Cork City Gaol: a guide to Ireland’s infamous prison

If you find yourself in Cork for a while, a visit to the Cork City Gaol is definitely worth your while.

Cork City Gaol: a guide to Ireland’s infamous prison.
Credit: Flickr – William Murphy/ Vincent Moschetti

Cork City Gaol was a gaol in Cork for just over 100 years. It has held some important figures in Irish history, such as Irish Republican Brotherhood member Brian Dillon and Cumann na mBan member Constance Markievicz.

After decades of disuse, the gaol was renovated and reopened as a museum in 1993. It offers visitors an incredible insight into penal history in Ireland, both under British rule and under the governorship of the Irish Free State.

Ireland Before You Die’s top tips for visiting Cork City Gaol:

  • Cork City Gaol is to the west of Cork city centre. By car or taxi, it is an eight-minute drive away. You can avail of free onsite car parking for up to two hours.
  • Walking will take around 25-30 minutes.
  • No public bus passes the gaol. The closest bus stop is on Western Road, about a ten-minute walk away. The 208 bus services Western Road.
  • The city’s sightseeing tour bus stops at the gaol. This seasonal service runs from April to September.
  • The jail opens year-round, except 22-26 December inclusive.
  • The tour is partially wheelchair accessible.

Ireland Before You Die’s interesting facts about Cork City Gaol:

  • The prison opened in 1824. It replaced the old gaol at North Gate Bridge, which was overcrowded and dangerously unsanitary.
  • Its site was chosen due to its altitude. Planners viewed this height as a means of containing “gaol fever” (typhus).
  • Originally, the gaol held both male and female prisoners who had committed crimes within city limits. Those who committed crimes outside the city limits were jailed at Cork County Gaol.
  • In 1878, reorganisation led to Cork City Gaol becoming the women’s prison, while Cork County Gaol would thereafter hold men.
  • Many inmates in the 19th century were arrested for harsh offences by today’s standards. A Mary Tucker from Rathmore was arrested at least three times for ‘Drunkenness’ and ‘Obscene Language’.
  • Countess Constance Markievicz was held at Cork City Gaol in October 1919 for making a seditious speech.
  • Another famous inmate was writer Frank O’Connor. O’Connor was interned in 1923 for being a member of the IRA who opposed the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty.
  • Cork Gaol closed in August 1923. All remaining prisoners were either released or transferred to other prisons.
  • In 1927, Cork’s first radio station, 6CK, used the top floor of the gaol as its broadcasting station. It was used for broadcasting by one station or another as recently as the 1950s.
  • After falling into a state of disuse, the gaol reopened as a museum in 1993.

What’s nearby

Food: Taj Indian Bar and Restaurant (Indian cuisine), Noodlee (Chinese restaurant), Deli Delicious (pizza).

Drink: The Residence Bar, Baker Street Irish Pub, River Lane Bar, The Joshua Tree, Glenryan Tavern.

Other attractions: University College Cork, Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork Public Museum, The English Market, The Glucksman, and Old Cork Waterworks Experience.

Contact and more info

Address: Convent Ave, Sunday’s Well, Cork, Ireland

Website: https://corkcitygaol.com/

Phone: +353 (0)2 14305022

Price: Adults €10, Students €8.50, OAP (over 65) €8.50, Child (3-17) €6, Child (under three) free, Family (two adults and two-four children) €30. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult. Audio guides in nine languages cost an additional €2 per person.

Opening times: March-October, 10 am-5 pm daily. November-February, 10 am-4 pm daily.

Your questions answered about Cork City Gaol

What were the punishments in Cork City Gaol?

Punishments in Cork City Gaol included the pillory, whipping, and rock breaking.

Is there parking at Cork Gaol?

Cork City Gaol has free parking for up to two hours.

When did Cork City Gaol become a museum?

Cork Gaol became a museum in 1993.

IB4UD Guides to Cork

READ: Top 10 best things to do in Cork (Bucket List)

MORE: The English Market, Cork: history, facts & visit info

READ: Top 10 best free things to do in Cork

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