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.
Table of Contents
Our favourite things to do in Kinsale
The first section of this guide tackles our favourite 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. Fuel up with a coffee from Poet’s Corner
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! Get in and fuel up for the day ahead.
2. And then do 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Head for a saunter along 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.
Note from the editor: I’m 70% sure the beach pictured above is actually nearby Garrylucas Beach, not Kinsale Beach.
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.
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!
What to do in Kinsale if you want to explore on foot
If you’re wondering what to do in Kinsale that’ll give the legs a big aul stretch, you’re in luck – there’s plenty of active things to do in Kinsale and nearby.
Below, you’ll find short rambles, like the one around the town, to longer, coastal strolls, like the Old Head loop.
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. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
In our guide to the best restaurants in Kinsale, you’ll find loads of great places to eat, from fine dining to cheap and tasty eats.
Unique Kinsale attractions
The next section of our guide tackles the more unique attractions in Kinsale along with some brilliant, alternative tours.
Below, you’ll find everything for the Kinsale Mead tour and a very tasty food tour to a ghost tour (yes, a ghost tour…) and much more.
1. 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
2. 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.
3. 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.
Related read: Check out our guide to 11 of the most unique Airbnbs in Kinsale (from unique places to stay to quirky cabins)
4. 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)
FAQs about the best places to visit in Kinsale
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything for what are the most unique things to do in Kinsale to where to see nearby.
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.