My grandfather grew up in a small village in Ireland where everyone knew each other by name. Whenever he could take off for a weekend jaunt, he’d head for Kinsale. The moment you step inside the medieval walls of this colorful seaside village, it’ll shroud you in welcoming delight.
Known as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland, your senses will careen through what I hope will be several days. No short amount of time will do. When you walk through nearby fortress ruins, their winds will all but sail you back in time. As you sit beside the fire at night, you’ll know you’ve found your heart and your home.
Locals here will embrace you with an ease you’ll be hard-pressed to find again. It’s been 10 years since I was lucky enough to visit Kinsale. But it’s the first place I’ll return to when I dust off my passport. Let’s get started, shall we?
1. Don & Barry's Historic Stroll
Start off your stay in the company of Don and Barry. They’re not just storytellers, they’re historians. They’ll sprinkle their love and affection for their town over you with such joy, you’ll fall deeply in love - with Kinsale, that is.
When you arise the next morning, you’ll feel like a regular local, commanding the streets with a mind full of local legend and lore.
Don & Barry's Historic Stroll
Address: 3 Pearse St, Sleveen, Kinsale, Ireland
Website: Don & Barry’s Historic Stroll
2. Desmond Castle
Next stop, 14th-century Desmond Castle. Although it was originally built as a Customs House, beware of the 18th-century ghosts. It was then that it served as a prison, known locally as the “French Prison”.
Sadly, Desmond fell into ruin at the start of the 20th century. The year 1938 declared it as a National Monument. Today, it stands as the International Museum of Wine Exhibition, which is rather fitting since Kinsale is the Gourmet Capital of Ireland.
Address: Cork St, Sleveen, Kinsale, Ireland
Website: Desmond Castle
3. Kinsale Beach
Hopefully, you’re staying in a warm B&B or accommodating Airbnb. One morning, you simply must fill a thermos with tea and head out to Kinsale Beach. Soak up the glow of the rising sun, just you and the fairies.
There are four different shorelines to choose from: Sandycove, Garrylucas, Garretstown, and Dock Beach. Sandycove is nice if you’re with a large pack of experienced swimmers. Have some fun gliding out to Sandycove Island. Dock Beach is a calmer, more serene pick. It’s favored by the locals and exactly where you want to be in those early morning hours.
Website: Kinsale Beach
4. Charles Fort
Charles Fort’s cool breezes carry a lot of mystery with them. It was used during some of the bloodiest moments in Irish history, including the Williamite War in 1689 and the Irish Civil War of 1922.
The fort is wide and meandering. So, while you remain cautious of the mysteries that blow through its stone corridors, don’t forget about your feet. There’s plenty of uneven terrain to trip up even the steadiest of travelers.
Address: Summer Cove, Kinsale, Ireland
Website: Charles Fort
5. James Fort
James Fort is the smaller companion to Charles Fort. It stands opposite Charles and, once upon a time, safeguarded Kinsale. Built in 1607, it was seized by Williamite forces in 1690.
Today, it stands as a fine example of 17th-century military architecture and carries the same haunting breezes as its comrade, Charles.
Address: Old-Fort, Castlepark, Kinsale, Ireland
Website: James Fort
6. Kinsale Food Tours
Now this is a real treat. Since the treats abound, you’re best to secure a reservation in advance for these culinary delights.
There are two ways to enjoy your time and I definitely recommend the second option. First, there’s 2.5-hour tour that takes you to some local eateries. Your hosts’ love for food is sure to stay with you forever. Then, there’s a 3.5-hour tour that includes all the same savory delights, as well as an exciting trip up the coast to hunt for wild shellfish, seaweed, and plants.
This is capped off by a picnic, as long as the harbor breezes won’t blow you away. Between Don & Barry’s warm welcome and this tour’s devotion for all things delectable, you’ll be glad you came to stay.
Kinsale Food Tours
Website: Kinsale Food Tours
7. Old Head Signal Tower and Lusitania Museum
Although it lacks the height of the iconic Cliffs of Moher, Old Head isn’t lacking in its curtain of ocean breezes. Make sure your feet are planted firmly on the ground before heading out onto this jut of land.
Signal Tower is steeped in history. It was built during the Napoleonic Era as a line of defense against the French. It stands, even today, as one of 81 signal towers. Impressively, all 81 towers were built within sight of one another. Some, like Old Head, stand proudly atop the most remote and beautiful headlands Ireland has to offer. Their purpose was to pass signals to Dublin Tower.
The Lusitania Museum features a selection of articles about the ill-fated ship. She made port at one of her final destinations, Cobh, a neighboring harbor town, but her shockwaves were felt all across these eastern shorelines.
Old Head Signal Tower and Lusitania Museum
Address: Lispatrick Upper, Kinsale, Ireland
8. Kinsale Ghost Tours
I’m not sure a ghost tour is the best advice I’ve ever given, considering all these haunting ancient ruins, but it’s definitely worth the scare.
Like a historic stroll, a haunted stroll offers a fair amount of history. It’s up to you to decide if the ghosts are real characters in these stories. Either way, this is a nice way to further ingrain yourself in the richness that is Irish history.
Kinsale Ghost Tours
Address: 9 Guardwell, Sleveen, Kinsale, Ireland
Website: Kinsale Ghost Tours
9. Kinsale Outdoors
What better way to start your day than a quiet row in that sparkling harbor you’ve been gazing upon?
Kinsale Outdoors offers all kinds of adventure, including sailing, kayaking, rock climbing, and coasteering. Depending on your time and money, I’d at least recommend some time spent in a kayak.
However, pulling out of that gorgeous harbor town in your own powerboat is quite the rush, too. With a friendly staff and sturdy equipment, you’ll be happy to call these guys friends, even if just for the day.
Address: St Johns Hill, Kinsale, Ireland
Website: Kinsale Outdoors
10. Poet's Corner
Read, buy, and exchange books while enjoying a delicious cup of coffee. Not only do stacks of colorful books await, so do sumptuous desserts and lattes. (#LibraryGoals!)
When’s the last time you took an old book off your shelf, walked into a shop, and made a trade? Poet’s Corner is such a fun concept, it’s worth peeking your head in one afternoon. After walking tours, ancient ruins, food tours, bouts of kayaking, and jaunts down steep ocean cliffs, you’ll find It’s a real treat to step inside this pink and white fantasy.
Address: 44 Main St, Town-Plots, Kinsale,Ireland
Website: Poet’s Corner
11. Irish Veterans Museum
The Irish Veterans Museum is perfect if you love the Irish and are interested in US military history. The museum is free to visit, but you may make a donation if you wish. It has a unique medal on display, which is the only medal of honor on display outside of the USA. The museum also has some interesting items from the World Trade Center - 9/11.
The military exhibition was prepared by Irish Veterans which is a registered Charity. They exhibit the Irish and Irish diaspora influence on the global military effort. After your visit, you can visit the Irish craft shop in the same building to pick up some mementos of your vacation.
Irish Veterans Museum
Address: The Glen, Kinsale, Co Cork, Kinsale, Ireland
Website: Irish Veterans Museum
12. Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre
Learn how to do pottery and other art. The center offers short courses in art and craft. From making jewelry through to weaving, silver sculpting and more, it’s a fun way to learn. The center also runs a gallery where you can view Adrian Wistreich’s ceramics. As the name suggests, you can also learn to make pottery using a wheel. When they get fired, the center will send them to you.
It’s completely hands-on and you learn sculpting, coiling, slabbing, throwing, glazing, and firing. It is best though, to call ahead as this is a one-person operation and they may not always be around for casual visits.
Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre
Telephone: +353 87 969 6901
Address: Olcote, Ballinacurra, Kinsale 00000, Ireland
Website: Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre
Kindred to Kinsale
If you leave Kinsale feeling like its kindred spirit, don’t be the least bit surprised. You’ll continue to feel its ocean breezes on your skin long after you’re gone.
Inspired by food tours and enchanted by walking tours, I’m confident this won’t be your only visit to these sunny shorelines. If we’re lucky, perhaps we’ll meet beneath those 14th-century winds.
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