Jails for Tourists

Old, formerly dilapidated jails have remarkably become the main tourist attractions in Dublin and Cork. While I didn’t manage to snag a ticket for Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, I enjoyed my time in Cork City Gaol. The layout and the gray stone walls reminded me of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia but the prisoners, ranging from hungry people stealing bread during the potato famine to independence fighters on the 1920s, were uniquely Irish.

After my penny-pinching in Dublin, I decided I’d splurge a bit in Kilkenny. Thus, I climbed the 900 year old tower at St Carnice’s and marveled at the huge portrait gallery in Kilkenny Castle (why one man’s wife allowed a portrait of his voluptuous mistress to be painted was not explained). I could say something snarky about the cheesy “Smithwicks Experience” but just mentioning the holographic monk and the talking portraits should suffice. However, I can heartily recommend buying a tasting paddle of Smithwicks (note: the ‘w’ is silent) in their tasting room.

My sightseeing was more modest in Cork after my spendthrift ways in Kilkenny. In addition to the jail and the ornate old waterworks, I found the Butter Museum to be surprisingly interesting. I never knew that all Irish butter sold abroad uses the “Kerrygold” brand or that cattle raids were once a violent yet compulsory part of rural life. Perhaps they needed the extra milk to keep their brewery tours cheesy…

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