The Northern Ireland conflict – or simply called The Troubles is one of the most intense civil conflicts I experienced during my life. Maybe not the most straightforward place to study that conflict is visiting the Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast. Yes, we are talking about a former prison – which had to be organized in a way that opposing religious groups do not get in touch and thus in trouble. Here are my thoughts about a tour through this interesting historic monument.
Crumlin Road Gaol – Location & Admission
The gaol is located Northwest of Belfast city center. You may reach the former prison by local transport. There is a bus stop, Agnes Street, more or less across the street (buses 11e, 11f, 12b, 107). I took the taxi from Hampton Belfast City Centre for my visit. Across the building is the former courthouse building.
The tour takes about 90 minutes. At the time of publishing, the museum is opening daily apart from Mondays. Doors open at 10:30 hrs. On Sundays to Thursdays, the last tour starts at 15:20 / closing time: 17:00 hrs and on Fridays and Sundays, this is even prolonged to 18:20 / 20:00 hrs. Adult admission at the door is 12 GBP – there is a ten per cent online discount.
Crumlin Road Gaol – The Visit
The visitor center is located on one side of the main building. You enter the prison from there and first enter a room, in which you learn a lot about the basic facts of the prison, which is the only remaining Victorian era one in Northern Ireland. It opened in 1846 and was closed in March 1996. The next room you visit is the room in which new arriving prisoners have been initially checked.
The next part of the tour was one of the most interesting ones: The Tunnel connected the prison with the former courthouse, so that you could bring prisoners to a trial without having to transport them through public grounds. A very interesting architecture solution – before you head into the in fact cell area.
One Aisle per Confession
The prison itself is having a central plaza (The Circle) from which four wings are diverting. The total capacity of the gaol has been some 500. You get some basic information in The Circle before you head into C-Wing, which is illustrating all different functions. You could visit this part of the prison on your own. The different cells are very well illustrated and explained, so that the visit is really impressive.
At the very end of the wing, you also explore the dark part of prison life: the execution room, where you still see the gallows is also part of your visit. The names of all prisoners executed are screened onto the wall in the room.
After visiting the prison wing, you enter the backyard. One of the key stops is a plain meadow, which is in fact an (anonymous) cemetery for some of the executed ones. There are also some old vehicles in the backyard area.
Crumlin Road Gaol – Services
Around the entrance, you can buy all kinds of (nice or less nice) souvenirs.
There is also a cafe on the museum grounds, which has been very popular among the visitors.
Crumlin Road Gaol – My View
The Crum, how the Crumlin Road Gaol is called in Belfast, is a really amazing place. There a couple of prison museums out there – but here you also learn a lot about the Northern Irish conflict. I felt that this was absolutely worth the visit and would definitely recommend to visit this place, if it fits to your schedule. Top Pick!, for sure.
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