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A tour of Kilmainham Gaol, in Dublin, is a journey into Ireland’s past.
This imposing structure was built in 1796, and quickly established a reputation as one of Ireland’s most fearsome prisons due to its poor living conditions and the brutal treatment of its occupants. After its abandonment in 1924, it sat for many years before refurbishment and conversion to a museum in the 1980s. While it showcases a rather dark portion of Irish history, it’s nonetheless a major draw for those curious about the nation’s past, and Kilmainham Gaol sightseeing is always fascinating.
The gaol’s cells were not segregated; up to five men, women, and even children as young as seven could be held together in each small chamber. Wander through dim, narrow corridors lit only by a handful of lamps and try to imagine scores of other inhabitants moving beside you. The center atrium looks pristine now, but during the prison’s heyday, it would have been choked with prisoners being shuffled to their cells or off to the colonies. Each cell had one candle to provide illumination and warmth, and each candle had to last for two weeks—needless to say, much of the time these cells were cold, miserable places.
Don’t forget to explore the rest of Dublin once you finish up at Kilmainham Gaol. Directly across the street from the prison is the Irish Museum of Modern Art and its Garden of Galleries; this is a good spot to cleanse your eyes before checking out the rest of the city.
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