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The Old Town Jail Stirling

Stirling Category Historic Sites
The Old Town Jail Stirling image

The Old Town Jail was first opened in 1847. Located at the top of St. John Street, the jail paints a frightening picture of what it would have been like to be imprisoned in the 1800's.

Stirling Old Town Jail was built in 1847 when the old Tolbooth Jail became too overcrowded and was rated as the worst prison in Britain. Although living conditions undoubtedly improved with the new jail, the strict regime of solitude, labour, coarse food and discomfort would still have been a deterrent. The building was still in use as a military prison until 1935.

The tour of the jail starts with you being greeted by the rather fearsome character of Jock Rankin, chief executioner from the Old Tolbooth jail. The role of Jock, and all the other prison characters, are played by actors who stay in character throughout and they seem to enjoy what they do.

Jock is "replaced" by Mr Hislop, the Victorian warden of the jail. Mr Hislop is a no nonsense character who introduces you to your life as an inmate. You are then free to explore the prison cells, but watch out! One of the prisoners escapes! We won't tell you anymore as we don't want to spoil the surprises.

Stirling Old Town Jail was refurbished in the 1990s and some of the exhibits deal with conditions in Scotland's modern jails, but this is the less interesting aspect of the tour.

One of the advantages of visiting the Jail is the roof top observation area where you get excellent 360 degree views over Stirling town. You can easily see across to Wallace Tower, the Ochil Hills and the more distant mountains of the Trossachs National Park. The castle is also visible from the rooftop, but the view is partially obscured by other buildings.

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