothes and food.
Admire the building’s striking architecture, designed by Kilkenny-born architect William Robertson. Note how it resembles a castle. Look for prominent Georgian and Gothic features, including the turreted battlements.
Pick up an audio guide and take a self-guided tour of the prison’s rooms. Listen to the stories of the former inmates and discover why some were sent to Australia for their crimes. Peek inside the cells, which portray the squalid living conditions. Come face-to-face with wax models of prisoners dressed in period clothing and merciless-looking wardens.
Get an insight into some of the famous figures imprisoned at Cork City Gaol. Among these was Countess Constance Markievicz, an Irish nationalist who became the first woman elected to British Parliament. Hear about the botched execution of Owen Ryan, the first to take place at the prison’s gallows. Be fascinated by the tale of how a group of 42 Irish Republican Army veterans escaped in 1923, many of whom were never recaptured.
The prison closed in 1923 and from 1927 to the 1950s operated as a radio station. Today, the old Governor’s House is home to the Radio Museum, which has a collection of antique radios, photographs and a microphone once used by President John F. Kennedy.
Located in the Sunday’s Well district, the prison is about a 20-minute walk from Cork’s city center. A hop-on hop-off tourist bus also stops here. Alternatively, drive and use free parking on the street outside the prison’s entrance.
Cork City Gaol is open daily and has an admission fee. Extra fees are applicable for the audio guide and Radio Museum. Find more information on the prison’s official website, including details of an evening tour.