If you’re debating staying in Kinsale in Cork, you’ve landed in the right place.
Kinsale is one of the most beautiful towns in Cork, and what it lacks in physical size, it more than makes up for in personality.
Known as the gourmet capital of Ireland, home to numerous intriguing attractions, and surrounded by stunning natural beauty, there’s little wonder it’s an ever-popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at what makes Kinsale such an amazing place to visit and why you might just want to call it home!
Some quick need-to-knows about Kinsale in Cork
Although a visit to Kinsale in Cork is nice and straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Kinsale is around 25 km south of Cork City and is located on the southwest coast of the Republic of Ireland.
It sits at the mouth of the River Brandon, which spills into the sea at the town’s harbour. The Old Head of Kinsale is just a stone’s throw away, a historic headland that juts out to sea and is home to ancient castles and early lighthouses.
2. A lively (and colourful) little town
Kinsale’s historic streets are lined with vibrant, colourful buildings that house everything from art galleries, craft shops and cafes, to Michelin Starred bistros and ancient pubs.
Home to a creative and lively population, and visited by thousands, the streets are seldom empty, and a friendly atmosphere fills every nook and cranny.
3. The Kinsale Jazz Festival
Every year, Kinsale plays host to an incredible jazz festival. More than 100 free gigs typically take place, with sessions in almost every pub, bar, and hotel in the town. T
he 4-day bonanza promises an incredible atmosphere, with sessions running noon til late, Friday through to Monday.
A brief history of Kinsale
The gorgeous little village of Kinsale has a long and rich history, with early records dating back to the 12th century.
I’m going to attempt to give you a very brief history of Kinsale, that’ll hopefully whet your appetite for learning more about the area.
The origins of Kinsale
In 1333, the town was granted its first charter, and soon grew to a rather sizable fishing hub. In Irish, it’s called Cionn tSáile, which roughly translates to ‘headland of the sea’.
Its port soon became of military importance, and various castles and forts have protected it and the town for hundreds of years.
The Battle of Kinsale
With close links to Spain, various battles have been fought in Kinsale. In 1601, a contingent of the Spanish Armada that set sail to attack the Kingdom of England, landed in Kinsale.
Here, they joined with rebel Irish forces in a bid to attack England from Ireland. English forces retaliated, and the Battle of Kinsale took place towards the end of the Nine Year War, in which the rebels and the Spanish were defeated.
The journey to independence
Charles Fort was built in 1677, and with the older James Fort, was designed to protect the harbour and town seaward attacks, particularly from French and Spanish forces.
The fort was occupied by the Royal Navy for more than 200 years, until Ireland’s independence.
Kinsale’s naval and military significance dropped from around 1805, and the town returned to a humbler way of life.
Things to do Kinsale
Although we go into what to see in the area in detail in our guide on the best things to do in Kinsale, I’ll give you a quick overview below.
From hikes and walks to fine food, historical sites and beautiful beaches, there’s no end to the number of things to do in Kinsale.
1. Stretch your legs on the Scilly walk
The Scilly Walk is a must-do in Kinsale, and not just because of its name! It’s a fairly easy-going 6 km loop that takes you from the charming village of Scilly, just outside of Kinsale, to Charles Fort. Along the way you’ll follow the water’s edge, with fantastic views out over the harbour and plenty of photo opportunities.
Dotted with fantastic pubs and restaurants, you can easily make a day of it, and also do a tour of Charles Fort while you’re at it. The walk is hilly in places, but otherwise fairly easy-going, and it’s a great way to explore the area on foot.
2. Or try the much windier Old Head Of Kinsale Loop
The Old Head of Kinsale walk is another nice ramble worth doing, this time just outside of town. It follows a path that loops around the old headland, as it juts out to sea.
Along the way you’ll get amazing cliff-top views, see various wildlife, stroll through tiny villages and farms, and take in a number of attractions.
Keep your eyes peeled for a 13th century castle, ancient stone ruins, and the RMS Lusitania Museum and view tower — the views from the top are incredible!
3. Have a paddle at Kinsale Beach (or one of the many others nearby)
Kinsale has its own small beach, which offers beautiful sand, blue seas, and amazing views. It’s fairly sheltered, making it an ideal place for a little swimming or paddling.
4. Discover heaps more things to do
There’s so much more to see and do in Kinsale that to list them all would take forever. The best advice is to saunter along the historic, winding streets, and seeing where your feet take you!
I guarantee you’ll stumble across historic sights such as Charles Fort, James Fort, Desmond Castle, the Old Fish Market, and a wealth of stunning old houses, shops, and churches.
Hop into our Kinsale attractions guide if you fancy seeing what else there is to see and do in the town and nearby.
By now you’re probably chomping at the bit and ready to book your stay in Kinsale! I can’t blame you, so let’s have a look at some of the accommodation in Kinsale on offer.
There’s a mix of places to stay, from hotels and B&Bs to guesthouses, apartments and some very fancy self-catering.
Gorgeous B&Bs and hotels in Kinsale
If you hop into our Kinsale hotels guide, you’ll find high quality hotels that offer a range of suites and rooms, and boast sea views and amazing amenities.
Besides the larger hotels, there are a number of smaller, boutique hotels and B&Bs in Kinsale if you’re looking for somewhere a little more personal. Maintaining the same high standards as their larger counterparts, they guarantee comfort and enjoyment.
Unique Airbnbs in Kinsale
There are plenty of great Airbnbs in Kinsale, too. There’s no shortage of stunning places, ranging from private rooms to entire houses and apartments.
You’ll find a lot of choice right in the centre of Kinsale, but there’s also numerous places just outside the town as well, many within walking distance of all the best pubs and restaurants!
While Kinsale is renowned for its restaurants, it’s equally loved for its pubs. There’s a wide range of fantastic places to grab a pint, take in some traditional music sessions, and just enjoy the craic.
You can discover some great places to nip into in our Kinsale pubs guide, but here are a few of our favourites to get you started.
1. The Spaniard
Dating back to 1650, the Spaniard is one of the oldest pubs in Kinsale. Step through the doors, and you’ll hear, see, and smell the years, comedies, and tragedies that have played out within its walls. The rustic decor, roaring fireplaces, and sawdust on the floor take you back to another time, and if you strain your ears, you can hear the raucous sea shanties of yesteryear!
2. The Bulman
If you’re doing the Scilly walk, you’ll eventually pass the Bulman Bar. Just 10 metres from the ocean, it’s a great place to grab a mid-walk pint that you can sip as you sit on the stone, sea wall, gazing across the harbour. Inside, the bar is full of character, with crackling fireplaces, exposed wooden beams, and an array of nautical knick-knacks.
3. Kitty Ó Sé’s
If you’re looking for live music in Kinsale, Kitty’s is one of the best. Throughout summer they have sessions pretty much every night, featuring some of the best traditional bands in Cork and beyond. The atmosphere is amazing, and you can be sure of a lively night. The pub itself is also fantastic, with a good selection of drinks, as well as decent pub grub, featuring an array of Irish classics.
They don’t call Kinsale the gourmet capital of Ireland for nothing. You’ll find countless amazing places to grab a world-class meal. And there’s much more on offer than just seafood.
You can discover some great places to eat in our Kinsale restaurants guide, but here are a few of our favourites to get you started.
1. Bruno’s Italian Eatery
Bruno’s makes amazing Italian cuisine, using a wealth of locally sourced Irish ingredients, as well as authentic Italian ones. The seasonal menu offers a mixture of pasta dishes and salads that use the freshest ingredients.
However, it’s the wood-fired pizzas that are the main attraction! The base is perfection, the toppings inspired, and the sauce simply delectable. Plus, with a range of artisanal Italian wines to choose from, you can be sure to find the perfect match.
2. The Black Pig
The Black Pig is a premium fine dining location in Kinsale, offering up an array of stunning seafood dishes. Many of the ingredients come off the boat the morning that they’re served up, guaranteeing the freshest flavours.
As well as seafood, you’ll find sumptuous meat and vegetarian dishes, again, all sourced locally, mostly within Cork. The mood lighting and cosy seating guarantee a relaxing experience, but they also have a beautiful courtyard — ideal for lunch in the sun.
3. Fishy Fishy Kinsale
Located right on the harbour, Fishy Fishy is one of the most well-known seafood restaurants in Kinsale. Owner and head chef Martin Shanahan is among the best seafood chefs in Ireland, and you might recognize him from TV.
The Michelin Plate restaurant, once an art gallery, serves up an array of fresh fish and seafood dishes from an ever-changing menu. Look out for the specials, which vary depending on what was caught that morning.
FAQs about visiting Kinsale in Cork
Since mentioning the town in a guide to Cork that we published several years ago, we’ve had hundreds of emails asking various things about Kinsale in Cork.
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 Kinsale worth visiting?
Yes! Kinsale in Cork is a beautiful little village that’s packed with charm and character (and a whole lot of colour!). It’s home to lots to see and do and it’s close to some of the best scenery in Ireland.
Are there many places to eat in Kinsale?
There’s an endless number of places to eat in Kinsale. From fine dining in Max’s to more casual (but just as tasty) eats in Man Friday, you have a great selection of places to drop into.
Are there many things to do in Kinsale?
While there’s a handful of things to do in Kinsale, the real draw of the town is that it’s a glorious place to explore from. You can spend the day hiking, walking, swimming or cycling and then spend the night eating or drinking in the many pubs and restaurants in the town.
Andy was once on a glorious worldwide trip on his equally glorious motorcycle. After 4 years, he’d still only made it as far as Eastern Europe, before falling in love with his surroundings and deciding to settle down a while. Nowadays, he spends his time writing about traveling through the places he once explored, normally while sipping a pint.