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Kinsale: See, Eat and Explore

10 min read

West Cork is a whirlwind of rolling hills, ancient sights and picturesque towns like the colourful town of Kinsale.

Learn more about this lovely little town below!

By Darragh Devaney, Operations Manager
More by Darragh

The peninsulas of West Cork are an ancient place dipped in tradition, mythology and legend.

The gem of West Cork is the town of Kinsale, a colourful bohemian hotspot and long-time magnet for artists and chefs. Quaint and picturesque, Kinsale is the perfect outdoor lover’s base to explore West Cork.

People come from every corner of the globe to call Kinsale home, turning the little town of Kinsale into a bubbling mix of culture and tradition. The remoteness of West Cork’s peninsulas (Mizen Head, Sheep’s Head, Beara Peninsula) and its islands (Cape Clear, Skerkin Island, Garnish Island) connected by meandering country lanes, overgrown farmers’ tracks and narrow rural paths, all combine to make this the perfect region to explore the great outdoors in Ireland.

What to Do in Kinsale: The Morning

Kinsale

Kinsale’s colourful downtown.

 

Kinsale is a place known as the gourmet capital of Ireland – so you’ll definitely have to indulge your tastebuds while you visit this happy little coastal town!

Here are a few suggestions from a local on the best way to spend your time in Kinsale:

  • If you happen to be in Kinsale midweek, go for a hearty breakfast at the farmer’s market on Short Quay every Wednesday. Here you can sample anything from aromatic Italian coffee to Mediterranean olives to local West Cork cheeses and creams
  • Wander the cheerful streets of Kinsale, weaving in and out of art galleries, artisan’s shops and craft stands.
  • If you’re in an educational mood, make your way to Desmond Castle and the International Museum of Wine. Here, you’ll learn the story of the Wild Geese – soldiers and emigrants who fled Ireland in the 17th century aboard French ships smuggling wine.
  • Ireland is renowned for its wools and textiles. If you’re like most people, having a lovely woollen item is the perfect Ireland souvenir! Shop to your heart’s content for soft wools at the cosy little Granny’s Bottom Drawer

What to Do in Kinsale: The Afternoon

Kinsale

Quaint and colourful, Kinsale is one of Ireland’s loveliest towns!

 

  • Hungry? Try a seafood lunch at the local icon, Fishy Fishy restaurant on Main Street. We recommend you order a bowl of hearty chowder, smoked salmon or some perhaps some of Western Ireland’s famous shellfish!
  • Ahoy mate! For a jaunt into Kinsale’s maritime history, hop aboard the Spirit of Kinsale with Kinsale Harbour Cruises to view of the town from the water
  • If you have time, stop at the Kinsale Museum and old courthouse to look at the Giant of Kinsale’s huge boots (he was said to be 8’1!) among other local quirks. In fact, it was here not far from shore that one of the most famous shipwrecks still rests on the ocean floor. The ocean-liner RMS Lusitania was sunk off the coast of of Kinsale by German u-boats in 1915…

What to Do in Kinsale: The Evening

Kinsale Port, Cork

The bustling port of Kinsale

 

  • If you’re not quite finished learning about the history of Kinsale (and you like a good haunting!), head to Tap Tavern at 9pm to join the local Ghost Tour to meet the spookier residents of Kinsale. (The tour is a little over an hour and is family-friendly)
  • Kinsale has a number of pubs, each playing traditional Irish music. Check the local Kinsale newsletter to check out what’s on each evening!

Kinsale: What to Visit Nearby

Now that you’ve visited the town of Kinsale, it’s time to explore its amazing surroundings. Between the sea, the hills, the villages and the islands, Kinsale is set into a beautiful, if remote, part of Ireland that merits exploration!

Here are a few of our recommendations of fascinating places to visit nearby.

Charles Fort

West Cork

Rolling emerald hills and glittering azure waters of West Cork

 

Distance: 10-minute drive from the centre of Kinsale – or 90 minutes walk along the Scilly Walk

The Charles Fort is perhaps one of Kinsale’s most impressive sights. This star-shaped fort was built in the 17th century for military defensive purposes, and the seaside path along the Scilly Walk is both lovely and rewarding. If you haven’t yet gotten your fill of ghosts, keep your eyes out for the ghost of the White Lady on stormy days as she searches for her lost lover.

You can also continue on your walk on the Lower Cove along the sea and rugged headland. If all that walking has worked up an appetite, we recommend the Bulman Pub. Enjoy the lovely seaside views and delicious seafood dishes!

The Old Head of Kinsale

Old Head of Kinsale - Wilderness Ireland

Aerial view of the Old Head of Kinsale stretching into the Atlantic Ocean

 

Distance: 20 minutes drive south of Kinsale

The Old Head of Kinsale is a narrow promontory that juts over 3 kilometres into the swirling Atlantic waves off the south coast of Ireland and Kinsale. A 17th century lighthouse was built at the end of this narrow headland, though humans have inhabited this promontory for years. Today it is home to the pristine grass of the Old Head Golf Links, a world-renowned 18 hole gold course.

Amateur ornithologists will love this area as it is a known nesting ground – in fact, possibly the only mixed seabird colony of its kind in this region of the continent. For a pint and a chowder, head to the the Speckled Door pub (they do an unusual but tasty mushroom chowder).

Seven Heads Peninsula

Distance: 40 minutes drive west of Kinsale

Though a little further afield, the Seven Heads deserves a mention. One of southwest Ireland’s best-kept secrets is the remote, windswept headland of the Seven Heads. The entire trail is 42 km long, from Timoleague village and along the coast around rugged cliffs towards Dunworley Bay, finishing up in Ballinglanna. From sandy coves to wind-beaten cliffs, the area is both breath-taking and alive with a plethora of flora and fauna. Of course, the walk can be shortened into bit-able chunks, though we recommend that you do this walk with a hiking guide.

Fun Festivals & Events Near Kinsale

Kinsale gourmet capital

Kinsale, often called the gourmet capital of Ireland for good reason!

 

Kinsale Arts Weekend Festival. Annually held in July, the Kinsale Arts Weekend turns the town into a lively, open-air gallery combining cultural events that encompass visual art, music, dance, comedy, literature, film, theatre, family events, workshops and outdoor spectacles.

In April, check out Kinsale’s Street Feast foodie festival, celebrating the town’s long love of cuisine. This is an annual festival that takes place on the downtown streets of Kinsale. This is coupled with the All Ireland Chowder Cook off!

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Meet the Author: Darragh Devaney

“Joining Wilderness Ireland in 2015, Darragh is our Trip Operations Manager. He's also Wilderness Ireland's resident cycling expert! Darragh has travelled throughout the world - cycling across France, living abroad in South Korea, travelling through Canada and the US, but still prefers cycling in Ireland to anywhere else!”

View profileMore by Darragh

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