Let yourself be detained on a visit to Inveraray Jail

‘Step back in time’ may be an overused phrase, but enter Inveraray Jail in Argyll and that’s just what it feels like. Inveraray Jail and Courthouse were preserved, virtually intact, for a century before being renovated and reopened to the public as one of Scotland’s top tourist attractions. Visitors can explore at their leisure, interact with costumed staff, sample punishments, witness early justice and generally marvel at history brought to life. Here are 10 reasons why you should allow yourself to be detained in Scotland’s most accessible and atmospheric prison.

1. Turn the screw on a family member or friend. You can test out some of the corporal punishment methods used in Inveraray Jail – including the whipping table and thumbscrews. Just don’t get carried away!
2. Get locked up. Be careful or a prison warder may take a dislike to you and place you in a cell under lock and key. If you hear the sound of heavy boots and the jangle of keys you’ll know what’s coming.
3. Participate in a trial. When you enter the spectacular courthouse you may find yourself assisting in the proceedings of an actual 19th-century case based on surviving records. Silence in court!
4. Compare and contrast. There was an enlightened movement towards prison reform in 19th century Britain, pioneered to some extent in Scotland. Inveraray has both the Old and the New Prison – the latter built in 1848 – on the same site. You‘ll see how conditions improved.
5. Question the prisoners and warders on life in the prison 150 years ago. The Jail’s actors take their roles very seriously, and they represent real people whom they have researched in detail. Don’t expect them to break character!
6. Get hands-on with the prisoner conditions on the day. You can try out a hammock or a wooden bed or feel your muscles ache as you turn the crank wheel. It’s probably as close as you’ll ever get to living the life a Victorian ne’er do well.
7. Take in some air. Their Airing Yards were built in 1843 to enable prisoners to get exercise. This was a time-consuming process for the Governor and the facility was demolished in 1882. However, thanks to the preservation of the original plans, it was possible to rebuild the Yards in their original location in 1991. But be warned, there’s a bell on the wall to sound the alarm in case of escape.
8. Meet the ancestors. Some people come to Inveraray to learn about their forebears who were incarcerated there. The prison records are remarkably intact and have now been digitised. It’s possible to find out if you’re related to one of the inmates.
9. Thank your lucky stars you live in the 21st century. Back in the 19th century, children would be locked up with hardened criminals and the insane would share cells with the sane. The audio visual guide, included in your ticket price, will tell you more.
10. Exit via the gift shop. Well, what do you expect!? But this gift shop is stocked with carefully selected, quality items which make excellent souvenirs of your visit or gifts for those back home. Go on, grab yourself some swag!

Inveraray is a great place to spend a day with independent shops, fantastic places to eat and other visitor attraction including Inveraray Castle. Auchindrain Township is just up the road. Find out more about Inveraray, Kilmartin, Knapdale and Crinan.