Crumlin Road Gaol is a notorious 19th century prison that dates back to 1846, when it first opened its doors. It operated as a fully functional prison for one hundred and fifty years finally ceasing to serve as a working prison in 1996. It is the only surviving Victorian era prison in Northern Ireland and at the time was one of the most advanced prisons around.
It underwent a major and sympathetic restoration before opening as a tourist attraction in 2012. It is located in North Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was designed by Charles Lanyon, who was responsible for a number of recognisable city landmarks, and was established on London’s Pentonville prison. It is also referred to as “The Crum”.
From the time it opened Crumlin Road Gaol has detained a variety of notable historic figures from Eammon de Valera to the Reverend Ian Paisley, and from suffragette Dorothy Evans to the murder Lenny Murphy, known as the “Shankill Butcher”. It was also the scene of seventeen executions between 1854 and 1961. It has witnessed escapes, hunger strikes and riots, as well as births, deaths and marriages, there is much history associated with the gaol, and links to the troubles.
Visitors on the guided tour will be transported through the years and get to experience what life entailed for those misfortunate enough to be imprisoned in “The Crum”. Trace the footsteps of 25,000 prisoners and take the journey through the tunnel that connects the gaol to the courthouse. In C-Wing visitors will see first hand what prison life involved through the years. Learn about why the decision was made to shut the prison. See the Governor’s office and sit in his chair. Stand in the Centre Circle and view all four wings. Next is a quick visit to Historic Holding Cell where the condemned were held, it was here that the seventeen men who were executed spent their remaining days, this is followed by a walk to the Hanging Cell where most of those executed were hanged, the rope and noose still hanging here, a stark reminder of its purpose. See the hospital and within the grounds is a gravesite where the remains of fifteen of those executed still remain today. The tour lasts about seventy minutes and there is a lot of information given but at no time does the tour seem long or boring, as they really bring the experience to life. The guides are all excellent, very professional, engaging and informative.
In addition to the normal historic tours there are a number of four-hour paranormal tours, these take in the various hot spots where paranormal activity has been recorded, hear the distressing stories connected to these areas. These tours take place with subdued lighting and are not for the faint hearted. It also serves as a music venue with highly atmospheric concerts taking place, the acoustics are ideal for this.
Tours operate daily throughout the week and all through the year. Tours commence at 10.00am with the last tour being around 4.30pm. It is recommended that you wear warm clothing and suitable shoes.