A visit to the impressive Charles Fort in Kinsale is one of the most popular things to do in Cork.
A stone’s throw from the lively town of Kinsale, Charles Fort is among the largest military installations in Ireland, and it’s is steeped in history and well-preserved.
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from the history of Charles Fort to info on the tour and what to see and do nearby.
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.
There’s a lot to discover within the mighty walls of Charles Fort, but let’s start with the basics, first.
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
You can visit Charles Fort year-round, and it’s open for visitors from 10am. From mid-March through to October, it’s open until 6pm, and from November to mid-March until 5pm. The last admission to the site is one hour before closing, with a typical visit lasting one hour (times may change).
Admission to Charles Fort costs €5 for an adult, €4 for seniors, €3 for children and students, and €13 for a family pass. The entrance fee covers the running costs of the various facilities, as well as the maintenance and upkeep of this fantastic site. In addition, it grants access throughout the fort, and also includes a guided tour (prices may change).
You’ll find free parking on the side of the road as you approach Charles Fort. It’s sloped and a little gravelly, but it has space for around 20 or so cars, with plenty of room away from the road. The views from here are lovely, and you can easily lose yourself in thoughts as you gaze out across the harbour.
There’s a whole host of fantastic facilities at Charles Fort, including well maintained toilets, a baby changing area, a handy brochure, and the aforementioned car park. There’s also a nice little cafe where you can get a good cup of coffee and a light lunch. Throughout the fort, you’ll find various exhibitions and informative displays.
A brief history of Charles Fort
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 defence, though this was to its detriment during the Williamite War in 1690.
A 13-day attack
At this time the fort held out for 13 days against attackers who had the advantage of high ground, against relatively weak landward defences.
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.
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.
Charles Fort tours (guided and self-guided)
You can take a guided tour of Charles Fort or a self-guided tour, depending on how much time you have to spare.
Here’s a quick overview of the guided tours of Charles Fort along with a speedy overview of how to see it yourself on a self-guided nosey about.
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. Afterwards, you have plenty of time to look around by yourself.
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 near Charles Fort
One of the beauties of Charles Fort in Kinsale is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Charles Fort (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. The Scilly walk
The Scilly walk is a fairly easy-going walk that stretches from the village of Scilly (just outside Kinsale), to Charles Fort.
It then loops back on itself, returning you to Kinsale. Around 6 km both ways, it offers splendid views over the harbour for much of the route.
It’s worth taking half a day or so to enjoy the walk, visit the fort, and grab lunch or dinner in one of the great restaurants or pubs on the way.
2. Eat your way around Kinsale
Kinsale is the gourmet capital of Ireland, and while you’re in the area it’d be a crime to miss out on some of the mouthwatering delights that are on offer.
There’s restaurants in Kinsale to tickle every fancy, with Michelin accredited bistros, humble cafes, and sumptuous pub grub.
Locally caught seafood is a highlight, and you’ll find no shortage of incredible fish dishes. But it’s not just the seafood that’s local — the majority of restaurants in Kinsale focus on locally sourced produce for all their dishes. So, loosen that belt and spoil yourself!
Cork county is home to plenty of great beaches, so if you fancy hitting the surf, relaxing on soft, powdery sand, or exploring ragged coves and rock pools, you’re in luck.
There are plenty of amazing beaches just a short drive away from Charles Fort, and there’s even a small one in Kinsale itself.
FAQs about visiting Charles Fort
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from whether Charles Fort is worth visiting to what tours are on offer.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Charles Fort in Kinsale worth visiting?
Yes – 100%! Even if you’re not looking to soak up some history, the views from the fort are excellent. The grounds are also nice and easy to ramble around, and there’s a little cafe you can nip into, also.
Are the tours of Charles Fort?
Yes – there are guided and self-guided tours of Charles Fort on offer, depending on how much time you have to explore.
Is there much to see near Charles Fort?
Yes – you can nip into Kinsale for food, walk along the harbour, visit one of the nearby beaches or try the Scilly Walk of the Old Head Loop.