The old Cork City Gaol is arguably one of Cork City’s most famous tourist attractions. Each year thousands of visitors flock to its old redstone walls to visit one of Ireland’s most beautiful yet haunting sites. This is even more impressive given the fact that it was completely abandoned and virtually left to rot for almost a century! If you’re making a trip there, check out our website or alternatively pop into one of our Day Tours offices at 9 Bridge Street and 4 Washington Street where our dedicated staff will guide you in the right direction.
First established in 1824 by British occupation authorities, the Gaol became one of Ireland’s largest female only prisons. Many of these working class women were condemned to lengthy sentences for mild offences, such as stealing food to feed their starving families or after having been forced into prostitution by the incredibly harsh economic conditions imposed on the Irish by the ruling British elite.
During the War of Independence, the prison was used to incarcerate many members of Cumman na mBan, an Irish women’s Republican movement, indeed many of its members were active volunteers in the Irish Republican Army. The most famous member of Cumann na mBan interned in the Cork City Gaol was Constance Markeivicz (below), minister for labour in the first Dáil (Ireland’s parliament) and a national hero across the country!
Following the War of Independence, Ireland became engulfed in a bloody civil war in which the newly formed Irish Free State fought former IRA members who opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty. This was a truly dark chapter of Ireland’s history which saw Irishmen pitted against Irishmen and brothers against brothers. The Cork City Gaol was used by the Irish Army, or as they became known, Regulars, to intern IRA members, or as they were known, Irregulars. In 1923 it was the site of a major jailbreak by Irregulars who were captured in Kerry. Their successful escape, which involved scaling the prison walls with a ladder made out of bedsheets, would be right at home in a Steve McQueen epic.
Between 1923 and 1993, the Gaol was abandoned and mostly disregarded as a throwback to the times of colonisation and oppression. In 1993 it was completely restored and the now famous Cork City Gaol museum was opened to the public. Situated just a short walk from our Washington Street Day Tours office, the Gaol is easily accessible on foot and entry prices go from €8 for adults and €7 for students and OAPs. Included in this price is a guided audio tour which is available in several different languages and a guided walking tour of the grounds which leaves every 30 minutes during the summer months.
The best way to get to the Gaol is with our Cork Hopper Bus. This is a hop on hop off bus service which, along with stops at Blarney Castle, the Midleton Distillery, and the Cobh Heritage Center, will bring you straight to the Gaol and even offers you a discount on entry to the museum. If you have any queries on this, simply call in to our offices where our friendly and multilingual staff are always happy to help with planning your Day Tour, or even just to get some advice on Cork’s vibrant nightlife. As we always say at Day Tours World, leave it to us! 🙂