Kinsale: things to do, when to visit, and things to know

Kinsale, home of the quirky coloured houses and idyllic harbour, is a place everyone should see. If this is your plan, then here are some important things to know to ensure you don’t miss out.

Kinsale is an iconic and picturesque town on Ireland’s southeast coast, at the mouth of the River Bandon. Kinsale has long been a favourite stop-off for those visiting Ireland and a common destination for Irish road trips and staycations.

So, if you have a trip to Kinsale up your sleeve, then we’ve got you covered. With tonnes of activities, a variety of bars and restaurants, and plenty of natural beauty in the surrounding areas to be explored, there is just so much to keep you occupied.

In saying that, there are a few things you should know, including things to do, how to get there, and some other local tips that will make sure your trip is hassle-free. So, let’s give you the scoop.

Overview – all about Kinsale

Kinsale is an absolute must-visit.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

Kinsale is a small coastal town in County Cork, famous for its ideal location, history, and cultural significance. It is also known for its fishing and two ancient fortresses, Charles Fort and James Fort, which date back to the 17th century.

Kinsale is bustling with visitors and locals during the summer months. At this time, it is home to the Kinsale Regatta, which is one of the longest-running regattas in Ireland that is still attended by many every summer.

For anyone keen to see the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s epic coastal road trip, Kinsale marks the beginning (or end) of the journey, which stretches for 2,500 km (1,600 miles) to Inishowen in County Donegal.

Whether you begin your trip in Kinsale or end it there, you will be in for a treat. There are plenty of things to see and do that are sure to suit every kind of traveller.

What to see? – things you won’t want to miss

So, what exactly is there to see in and around Kinsale anyway? We hear you ask. Well, this town is ideal for anyone with a love of nature, culture, and adventure because it has it all. Some of the main things to see include:

Kinsale Harbour

You need to visit Kinsale Harbour.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

Kinsale has an enclosed harbour that has always been of important significance to Ireland. The natural Kinsale Harbour has two marinas, which makes it ideal for sailing, yachting, and fishing adventures.

Charles Fort

This 17th-century star-shaped fort is the best-known fort in Kinsale. It is worth a visit if you ask us, given that it is one of the best surviving forts of its kind.

There are guided tours all year (between 11 am and 4 pm, costing €5 adult and €3 child), which are highly recommended.

The Old Head of Kinsale

Check out the Old Head of Kinsale.
Credit: Fáilte Ireland

This part of Kinsale is not only very pleasing to the eye, making it ideal for photography. Rather, history buffs can enjoy time at the Lusitania Museum and Signal Tower, which date back 200 years.

The colourful buildings of Kinsale

Now, if this is not the iconic image of Kinsale, we don’t know what is.

Visitors love the quirky streets of this cute town, with its multi-coloured buildings, unique boutiques, and vibrant atmosphere. This is an iconic photo stop when in Kinsale.

Kinsale Golf Club & Old Head Golf Links

Golfing enthusiasts need to check out these two Kinsale golf locations, which feature stunning views, modern facilities, and well-maintained lawns.

Both Kinsale Golf Club and the Old Head Golf Links also provide you with a golfing experience like no other.

The variety of eateries

There are plenty of great eateries to enjoy.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

Did you know that Kinsale is known as the gourmet capital of Ireland, with its array of eateries which will satisfy even the fussiest of food lovers?

Food tours are common, and you should most definitely try the local seafood, artisan food suppliers, and annual food events. We highly recommend trying the mead made in the local meaderies, such as Kinsale Mead Co.

The beautiful Kinsale beaches

Well, you just cannot visit Kinsale without enjoying some downtime or a stroll on one of their best beaches.

Our favourites include Sandycove Beach, which is just eight minutes away, the Blue Flag Garrylucas Beach, which is 16 minutes away, and Coolmaine Beach, which is 20 minutes away.

How to get there? – a variety of ways to arrive

You can get the train from Cork Kent Station.

By car: If you have arrived in Dublin, it is just a three-hour drive to Kinsale on the M7/M8 motorways (toll roads). Coming from Cork city, it is just a 30-minute drive on the N27/R600 (no tolls). There are also no toll options from Dublin, but allow a little extra time for these routes.

By plane: If you are arriving at Cork Airport, you are as close as you can get to Kinsale by plane, which is just a 20-minute drive away.

By bus/train: Buses frequently go to Kinsale from various parts of the country, with Bus Eireann. Meanwhile, the closest train station is Cork Kent Train Station, which you can connect to by bus.

When to visit – the best time to arrive

The best time to visit is during the summer when there are many local events, a great atmosphere, and plenty of things to do in Kinsale.

Be sure to book your accommodation and tours in advance during these months.

Where to park? – free and paid options

There are a variety of options when it comes to parking in Kinsale. Still, it is worth knowing that in the summer season, when the tourist boom is in full swing, it may be difficult to find free or paid parking, so arrive early.

The best free car parks are Church Square car park and New Road car park. Paid options include the main town car park.

Where to stay – accommodation options

The Trident Hotel Kinsale is a great place to stay.
Credit: Facebook / @TridentHotelKinsaleCork

Budget: The White House Kinsale

Midrange: Blue Haven Hotel Kinsale

Luxury: Trident Hotel Kinsale

Local tips – handy things to know

Garrettstown Beach is one of the best beaches in Kinsale.
Credit: Fáilte Ireland

Here are a few handy tips and tricks for your visit to Kinsale:

  • Parking costs around €1.50 per hour but may vary. Check time limits for parking, which can also vary.
  • If you have a campervan, you can park easily overnight off Garrettstown Beach, at New Road car park, or at Charles Fort.
  • Do the ‘Scilly Walk’, which goes from the harbour to Charles Fort. It takes around 30 to 45 minutes and goes along the beautiful water’s edge.
  • Don’t miss a stop off at Poets Corner for a cup of tea or a coffee during your rambles around town.

Notable mentions

Kinsale Mead Co. is a great activity.
Credit: Facebook / @KinsaleMeadCo
  • Take a tour of Kinsale Mead Co., the first of its kind in 200 years, making for an excellent local experience.
  • Be sure to check out Kinsale Farmers Market, held every Wednesday throughout the year from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm.
  • Kinsale has the largest selection of art galleries in Ireland. So, art lovers can thrive during their visit.

FAQs about Kinsale

What are the best things to do in Kinsale?

Try some local mead, explore the narrow streets, and eat the local cuisine.

What Kinsale attractions are often missed by those visiting?

A visit to the local meadery and visiting local markets.

Can you walk the Old Head of Kinsale?

Yes, there is a fabulous loop walk that is 6.2 km (4 miles) that makes for an excellent activity.

So, there you have it, the main things you need to know for an epic visit to Kinsale. No matter what your interests may be, you won’t be short of incredible experiences and leisure activities to enjoy.

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