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Wicklow's Historic Gaol (Wicklow Town)

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Wicklow's Historic Gaol

Wicklow's Historic Gaol - Abandon Hope ...

© 2007 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Bottom Line

As far as jails go, Wicklow's Historic Gaol is certainly worth a visit - these days you actually pay to get in and they let you out again without too much hassle. Which might come as a relief after seeing the exhibition. In contrast to the almost squeaky-clean presentation of Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, the less famous counterpart in Wicklow Town goes straight for the jugular. Prison life is recreated by life-size manikins. In all gory detail. Ever wanted to see somebody flogged? Kids will love it ...


  • Restored historic building, used as a jail from 1702 to 1928.
  • Comprehensive and very lively exhibition on prison life and punishment.
  • Transportation to Australia also highlighted.
  • Dungeon adds some shivers.
  • Night Tours available.


  • Wheelchair access almost impossible, other mobility impaired visitors should bring an assistant.
  • Some modern details (electricity outlets) might have been better hidden.


  • Wicklow's Historic Gaol is located in the center of Wicklow Town and has been restored
  • Dungeons were not used after prison reforms but have been reopened to provide additional thrills.
  • The totally useless threadwheel is a stark reminder of how prisoners were systematically abused.

Guide Review - Wicklow's Historic Gaol (Wicklow Town)

What do you do with a disused jail in the middle of town? Most councils would demolish it. But Wicklow Town invested and turned it into a tourist attraction - Wicklow's Historic Gaol. Not just a museum, but the history of punishment brought alive.

Life-size figures will show you how the bad old days were before prison reform, when the gaoler could be paid for better accommodation. Or take you through the events of the 1798 rebellion. Life after prison reform is also highlighted, complete with the prison school. As the life of many thousands did not end in an Irish prisons, but far away in Australia instead, transportation is also a major theme. The convict ship Hercules has been recreated and the new life of the deported is shown in little set-pieces, housed in the old cells.

During the renovation the "dungeon" of Wicklow's Historic Gaol was also reopened. Always a hit with children it features a flogging, the bathhouse and solitary confinement - which can be tried by visitors for a few minutes. More than enough for most.

Overall an interesting, educational and at times chilling experience. For additional shivers down your spine join one of the Night Tours ...

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