A morning spend at Wicklow Gaol is arguably one of the more unique things to do in Wicklow.
And it’s a handy rainy day activity if you don’t fancy tackling one of the many Wicklow walks while it’s pouring down!
Those that visit Wicklow Gaol will take a journey through the old, original prison building and hear the stories of the prisoners held under British rule on interactive tours.
In the guide below, you’ll find out everything you need to know, from the Wicklow Gaol tour to the story behind the prison.
Some quick need-to-knows before you visit the Wicklow Gaol
Although a visit to Wicklow Historic Gaol is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
The historic Wicklow Jail is located right in the middle of Wicklow town, just behind the main street. Its convenient location means that its easily walkable from most places in town.
2. Opening hours
The gaol and museum are open daily from 10.30am to 4.30pm for most of the year from February to November. However, throughout December and January, it’s open from 11am to 3.30pm.
Admission prices for Wicklow Jail depend largely on what kind of tour you opt to do. Day tour ticket prices are €9.50 per adult, €6.50 per child and €26 for a family, including a free audio guide. Virtual Reality Experience prices are €15 per adult, €10 per child and €50 for a family (prices may change).
There are a range of tours available throughout the day and night. From the original day tours to spooky paranormal tours, there’s something for everyone.
A brief history of the Wicklow Historic Gaol
Wicklow Historic Gaol is, as you can probably guess, a former prison. It’s now a museum that allows visitors to step back in time to discover life as a prisoner under British rule.
There has been a prison on the same site since the late 18th century. Prisoners were held at the Wicklow Jail during the 1798 rebellion and the Great Famine.
The building was extended in 1822 and further again in 1842 to accommodate the growing number of inmates.
It was eventually closed down in 1900 but reopened to hold republican prisoners during the Irish War of Independence and Irish Civil War.
The last prisoners left the gaol in 1924 and it was offered up for sale in 1928 to no avail. In 1985, the gaol was finally recognised as a significant historic building and restoration began in the early 1990s. It was eventually reopened as a museum in 1998.
The different Wicklow Gaol tours
There are a number of different tours of Wicklow Prison that you can head off on, depending on the type of experience you fancy.
1. The Day Tour
The standard day tour of Wicklow Historic Gaol takes you through the old gaol, telling stories of the prisoners along the way. You’ll be transported back in time to try and understand a little of what daily life was like in the Victorian era prison.
You’ll get to meet the Gaoler and the Matron, dressed in costume to escort you around. The kids will love it! There are free audio guides available too, included in the price. Tours begin from the opening time of the museum at 10.30am.
2. The Night Tour
The Night Tour of Wicklow Prison is arguably one of the most unique things to do in Wicklow. You’ll be led by actors in period costume who take you through the horrendous atrocities that occurred during the time it was a prison.
From torture to starvation the prisoners endured a lot of hardship in the gaol, so you can take a chilling look into the dark history of the place. You can book these tours online.
3. The Paranormal Tour
Prefer something spookier?! Wicklow Prison is considered one of the most haunted buildings in Ireland. There’s also a paranormal tour available that can help you discover the spirits and ghosts wandering the corridors and cells… if you dare!
Things to do near the Wicklow Prison
One of the beauties of Wicklow Historic Gaol is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Wicklow Prison (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Beaches galore
You’ll find some of the best beaches in Wicklow a short spin from Wicklow Historic Gaol. Silver Strand in Wicklow is a 5-minute drive, Brittas Bay is a 15-minute drive while Greystones Beach is a 30-minute drive.
2. Walks, walks and more walks
Wicklow is an outdoor lover’s playground when it comes to walking. There are trails galore across the county taking in some of the incredible scenery and landscapes on offer. You’ll find plenty to try in our Wicklow Walks and our Glendalough Walks guides.
3. Wicklow Mountains National Park
If you really want to see some of the best mountainous landscapes in the country, the Wicklow Mountains National Park is the place to go. The huge expansive national park covers most of Wicklow and beyond into surrounding counties. Here are some things to see and do:
FAQs about visiting Wicklow Historic Gaol
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from whether Wicklow Historic Gaol is worth visiting to what tours are on offer.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Wicklow Gaol worth visiting?
Yes, if you’re after a unique experience, it definitely is. The tour here is well laid out and the experiences and tour guides make the visit a memorable one.
When did Wicklow Gaol close?
It closed in 1924 and it didn’t reopen to the public as a tourist attraction until 2017, after much renovation.
What tours can you do?
There’s the standard Day Tour, the unique Night Tour and the very unique Paranormal Tour to choose from.
Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.