Crumlin Road gaol was built in Belfast in 1845 and only stopped being used as a prison in 1996. Now renovated into a museum and conference centre, you can take a tour of this wonderful building that is steeped in history and is packed with interesting facts.
The gaol was designed by Charles Lanyon and based on London’s Pentonville prison, with the first visitors arriving in 1846. Later developments included a prison hospital, stone execution centre and cottages to house prison guards. There were 17 executions carried out at the prison in all of its time it was active and has seen all walks of life walk through it, from ‘lunatics’ to suffragettes and political activists. The Education Programme at Crumlin Road Gaol & Visitor Centre has been awarded a Sandford Award 2014 for excellence in the provision of Heritage Education. Schools, universities and history groups can book on to a tour and have additional support from the wonderful education centre.
Visitors can take a tour underground tunnel that starts in the gaol and leads to what was the Crumlin Road Courthouse. In the courthouse you will get the chance to take a seat in the governors chair and take yourself back to 1914 when the suffragettes were housed in the gaol or to the gory first execution, of soldier Robert Henry O’Neill. The cells that were used to execute prisoners are available to tour and, whilst it may seem a little morbid, the history of the cells are fascinating and are certainly food for thought.
For those who truly want to be spooked out, you can brave a paranormal gaol tour, using state of the art ghost equipment! You can also enjoy special concerts and events at the gaol, including the musical performance of ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and an opportunity to plan your big day at the annual wedding show that the gaol hosts. The gaol is also available to hire, if you want to brave holding your wedding there too!
The area around the gaol is filled with many other tourist attractions that Belfast has to offer, including Belfast City Hall and St Anne’s Cathedral. There are many hotels to suit all budgets, with the Ibis Hotel and Ramada Plaza, two great hotels that are within walking distance of the gaol. After a tour around the gaol, you can head of to a traditional Irish pub, where you can enjoy home cooked food and, of course, a pint of Guinness.