Built in 1850 to accommodate prisoners tried at the courthouse across the street, Crumlin Road Gaol (Crumlin Road Jail) housed some of Northern Ireland’s most notorious criminals as well as leading political figures during its 150 years in operation. The jail was also the setting for executions, riots, and hunger strikes.
The jail—now a key Belfast tourist attraction—can be explored as part of guided tours, which last about 70 minutes and take place daily between 10am and 4:30pm. Tours cover the jail in detail, stopping at the C-Wing, the condemned man’s cell, the execution chamber, the graveyard, and the tunnel linking the jail to Crumlin Road Courthouse. Alternative tours, including a 60-minute paranormal tour, a 75-minute historical tour, a 75-minute ghost walk tour, and a 60-minute child-friendly Victorian tour, are available for groups of 15 or more.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Crumlin Road Gaol is a must-visit Northern Irish history buffs.
- Bring warm, waterproof layers. Although most of the tour take place indoors, some sections, such as the graveyard, are outside.
- Most of the jail, with the exception of the tunnel and the drop room below the hanging cell, are wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The main entrance to Crumlin Road Jail is the Gate House on Crumlin Road. To get there by public transit, use the Translink Metro bus routes 57 and 12B, which run from Monday to Saturday. On Sundays, the 12A service stops at nearby Carlisle Circus. The jail is also a stop on hop-on hop-off bus tours of Belfast.
When to Get There
Tours run daily between 10am and 4:30pm. To ensure a spot—and avoid crowds that build later in the day—come early in the morning. Be sure to arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes prior to your tour time.
Famous Prisoners of Crumlin Road Jail
Among the 25,000 prisoners who’ve been held at Crumlin Road over the years were several well-known public figures, including Éamon de Valera, the former prime minister and president of Ireland, the unionist politician Reverend Ian Paisley, Lenny Murphy (the man responsible for the Shankill Butchers, a series of killings of the late 1970s and early 1980s), and suffrage campaigner Dorothy Evans.