There’s some might things to do in Kinsale, despite what Instagram would lead you to believe.
The 9,000,000 photos of ‘that’ colourful Kinsale street leads many to think that it’s all the town has to offer, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
From glorious coastal walks and an often missed beach to historical sites, exceptional food and trad bars, there’s plenty of places to visit in Kinsale, as you’ll discover below.
The best things to do in Kinsale
The first section of this guide tackles what we think are the best things to do in Kinsale, from walks and coffee to food and forts.
Below, you’ll find everything from the brilliant Charles Fort and the mighty Scilly Walk to some fine spots for a feed.
1. Grab a coffee and see the towns streets
Right, before we look at what to do in Kinsale, it’s time to fuel up with a splash of caffine (if you want to, of course).
This street is the one that Kinsale is arguably best known for, however, you’ll discover many colourful corners when you go exploring from here.
2. Then take a spin to Kinsale Beach
Often referred to as ‘Dock Beach’ and ‘Castlepark Beach’, Kinsale Beach is a handy 3km spin from the centre of Kinsale.
Although it’s one of the lesser-known beaches in Cork, it’s small and sheltered, and the sand here is grand for a ramble.
The main issue here can be parking – there’s not much of it. And as a visit here is one of the more popular things to do in Kinsale when the weathers fine, it can be tricky to get a spot.
If you want to avoid the hassle, grab a taxi from the town and get their number so you can arrange a lift back.
If you’re wondering what to do in Kinsale that’ll take you away from the hustle and bustle for a while, get yourself here.
3. Or ditch the car and head off on the Scilly Walk
It’s a relatively handy walk and should take you between 1 and 1.5 hours, depending on 1, how many times you stop to soak up the views and 2, if you go out as far as Charles Fort.
Here’s a full guide to the walk with info on where to start it and what to look out for on the way. This is one of the more popular things to do in Kinsale for good reason.
4. And extend the ramble to include Charles Fort
You’ll regularly see a visit to Charles Fort topping guides to the best things to do in Kinsale. It’s well worth a visit, even if history doesn’t tickle your fancy.
Myself and the aul lad visited Charles Fort last summer while doing the Scilly Walk. You can extend the walk to take in the Fort, and it’s a great detour.
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.
5. And then grab a bite to eat in the Bulman on your way back
Around 6 minutes after leaving Charles Fort on your way back into Kinsale, you’ll see the big, bright orange exterior of the Bulman.
Arguably one of the best pubs in Kinsale, the Bulman is a great little spot for sunny afternoon pints. It’s also a fine place for a feed.
There’s a good mix of food on offer at the Bulman, from locally caught fish to hearty pub-grub favourites.
6. 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 artifacts.
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.
7. Set off on the Old Head of Kinsale loop 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.
8. Ramble along one of the many beaches near Kinsale
There are a heap of beaches near Kinsale that are well worth a visit and that often get missed by those visiting the area.
If you don’t fancy heading too far, visit Kinsale Beach (mentioned above). Sandycove Beach (8-minute drive) and Garrylucas Blue Flag Beach (16-minute drive) are arguably two of the best.
However, Coolmain Beach (20-minute drive) and Garretstown Beach (15-minute drive) are both well worth a visit if you’re looking for natural attractions near Kinsale to explore.
9. 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 tours since 1966 and he was also rated the best guide in Ireland by the Irish Independent.
10. Make your belly happy on a food tour
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.
11. 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
12. Get spooked 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.
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.
Things to do near Kinsale
So, you’ve ticked off the many things to do in Kinsale and you’re in search of things to do near Kinsale. Well, you’re in luck – there’s loads of places to visit nearby.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Kinsale (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Cork City (30-minute drive)
If you’re looking for things to do near Kinsale, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Cork City.
There’s an endless number of things to do in Cork City to keep you busy, and it’s a handy spin away.
2. Clonakilty (45-minute drive)
Similar to the City, there’s heaps of things to do in Clonakilty, from the brilliant Inchydoney Beach to several indoor attractions for when it’s raining, it’s worth taking a spin to this buzz little town.
3. Cobh (1 hour drive)
At around an hours drive from Kinsale, Cobh is also worth spinning out to.
What to do in Kinsale: Where have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant things to see in Kinsale from the guide above.
If you have any Kinsale attractions that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
FAQs about the best places to visit in Kinsale
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What to do in Kinsale when it rains?’ to ‘What are some unique things to do in Kinsale?’.
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.
What are the best things to do in Kinsale?
I’d argue that the best things to do in Kinsale are to head off on the Scilly Walk, grab food in one of the many restaurants in the town, visit Charles Fort and to sample the pubs scene.
What Kinsale attractions are often missed by those visiting?
The Kinsale Mead Tour, the Kinsale Museum and some of the tours mentioned above tend to be missed a fair bit.
Are there many things to do near Kinsale?
Yes! You’ve everything from beaches and walks to Cork City, Cobh and much, much more nearby.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.