Jailer’s Inn

“Spend Time” in Bardstown, Kentucky.

By Hope S. Philbrick

If this Valentine’s Day has you looking for romantic getaway ideas, a bed and breakfast housed in a former jail might seem an odd choice. But nothing is more memorable than the unusual and unexpected.


Forget a greeting card, this place is ripe for metaphor:

  • I “spent time” with the ol’ “ball and chain.”
  • I “can’t escape” from lovin’ you.
  • If lovin’ you is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Lock me up and throw away the key!
  • Come rock with me in a jailhouse.

Feel free to use one of these corny quips or lock down your own perfect creative way to tell your sweetie where the two of you will be going. (Please share your poetry with us in the comment section below.)

Jailer’s Inn is conveniently located in the center of Historic Bardstown, the state of Kentucky’s second-oldest city, which has been named “The Most Beautiful Small Town in America” by Rand McNally and USA Today, and is an official trailhead of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. So it’s an ideal home base from which to explore the town by foot or drive to nearby distilleries.

If you manage to escape, that is. You might just want to lounge in bed.

Jailer’s Inn is not just some funky marketing scheme the owners dreamed up. The bed and breakfast is housed in the building that served as the Nelson County jail from 1819 through 1987. (At the time that it was retired, it was the oldest jail in the state.)

The back of the inn preserves the jailhouse vibe. Built in 1874, it is basically unchanged. There, you can see that the walls are 38-inch thick limestone. Windows have iron grids. A small museum on site displays some items used by jailers (including handcuffs, a hangman’s hood, skeleton keys) and created by prisoners (including a shank, poetry). The cell that was used not for convicted felons but drunks who were tossed in for a night of detox remains with its barred door intact, so you can pose for photos in a bonafide cell. That section of the inn is also home to its most popular room: The Jail Cell. Also known as the “fun room,” it’s the only room that still resembles a cell. Decorated in black and white, it has two of the original bunks (and a waterbed, if the bunks aren’t quite your style), and modest bathroom facilities.

Jailer's Inn - Old Jail guestroomThe front rooms of the inn have been renovated and are beautifully decorated with antiques and heirlooms. If blindfolded and led into one of those rooms, you’d have no idea it was once a jail. Referred to as the “old jail,” it was built in 1819 with 30-inch thick walls. The upper level contained two cells and an “upstairs dungeon” to house prisoners.

“Frank and Jesse James stayed many times,” said the innkeeper during a tour. “But as a guest, not a prisoner, because he was related to the jailer’s wife.” Where else can you so easily mimic the famous James outlaws?

Jailer’s Inn proves to be a cozy place to break away from routine.

get the T-shirt at Jailer's InnSounds like an intriguing place to visit, but you think it’s better suited to Halloween than Valentine’s Day? Go for it. Perhaps you’ll see a ghost. There are few windows; at night when some prisoners were chained to the floor in their cells they were in total darkness. Hangings took place in the courtyard. There are rumors of lingering spirits. I saw none.

Odds of Encountering Children: Varies. Children are permitted in the Jail Cell room, which is separate from the remainder of the guestrooms by a long hallway. They are also allowed in the family suite. We saw no youngsters during our midweek visit.

  • Smoke-free facility
  • Full Breakfast
  • Private baths (two rooms offer double Jacuzzis)
  • Complimentary tour through the historic Jail
  • Free off-street parking
  • No pets
  • Overnight rates from $100
Beautiful Bardstown graphicMore Information…

Jailer’s Inn

Visit Bardstown

— Photos © HSP Media LLC

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. She became a freelance writer and editor because she believes that work and fun should not be mutually exclusive. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty. She has never seen a ghost.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.