Although the 7,000,000 photos online would lead you to believe otherwise, there are plenty more things to do in Kinsale aside from gazing at colourful buildings.
Don’t get me wrong, Kinsale’s gorgeous, vibrant streets are like something whipped straight from a postcard, but there are loads more to see and do in this buzzy little fishing town.
In the guide below, you’ll discover a clatter of different things to do in Kinsale, from food tours and forts to ghost tours and lots more.
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The best things to do in Kinsale
You’ll find the little fishing village of Kinsale in County Cork, a stone’s throw from many of the county’s best-known natural and man-made attractions.
The village is located right at the mouth of the mighty River Bandon and although it’s best known as a historic port and fishing village, it also boasts a rich military history.
Right – I’ll stop yammering away now! Dive into the best places to visit and things to do in Kinsale below!
1. Head for a ramble around the colourful streets
Kinsale is one of the many little villages in Ireland that tends to deliver an ‘oh-wow’ moment every time you turn a corner.
The town is home to many a colourful building and narrow street which makes it an absolute joy to just wander around.
The best advice that I can give you here is to just follow your nose and take every twist and turn that tickles your fancy. The town is small, so you won’t have to worry about getting lost!
2. Fuel up with a coffee from Poet’s Corner
I’ve nipped into Poet’s Corner on many different visits to Kinsale over the years. If you, like me, tend to travel alone and are fond of a read, you’ll love this place.
You can grab a coffee and take a look through the books that are up for sale or that are available for exchange (it’s a book exchange as well as a cafe).
By all accounts, the cakes here are pretty damn good, also! When I was here last summer I overheard a group of people merrily chatting away as they munched away on Gluten-free cakes.
3. Set off on the Old Head of Kinsale looped walk
Next up is the magnificent Old Head. A walk here is, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Cork when the weathers decent!
Those that head for a stroll here can stretch the legs while soaking up a chunk of Cork’s gorgeous coastline. The Old Head of Kinsale walk is a handy 6 km loop walk that shouldn’t take you any longer that an hour and a half.
The Old Head of Kinsale is a beautiful, narrow promontory that juts into the Atlantic Ocean and rises hundreds of feet above the sea. Expect lovely coastal views throughout.
4. Enjoy a pint with a view at the Bulman
You’ll find the bright orange Bulman bar on the outskirts of Kinsale in the little village of Summercove where it overlooks the harbour.
If you’re lucky enough to rock up here on a fine day, you can kick back outside and enjoy a view while nursing a pint. The bar is literally ten meters from the water and it’s also home to an award-winning restaurant.
The perfect place to visit for a post-adventure pint by the sea.
5. Step back in time at Charles Fort
You’ll regularly see a visit to Charles Fort topping guides to the best things to do in Kinsale. Myself and the aul lad visited Charles Fort last summer.
I’ll be honest, I was wary about it as forts and the likes wouldn’t really be my thing. I needn’t have worried, though, as this place is class.
We went in, had a float around, soaked up the history and grabbed a coffee from the little cafe in the courtyard area. I’ve been recommending it to people ever since.
Charles Fort is a late 17th-century star-shaped fort that was designed by the same fella (William Robinson) that designed the Royal Hospital in Dublin.
Interestingly enough, the fort here is linked to a number of significant events in Irish history, the most significant of which was the Williamite War 1689-91 and the Civil War 1922-23.
6. Give some locally caught seafood a lash
I. Hate. Seafood. Unless it’s batter cod with chips I physically can’t do it. HOWEVER, for all of you non-finicky fish lovers out there, Kinsale’s food scene will send your tastebuds into overdrive.
The town is home to a number of different celebrated spots that are well-known for firing out tasty fish-based feeds to locals and tourists alike.
I’ve been hearing good things about Fishy Fishy and Bastion, in particular, for years! Get in, get fed and then head for a saunter along the harbour.
7. Take a walking tour with a local
One of the best ways to explore a new place is, in my opinion, to take a walking tour with a local. You tend to learn more about the place and you often discover stories that rarely make it to tourist guides.
If you’re looking for things to do in Kinsale on foot, head off on a tour with Kinsale Heritage Town Walks. These lads will help you explore this gorgeous little town from top to bottom.
The tours are run by a chap named Dermot Ryan. Now, this lad isn’t any regular old tour guide – Dermot has been giving guides since 1966 and he was also rated the best guide in Ireland by the Irish Independent.
8. Take a tour of the Kinsale Mead Co.
Next up is one of the more unique things to do in Kinsale – a tour of the Kinsale Mead Co. Now, if you’re wondering, ‘What in the …. is Mead’, you’re probably not alone.
Mead is the world’s oldest alcoholic drink and you’ll also often hear it called ‘honey wine’ or ‘honeymoon wine’. Those that opt to do the tour of the Kinsale Mead Co. can expect:
- Insights into Kinsale Meads
- The story and evolution of Mead through the centuries
- How Ireland’s Bee Laws protected the bees (you’ll also get to taste three unique raw honeys)
- How mead is made
- You’ll also get to sample award-winning meads along with a seasonal cocktail
9. Explore the Kinsale coastline from the comfort of a kayak
Fancy seeing a bit of Kinsale from a very unique angle? Get yourself booked in for a tour with the lads at H20 Sea Kayaking.
There are half-day and full-day tours that’ll see you hop into a kayak and explore a variety of different locations near Kinsale.
If you head off on the half-day 3-hour tour (€50), you’ll get to explore a gorgeous stretch of Cork’s coastline with an expert local guide.
Looking for somewhere to stay in Cork? Check out our guide to 11 of the most unique Airbnbs in Cork City and beyond!
10. Nip inside Kinsale Museum
If you’re looking for things to do in Kinsale when it’s raining, this next place will keep you dry and amused for an hour or two.
You’ll find the Kinsale Museum inside the town’s courthouse, which was built around 1600. Inside you’ll discover a very interesting array of artefacts.
There’s everything from boots once owned by Patrick Cotter O’Brien (a chap known as the ‘Kinsale Giant’) to an anchor from one of the Spanish Armada ships on show.
Note: I couldn’t find a photo of the museum, so I’ve popped in another from the town that I took aggggggges ago… forgive me!
11. Have the sh*te frightened out of you on the Kinsale ghost tour
If you’re looking for very unique things to do in Kinsale, join guide Brian O’Neill on what’s described as ‘an exciting crazy Ghost Tour of fun and excitement for all’.
Now, although I’ve heard a lot of great things about this tour (Brian is supposed to be a brilliant guide!) I can only find a tiny bit of info online about it.
The tour kicks off during the summer from the Tap Tavern at 21:00 and it’s said to go on for about an hour and fifteen minutes. There’s a number to call here if you want to book in.
Note: I couldn’t find a photo of the ghost tour, so I’ve popped in another shot from the town.
12. Make your belly happy on a Kinsale Food Tour
If you like to explore on a full belly, there’s no finer activity in this colourful little town than the guided food tour organised by these lads.
The ‘Town Walking Food Tour’ is, according to the guides, ‘like a walking food trail which takes you to a selection of different eateries’.
Those that head off on this tour will wander through the streets of Kinsale an experienced guide, hearing stories and trying a tasty selection of local treats.
13. Have a nosey around James Fort
If you’re not familiar with James Fort, it’s an early 17th-century pentagonal bastion fort that you’ll find finely plonked on the Castlepark peninsula in the beautiful harbour of Kinsale.
James Fort was constructed in 1607 with the primary objective of defending Kinsale harbour. Those that visit can soak up a heap of history while also grabbing some mighty views of the town, the harbour and nearby Charles Fort.
The fort here isn’t anywhere near as well preserved as Charles Fort, but it’s worth visiting. You can also get a decent view of Charles Fort from here as it’s located directly across the harbour.
What places to visit in Kinsale have we missed?
I’m sure we’ve unintentionally missed some great things to do in Kinsale in the guide below. If you know of something that we need to add, let me know below!
If you’re looking for more places to visit during your trip to Cork, you’ll find the guides below nice and useful: