Kinsale, Ireland in the southwestern county of Cork is one of those seaside villages that should be on your Ireland itinerary. It’s a colorful place, with cobblestone streets and bright-colored boats bobbing in the harbor. Despite the fact that it has a certain “upscale” aura about it, Kinsale is still very much a fishing village at heart. There is fine dining, but also some awesome pub food. And, there is a lot of history to Kinsale. A major battle took place in 1601 that pitted the English against Irish/Spanish forces. The English won that battle. But, we all know the Irish eventually won the war for independence.
So, what should you see and do if you only have a couple of days here? Here are our top picks for your time in Kinsale.
This fort, located just beyond Summercove, is one of the finest examples of of a 17th century star-shaped fort that remains intact. In fact, much of what was built in 1678 is still in existence. There are two enormous bastions overlooking the water and three that face inland. Charles Fort has been associated with some of the most memorable events of Irish history. The most significant of these are the Williamite War (1689-91) and the Civil War (1922-23). The fort is open year round and the entrance fee is €4 for adults. Take the free guided tour. There is always one going and they are extremely informative. And, don’t forget your camera. There are some terrific views from here.
For more information on Charles Fort, click here.
Spend some time in Summercove
This dot of a village, almost like a suburb of Kinsale, is located just below Charles Fort and across the water from the Kinsale Harbor. It’s a great spot to stop after a visit to the fort. Sit outside at the Bulman Bar and have a pint. It’s one of those quintessential experiences in Kinsale.
Old Head Golf Links
If golf is your sport, then the Old Head is the place for you. It’s one of the classic courses in the Republic of Ireland. You must make reservations far in advance and it will set you back €295 for 18 holes. But, it’s well worth the price for the views alone. This gorgeous links course, which is built on 220-acres, juts out over two miles into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s almost an island! Nine holes play along the cliff tops, and all eighteen holes provide stunning ocean views. It’s truly a spectacular setting and worth the price for this luxurious golfing experience. And the bonus? You’ll also get up close and personal to the Old Head Lighthouse that sits at the headland that is part of the golf course.
Fishy Fishy Cafe
One of the most famous seafood restaurants in all of Ireland, Fishy Fishy Cafe is a must for your time in Kinsale. The seafood is fresh and the atmosphere is festive. Reservations are highly recommended for this popular eating establishment, especially in summer. Martin and Marie Shanahan are the husband and wife team that run this fabulous establishment and they’ve even created a cookbook of some of their favorite recipes. If something a little simpler is on your menu then try the awesome fish & chips at their Fishy Fish Shop located opposite the famous St Multose Church in the center of town.
Max’s Wine Bar
This is one of my favorite places to eat in Kinsale. The food is such a wonderful fusion of French and Irish. Your server will list off about five different specials, all of which will be fresh seafood just off the boats in the harbor. Choose one of those dishes and you won’t go wrong. And the wine list is superb. Don’t let the traditional, red exterior fool you. Max’s is a place for a special treat. My mouth is watering just thinking of the delicious food and wine here.
Wander the cobblestone streets
For me, there’s nothing better than simply wandering around town, walking the pedestrian, cobblestone lanes. There are shops of all sorts selling local arts and crafts. Pop into the Kinsale Bookshop or Giles Norman’s photography store (he’s an amazing Irish landscape photographer). If you fancy a spot of tea, then try the Lemon Leaf Cafe. Since it is Ireland, there will always be a pub nearby for a pint. But, walking the winding streets with no map and a camera (and a sense of adventure) is a great way to explore this small town.
Hang out around the harbor
As mentioned in the introduction, Kinsale is still very much a fishing town. And the harbor is where the action is. Watch the fishing boats go out if you’re up early – very early! Or see the fishermen come back into the harbor in the afternoons with their fresh catches that will end up on your plate later that evening. It’s fascinating to see these men (and a few women) as they go about their daily lives of cleaning their boats and mending their nets. Or, if you want, take a harbor cruise and drink in the sites of Charles Fort, Summercove and Kinsale from the water.
Kinsale is truly an enchanting harbor town filled with an assortment of things to do and see to fit every budget, personality and interest. Be sure to spend a few nights here and really take it all in. Contact us for more information or to plan your trip to this lovely, seaside Irish town.