Destination UK

Visiting Crumlin Road Gaol with Kids

Posted on
February 27, 2019

When we started planning our visit to Belfast, we had a list of places we wanted to visit.

Crumlin Road Gaol wasn’t on it – who wants to visit a grim prison? However, a chance meeting with our AirBnB host and his recommendation for it as a brilliant day out, saw it added to our visit list.

HMP Belfast, also known as Crumlin Road Gaol, is a former prison situated on the Crumlin Road in North Belfast and is the only Victorian era prison remaining in Northern Ireland since 1996.

We booked on a daily guided tour which runs every hour, however they do run ghost tours, paranormal tours and even after hours tours.

The fun starts outside with some stocks to pose in, before you head into the small museum area to wait for your guide and the tour to start.

The museum area displays prison artefacts and information, including prison officers equipment, prisoners artwork and even a book written by Reverend Ian Paisley whilst he was held in prison.

The tour starts in the holding area, where prisoners would be checked in, searched and given their uniforms. The guide, Aaron, was fun and informative and told us that prisoners would be known by a number rather than a name for the duration of the stay and that the prison was home to men, women and children as young as 10 years old.

It was then on to the tunnel, which links the prison to the courthouse on the other side of the Crumlin Road.


Aaron told us that the old tunnel looks as it would have when it was built at the entrance, but has been updated over the years as times have changed, including having its cobbled floor replaced, thanks to a few prisoners loosening stones and throwing at the judge, and its walls reinforced during the troubles, thanks to the threat of car bombs overhead. Of course, it was the ghost story of a girl called Isobel that really excited the kids.

We were led back out through the tunnel, which is guarded by mannequin in uniform holding some keys and headed to the wardens office to see how the prison would be run.

It was here we discovered the full layout of the prison and what roles all the staff would have had during the 150 year history of the gaol.

The prison has held over 25,000 prisoners in its time, including historic figures, from Éamon de Valera to the Reverend Ian Paisley, and from suffragette Dorothy Evans to the ‘Shankill Butcher’ murderer Lenny Murphy.

From here we headed into the circle, where you can see all the wings of the prison, which is eerily beautiful.

It was here we got the tales of prison life, from escape attempts to rioting on the roof, before being allowed to explore “C” wing and all the cells.

Some of the cells were set up for you to explore, whilst others were set up with mannequins depicting how the warders would have worked or the prisoners held.

We got to see what the daily lives and routines of both prisoners and prison officers would have been and some of the punishments they may have used.

The final piece of the tour was the condemned mans cell, which you can opt out of if you choose, but is well worth visiting. This cell leads onto the execution cell where the majority of the 17 men were hanged.

Although the guide talked about the process of hanging, it was done in way so as not to scare the kids and he was happy to answer any other questions out of the way, should you want to ask any.

The tour finished back in the museum, with one last fun tale and the chance to ask any questions.

A tour lasts around 75 minutes and I would advise booking online, in advance, for the best deals. A family ticket (2 x adults and 2 x children) costs from £25.

Is it a family friendly place to visit?

Yes, the stories were watered down for the benefit of little ears and there were plenty of things for the kids to see and do. Sebby (5), did get a little bored at times, during the talks, so I would recommend for age 7+.

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38 Comments
  1. Reply

    Stacie

    February 27, 2019

    Oh wow! There’s so much history there! I would love to see it with the kids one day.

  2. Reply

    Laura - Dear Bear and Beany

    February 27, 2019

    I’ve never been to Belfast before, this looks like a fab day out. My kids would love it!

  3. Reply

    Olivia Jade

    February 27, 2019

    Looks like a fun day out and very educational, it’s a very historic location. And the photo opportunities look funny! Haha

  4. Reply

    Chad

    February 28, 2019

    omg the place looks amazing!!! I’ve never been to Belfast but soon i hope, soon. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Reply

    Rachael

    February 28, 2019

    Holy smokes. What a cool place to visit! I would love to visit an old prison, I had never thought about taking the kids with me though. Yours looked like the loved it! It all looks so eerie eek!

  6. Reply

    Super Busy Mum

    February 28, 2019

    This place is very cool and it’s actually, just in the foyer before going down C-wing that I got a tattoo a few years ago! haha! There was a charity night for Alzheimer’s held there with Tattoo artists all over N.I there to ink you up. A pretty epic place to get a tattoo. I have never done the tour though – I am keen to do the one they put on around Halloween, though!!

  7. Reply

    Mellissa Williams

    February 28, 2019

    This sounds like such a fun experience and something a little different to do with the kids.

  8. Reply

    Brianne

    February 28, 2019

    What an amazing historical place. My family would love to go here some day. I’ve heard a lot of wonderful stories about Ireland.

  9. Reply

    Surekha Busa

    February 28, 2019

    this place is so awesome, it would be really fun to take selfies here. They look like real humans, oh my. It would be scary to be alone in this place.

  10. Reply

    Heather

    February 28, 2019

    I love when destinations have family friendly places! That definitely decides whether or not we travel there.

  11. Reply

    Talya

    February 28, 2019

    Wow what a fab experience for all the family – definitely something different other than the usual days out!

  12. Reply

    Jasmine Hewitt

    February 28, 2019

    wow, as long as the history was sensitive enough for kids, this would be very educational. even f a little dark

  13. Reply

    Yeah Lifestyle

    February 28, 2019

    What an interesting and educational trip! I like days out like this where you get to do something a little different as a family.

  14. Reply

    Jenni

    February 28, 2019

    This looks really interesting. I love how involved the kids can get and that you don’t have to just look from a distance

  15. Reply

    Erica ~ Erica Ever After

    February 28, 2019

    I love finding new experiences that are fun and I learn a little something. It looks like the kids loved it too

  16. Reply

    kumamonjeng

    March 1, 2019

    Your family members are all great and natural poser. Love most of the pictures with their funny and natural poses. It makes the whole place look super fun and interesting to visit.

  17. Reply

    Sara Welch

    March 1, 2019

    How fun! This reminds me of when my family and I took a trip to Alcatraz in San Francisco!

  18. Reply

    Beth Pierce

    March 1, 2019

    What a neat adventure for kids! Crazy how things have changed in our prison system!

  19. Reply

    Danielle

    March 1, 2019

    How much fun does this place look? I would love to take the kids here.

  20. Reply

    Alexandra Cook

    March 1, 2019

    This place looks incredible. There so much to do and see there. What a brilliant place to take the the whole family.

  21. Reply

    Becca Talbot

    March 1, 2019

    Great to know the Gaol is good for kids! I don’t have children myself, but will share this post with a few of my friends who do. I am sure they’ll find it very useful x

  22. Reply

    Preet

    March 1, 2019

    What a wonderful place to take a wonderful trip. The kids would absolutely love going to here.

  23. Reply

    Sarah | Boo Roo and Tigger Too

    March 1, 2019

    This would really interest my older two children, we have an old courthouse closeby that they love to visit. So this would be on out visit list

  24. Reply

    Lewis | Lewisherelewisthere

    March 1, 2019

    This seems like a great day out. I think I’d love to visit it if I end up I Belfast on my travels.

  25. Reply

    stephanie

    March 1, 2019

    I have to admit that I wouldn’t think of heading there either with kids, but it looks like you had such a good time x

  26. Reply

    Elizabeth

    March 1, 2019

    I’m with Stephanie – I don’t think I’d like to take my kids here. I had no idea they were still hanging people in the 1960s either! Those names on the wall – it’s just so sad. 🙁

  27. Reply

    Hailey

    March 1, 2019

    I would never plan to visit a prison either but your kids look like they are having a blast! It does look grim, especially the hangings, but it looks like a great cultural experience and education as well.

  28. Reply

    Bella and Dawn at Dear Mummy Blog

    March 1, 2019

    That tunnel looks creepy! Even though my grandma lives in Belfast and we visit frequently we’ve never been and seen this! Sounds fab

  29. Reply

    Amelia Gonzalez-Gil

    March 1, 2019

    Your kids are naturals in front of the camera! Some years ago we had to kill some time around Belfast and by chance ended up visiting Belfast Castle. Loved it!

  30. Reply

    nichola - Globalmouse

    March 1, 2019

    Oh my goodness this looks right up my street!! I love old prisons and have been to a few, I love the look of this one, it looks a bit creepy and packed full of history so the perfect combination!

  31. Reply

    Courtney

    March 2, 2019

    Ooooo looks like y’all had one awesome time!! I would
    Love totals the family one day. Sounds fun

  32. Reply

    Melanie williams

    March 2, 2019

    Even though it is a bit grim haha…this looks like a fab family day out. So much history to absorb and learn too xx

  33. Reply

    Lo

    March 3, 2019

    I love it! This is a great idea to educate and have fun with kids.

  34. Reply

    Laura Dove

    March 3, 2019

    Oh this looks like a lot of fun! My kids would love it there!

  35. Reply

    Kira

    March 4, 2019

    We’ve never been but it looks a brilliant day out

  36. Reply

    Stephanie

    March 4, 2019

    Wow what an interesting place, my 14 year old son would love to visit somewhere like this. He loves history

  37. Reply

    Anosa

    March 5, 2019

    What an amazing place to visit, especially with the kids! It is great to be something a little different with family than the usual things that people do whilst away.

  38. Reply

    Nadia - Scandi Mummy

    March 5, 2019

    Looks like a great and interesting place to visit with kids.

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KARA GUPPY
Bournemouth

Are we nearly there yet? is a new online blog run by me, Kara Guppy, and is named as such thanks to my daughter Eliza who always asks that very question when we are less than 5 minutes up the road heading off on our adventures. You may know me from my other family blog chelseamamma.co.uk