Sunday 25 August 2019

Visitors can walk through 'Gates of Hell' with new gaol experience

Minister of State Andrew Doyle and Frank Curran, Chief Executive of Wicklow County Council, prepare to try out the ‘Gates of Hell’ experience at Wicklow Gaol
Minister of State Andrew Doyle and Frank Curran, Chief Executive of Wicklow County Council, prepare to try out the ‘Gates of Hell’ experience at Wicklow Gaol

Myles Buchanan

Wicklow Historic Gaol has added another string to its bow with the launch of a new virtual reality experience this week.

The 'Gates of Hell' Visitor Experience, which follows a €200,000 investment by Fáilte Ireland, was officially launched on Thursday by Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture Andrew Doyle.

Wicklow Enterprise Park (WEP), which operates the gaol, expects the new experience to drive even more visitors and revenue into County Wicklow.

The experience will transport visitors back in time on a 3-D journey through 200 years of life in the gaol. It will cover major events in Irish history like the 1798 Rebellion, the famine era and the War of Independence through the eyes of gaol inmates. Paranormal activity, which has resulted in the gaol being labelled 'Ireland's most haunting building', is also included as part of the 3-D journey.

Emagine in Waterford is the virtual reality specialist that developed the new experience.

'It's like being an active witness,' said Brian Hickey, the Creative Director at Emagine. 'Imagine if you could leap into a cinema scene. It's an experience. We're going to put users in a very different Wicklow Gaol, as it might have looked in the 1700s. This is one of the most exciting projects we have worked on and we have an entire team of animators and 3-D artists dedicated to bringing the amazing historic world of Wicklow Gaol to life by taking storytelling to a ground-breaking new immersive level. .'

The 'Gates of Hell' visitor experience cost a total of €250,000, including investment from Wicklow County Council.

Minister of State Doyle said: 'Investment in the development of tourism is vital for sustaining Ireland's reputation as a world-class tourist destination.

'Fáilte Ireland's work on the ground is helping to step-change visitor experiences across the country which is making Ireland a hugely attractive destination for overseas tourists,' he said.

Jenny De Saulles, Head of Ireland's Ancient East at Fáilte Ireland, said the virtual reality experience helps meet the ever-increasing expectations of domestic and international tourists.

'What is most valuable to visitors from our core overseas markets is the chance to participate, and not simply be bystanders. At Fáilte Ireland, we are always looking for opportunities to stimulate the development of brilliant visitor experiences, and the Gates of Hell experience is testament to what can be achieved through investment and innovation.'

Frank Curran, Chief Executive of Wicklow County Council, said the local authority was 'delighted' to support the project. 'The Ireland's Ancient East brand has been vital in positioning Wicklow as a must-visit destination and Wicklow Historic Gaol is really reaping the benefits of being part of this region,' he said.

Wicklow People