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Charles Fort In Kinsale: History, The Tours + Map

Charles Fort In Kinsale: History, The Tours + Map

Charles Fort in Kinsale is among the largest military installations in Ireland, it’s is steeped in history and well-preserved.

You can reach it via Kinsale Town on the very scenic Scilly Walk (35 minutes) or you can drive (5 minutes).

When you arrive, you have the choice of a guided or a self-guided tour.

Below, you’ll discover the history of Charles Fort along with what to expect from a visit.

Some quick need-to-knows about Charles Fort in Kinsale


Although a visit to Charles Fort in Kinsale is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

You’ll find Charles Fort in Kinsale (in Summercove, to be precise!) where it’s a short, 5-minute drive from the town (you can get to it on the very scenic Scilly Walk, too, which takes around 30 – 40 minutes).

2. Opening times

The opening hours for Charles Fort are:

  • Mid-March – October 2024
  • Open daily 10:00 – 18:00
  • Last admission 17:00

3. 2024 Admission

Admission to Charles Fort is:

  • Adult: €5.00
  • Group/Senior: €4.00
  • Child/Student: €3.00
  • Family: €13.00

4. Parking

You’ll find free parking on the side of the road as you approach Charles Fort (here on Maps). The views from here are mighty, and you can easily lose yourself in thoughts as you gaze out across the harbour.


A brief history of Charles Fort

the Charles Fort tour

Photo © Failte Ireland

Originally built in 1677, Charles Fort comprises a star-shaped outer wall.

It was built on the site of ‘Ringcurran Castle’, an earlier stronghold that for many years had featured in battles and sieges in the Kinsale area.

Named after Charles II, it initially focused on seaward defense, though this was to its detriment during the Williamite War in 1690.

A 13-day siege

At this time the fort held out for 13 days against attackers who had the advantage of high ground, against relatively weak landward defenses.

After the defeat, repairs were made to remedy these previous oversights.

After this, it was used as a British Army barracks up until 1921, when it was relinquished following Ireland’s independence.


More drama 

Soon after, in 1922, what could be burnt was ravaged, as anti-treaty forces set the installation on fire during the Irish civil war.

It fell out of use for many years and went largely to ruin, before being named a National Monument of Ireland.

The Irish Heritage Service and the Office of Public Works have since restored large sections of the fort.

Looking for a place to stay? See my guide to the best hotels in Kinsale


The Charles Fort tours (guided and self-guided)


Having done the self-guided tour previously and having spoken to many that did the guided tour, there is no comparison.

If you have the time, choose the guided tour. Here’s an overview:

1. The guided tour

The guided tour of Charles Fort in Kinsale is renowned for offering an eye-opening look at the history and character of the fort.

The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and present the information in an easy-going and enjoyable way.

You’ll take in a number of exhibits, and learn the hidden stories of the people who lived, worked, and died in the fort over the years.

Guided tours are included in the ticket price, and they’re well worth tagging along on. They depart at appointed times, which you can check on the website.


2. The self-guided tour

If you missed the tour or just prefer to make your own way around, you’re free to wander to your heart’s content on a self-guided tour of Charles Fort.

Grab a brochure and take your time enjoying the beautiful views, fascinating exhibits, and awe-inspiring architecture.

The friendly staff are always happy to answer any questions you might have, even if you’re not on an official tour.


Things to do nearby

best things to do in Cork Ireland 2024

One of the beauties of Charles Fort in Kinsale is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do in Kinsale.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Charles Fort (or just hop into our guide to our favourite ).

  1. The Scilly walk: An easy-going walk that takes in magnificent harbour views
  2. Beaches near Kinsale: Howe Strand and Garretstown are both nearby
  3. Food and pubs: There are some great restaurants in Kinsale along with some excellent pubs in Kinsale for a feed
  4. Cork City (35-minute drive): Home to Blackrock Castle, the English Market and more
  5. Cobh (45-minute drive): There are endless things to do in Cobh

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