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Wicklow Gaol is a recreation of 18th Century prison life. Located in the town of Wicklow, construction of the prison started in 1702. There has been a prison on the site since the late eighteenth century up to 1924.
Prisoners were held at Wicklow Gaol during the 1798 Rebellion and the Great Famine, and many were held there prior to penal transportation. Prisoners were “transported” to distant UK colonies from 1789-1856, including over 600 men involved in the 1798 Rebellion. At the height of the Great Famine, the number of prisoners swelled to 780.
The prison was extended in 1822 to a design by William Vitruvius Morrison, and further extended 1842-1843. It was demoted to the status of ‘bridewell’, a prison for petty offenders awaiting their court date, in 1877.
Between 1900 and 1918, the prison was dormant. However, the Gaol was re-opened in 1918 to cater for the holding of many Sinn Fein members and their supporters. Wicklow Gaol closed its doors for the final time as a prison 1924.
In 1995 renovations began, and it reopened as a museum in 1998, claiming to be one of the world’s most haunted buildings, due to the long history of suffering associated with it.
Open daily February-November 10.30 am-4.30 pm. Open daily December-January 11.00 am – 3.30 pm. The gaol is usually closed over the Christmas period (Dec 16-Jan 7 inclusive). Also closed on Good Friday.
Spooky night tours are also available (advance booking required – adults only). Take an eerie night tour of Ireland’s most haunted building. Mingle with the ghosts, enter the solitude and board the transportation ship. You need to check the Wicklow Gaol website to confirm that the ghost tour is actually running, as there is no strict schedule as such. In the past, ghost tours were on the last Friday of the month from March-November, starting at 7.00 pm and leaving every 15 minutes.
The Wicklow Gaol Day Tour – step into the past. Meet Mary Morris the Matron and her husband, the ill-mannered old Gaoler; then board the convict ship HMS Hercules for a rough voyage to the New World. Enjoy the atmosphere of one of Ireland’s most historic buildings, with an animated snapshot of life in an historic Irish prison. Adults €11.50; concessions.
The Gates Of Hell Virtual Reality Experience – this fully immersive experience transports visitors back in time to Wicklow Gaol in the 1700’s – a grim 3-dimensional world of corruption, rebellion and dark dungeons. Some of the Gaol’s most notorious prisoners are featured and there may even be a guest appearance from one of the Haunted Gaol’s famous ghosts! Adults €17.50; concessions.
Kilmantin Hill, Wicklow Town, Co. Wicklow.
Tel: 0404 61599.
Free parking available for ticket holders.
Night Tour (when available) €15.