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Must See Places in Ireland: Kinsale

Over five years ago we reinvented our lives by moving from Colorado in the United States to Kinsale, Co. Cork Ireland. Although it is not easy to move to the other side of the world, we believe that it was the best thing we could have done with our lives. Like many expats, we are perhaps more in love with our adopted home than the people who grew up here. Ireland is full of historical sites and Kinsale has quite a few of them. While there are many places to visit in Ireland, we think Kinsale has so many charming undertones that everyone should stay here, at least for a few days. This article is a series on “must see places in Ireland” and is intended for people traveling to Ireland, whether just visiting or those who have lived here all their lives.

Kinsale is a medieval town combined with a yachting community, and it has all the great characteristics of both. Part of the reason we chose to move here is its cosmopolitan nature while nestling in a small town with historical significance. A little over 600 years ago, Kinsale was the scene of a major battle between English troops and the Spanish Armada, which had been recruited by the Irish in their fight to stop the English occupation of their country. Due to its location on the Bandon River estuary and the sea, Kinsale grew with the importance of water transport until the 18th century. Kinsale reinvented itself in the 1970s to embrace tourism as a major part of the economy, and with that came the renovation of older buildings and an emphasis on Kinsale as the culinary capital of Ireland.


There are three important historical sites in Kinsale or within walking distance of the town: Charles Fort, James Fort and Desmond Castle.

The Irish were unsuccessful at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and the English responded after the battle by building two forts, both worth seeing for completely different reasons. Charles Fort dominates the western side of the river estuary and the visitor can get there by taking a lovely walk along the water which then meanders through Summercove and towards the fort. Steeped in historical content, the fort is well worth walking an hour or more and seeing its various buildings while taking in the views. Charles Fort was inhabited by English soldiers until 1922 when they withdrew from Ireland. Hippies in the 1960s made it their home and now finally, due to the diligence of the Office of Public Works, it is being restored and is now the site of art shows and musical performances.

James Fort is our favorite walk with the dogs. Head out of town keeping the water to your left, cross the bridge then head back down the road keeping the water to your left until you reach the Dock pub. Signposts take you to the beach, and at the other end you head down a narrow path that opens onto a large expanse of green. The fort can be reached by heading up the path to the top of the hill and looking for the gap in the hedgerows that slopes down beyond it onto a path that continues to the right. In the 5+ years we’ve lived here, OPW has done a lot to improve the fort, even though it’s only open to the public during history week in August. However, the entire hillside is worth seeing. Continuing up the hill and then following a path lined with hedges, you will come to a circular stone structure overlooking the river. There are two locations, one on the Kinsale side and one on the coast where visitors can descend onto the rocks and into the sea, and some of the best photos in the area can be taken from here.

Desmond Castle was built in the 1500s and is considered a prime example of an urban tower house. Billed as a customs house for the time, it consists of three levels of structure with storerooms to the rear. Desmond Castle also served as a French prison in the 18th century, an artillery house or national survey center and a work house during the great famine between 1845 and 1852. It is now an international wine museum and tells the story of the Irish Winegeese . , the Irish who are now involved in winemaking all over the world.

shopping and food

Kinsale is also where visitors can easily spend an afternoon or two browsing the charming shops and shopping for clothes and gifts. Hamish Hawkin and Granny’s Bottom Drawer are two of our favorites due to their quality and unusual merchandise.

Also, Kinsale is the gastronomic capital of Ireland and no matter what kind of food you fancy, there will be a restaurant capable of giving it to you. Quite remarkable for a city of this size, many restaurants are five star and deserving of attention. Max’s Wine Bar, Crackpots, Blue Haven, Fishy Fishy, ​​and the White House each serve up a different type of place and are all excellent. If you just want a quick cup of coffee or cappuccino, perhaps with lunch, we recommend Tom’s Bakery, The Lemon Tree, Blue Haven, or Cucina’s.

The best value for the most interesting food, day or night, will be found from April to December at Diva Boutique Café in Ballinspittle. If you are traveling from Kinsale towards Garrettstown Beach or towards Timoleague (a journey that is the subject of another article in this series), the cafe will be on your right just as you turn onto Ballinspittle. If you are dining at Diva, you are welcome to bring your own bottle of wine to accompany your meal.

There are also many excellent pubs in the town, often with traditional music venues, jazz below or other types of entertainment. Any visitor looking for the traditional Irish pub look should be sure to check out Tap Tavern. Across the road and slightly to the left of our flat at Number Two Distillery, and on the same side of the road as St. Multose’s Church, the Tap is home to the Kinsale Rampart Players theater group and the place from which the famous Ghost Tour starts.

Kinsale is a fabulous place to spend a few days at home taking day trips to see other interesting sites in the area. Our apartment guest book is packed with great stories and comments, testimonials from people who have found Kinsale to be the highlight of their trip to Ireland. murdered!

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