Donegal offers a myriad of breath-taking views and interesting attractions to its visitors. Ireland is indeed famous for its green landscapes, but it has so many historical places worth seeing too. Today we follow the steps of Gerry McKeever – Redcastle’s very own Concierge - on his visit to Lifford Old Courthouse. “Having been to Alcatraz and Crumlin Road jails before, it was indeed a crime that I had never visited Lifford Old Courthouse, having it at such short distance”, he says.
Lifford Old Courthouse is a historic courthouse located in the centre of Lifford, co. Donegal. Built in 1746, it gave the County Donegal Grand Jury a place to hold trials in the form of periodic criminal courts or assizes. The Courthouse also incorporated ‘The County Gaol’ in the basement, a place of confinement for debtors, felons and eventually those deemed to be ‘lunatics’, until a new jail was completed next to the courthouse in 1793. This large jail allowed more prisoners to be processed in the town before being demolished in 1907. The Courthouse continued to hold trials until 1938.
“This establishment is certainly a lot different from any other jail I have visited. It is from the Pre Famine Era and it is basically a dungeon where both male and female prisoners were held. Times were cruel and you could be sent to prison or sent to the colonies for what today we would consider a misdemeanour”, says Gerry.
Transportation was a common punishment in Lifford, with many sent to colonies overseas. Public hangings were also a regular spectacle. One hanging in 1831 alone is reported to have drawn a crowd of around 12 thousand people.
The best way to learn about the history of the courthouse is to join one of the guided tours, which are highly interactive. Visitors are invited to step back in time and walk through the prison cells, experience the life of the prisoners and even be arrested by the prison guard!
The building also houses a bistro, a library, conference rooms and often hosts special events, as well as Donegal’s only Escape Room
. “The whole experience was very enjoyable and, being approximately 1 hour from The Redcastle Hotel, it would certainly fit into any family’s itinerary on a day out. I would certainly recommend this facility to our guests”
, Gerry concludes.
Tours are available:
Monday/Wednesday/Friday: 9.30 - 5pm
Tuesday/Thursday: 9.30 – 4pm
Closed on Bank Holidays
Evening and weekends on request
Photo source: liffordoldcourthouse.com