Inveraray Jail

There is lots to do whilst staying at Powdermills Bed and Breakfast near Inveraray.  There are many historic sites and visitor attractions in Argyll that allow entry to dogs, so Mabel struck lucky when we visited Inveraray Jail on a crisp and cloudless day in October. Inveraray Jail looks stunning with the scenic backdrop of Loch Fyne just like visiting Alcatraz Prison that overlooks San Francisco. However, its position illustrates the cruel reality of being an inmate in this cold and foreboding Jail. The wind howls through the iron bars. Incarceration in Scotland in the 17thcentury was a dire experience. Happily, for visitors and Mabel the Jail is a fantastic journey through the crimes and misdemeanours of Scots over three centuries.

Its part museum and part physical experience which allows you to feel what it is like to be a prisoner. The early punishments that were meted out by a draconian Scottish Justice system details horrendous corporal punishment to more gruesome decapitations and hangings for what we today would call minor crimes. Indeed, there was even jail time for ‘fornicating on Sundays’!

There is a visit to the old court room – holding trials as recently as the 1930s. The judge and all the protagonists in the trial are played by manikins and were given short shrift by Mabel with growling and barking! The highlight of the trip was visiting the two floors of the old and the six floors of new jail built in 1840. Each cell has a detailed history giving an insight into who was jailed and what their life was like. A prisoner’s routine was harsh, one hours exercise every day in an outdoor cell whatever the weather. However, it turns out that Inveraray Jail was modern and forward-looking institution. The Jail had a central heating system, regular bathing and by all accounts 20 to 30 years ahead prisons south of the border in England. To the modern mind – no better than a dog’s life but certainly a lot harsher than our Mabel’s luxurious comfort.