Kinsale town located in its picturesque harbour setting is rich in history, magnificent scenery and numerous activities to enjoy for all ages. Kinsale is situated in the estuary of the river Bandon, nestling among hills that hide it from the open sea. Because of its situation it is a historic port and is still very popular with pleasure sailors and anglers. Two forts guard the approach from the sea.
In addition to its visual charms, the town has become a home of good food, and is known as the gourmet Capital of Ireland. It’s also about traditional bars, beautiful buildings, narrow streets, shops and galleries and lots of activities on land and sea.
Kinsale has been a centre of population, trade and fishing for centuries. The combined attractions of a sheltered harbour, fertile land and abundant fisheries were not lost on the invading Anglo-Normans who, in the 13th century, displaced the local Irish to establish control and create a medieval walled town on the shoreline. They forged trade links with England and Europe and became prominent in the wine trade. By the time Kinsale was granted its royal charter in 1333, it was already a thriving town and port.
The famous ‘Battle of Kinsale’ in 1601 saw the area become the cockpit of Europe with the armies of England, Spain and the Northern Irish chieftains in contention. It was a turning point in Irish history as the Irish forces and their Spanish allies were defeated and the result, effectively, was the decline of the old Gaelic way of life in Ireland with the breakdown of the power of the chieftans and clans. Though victorious, England was alarmed by the successful landing of the Spanish on their western flank and this led to the building of James Fort and later Charles Fort at the mouth of the harbour. Following the establishment of the forts, Kinsale remained a garrison town and port of consequence for over 300 years, leaving a legacy of Georgian and Victorian architecture. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Kinsale was also an important naval base and ships were built here using timbers from the surrounding oak forests.
From the beginning of the 20th century, Kinsale’s economy declined and many of its fine houses and buildings became derelict. However all was not lost – the story of the transformation of Kinsale from a rundown and jaded town, into a charming and prosperous one is a story of foresight, co-operation, but above all civic determination that began in the 1960’s and continues today. The establishment of the ‘Good Food Circle’ - a co-operation started between just two restaurants that grew to include a number of quality eateries - put Kinsale on the map. Their annual ‘Gourmet Festival’ in October is a must for food lovers.
Following the success of the restaurants, came the revival of Kinsale’s history in the arts and crafts guilds. Pottery, silver, gold and glassware are all manufactured in the town, while the other artistic fields of sculpture, painting in all media, ceramics, wood turning and photography are well represented by inspired local artists. The annual Kinsale Arts Festival has grown from strength to strength in the past decade, attracting a number of international and national visitors to enjoy the exciting programme that has huge local support as well.
Quality accommodation, top class restaurants, exciting and delightful shops, cafes and pubs, together with the growing choice of leisure activities add to the attractions of Kinsale, a town that has cemented its place as a primary tourist destination and a sought-after place in which to work and live.
One of the simplest pleasures of any visit to Kinsale is to wander its narrow winding streets and absorb the colours, aromas and bustling life of the town. Browse the many shops and galleries or immerse yourself in the town’s history. There is a sign-posted tourist trail or take one of the local guided walking tours and join the popular evening Ghost Tour! Sample the warm hospitality of quality hotels, welcoming guesthouses and award-winning restaurants, cafes and pubs, that often provide their own menu specialities, together with a warm welcome and friendly staff. Many reflect the historic nature of the town and all have a story to tell. Kinsale has a huge number of festivals and events; you’ll find details of these along with regular music & events listings on www.kinsale.ie or pick up a copy of the local Kinsale Advertiser.
With three marinas and easy access to the water, you can hire a small boat or a larger yacht, enjoy a harbour cruise, go whale watching or fishing, take scuba diving lessons or join one of the many sailing or activity courses on offer in Kinsale and nearby Oysterhaven.
If you enjoy walking, take the Scilly Walk to Summercove and Charles Fort where you can take in fantastic views of Kinsale town and the harbour. Or explore James Fort, a short distance from the town and have a swim on the beach at Castlepark.
You may wish take a trip to the Old Head of Kinsale for magnificent cliff scenery. It was close to here that the Lusitania was sunk in 1915 with a loss of over 1,500 lives and 2015 marks its centenary with a number of commemoration events taking place. There are two blue flag beaches at nearby Garrettstown and Garrylucas, with fantastic surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing and paddleboarding equipment hire and surf schools.
Kinsale can offer it all – meeting rooms to accommodate up to 350 delegates, state-of-the-art facilities, award-winning food and an amazing choice of activities and entertainment options all in one town. Kinsale offers a fantastic range of top quality shops and boutiques with many unique designs and great gift ideas. Beautiful clothing, homewares, art and jewellery make Kinsale a destination for discerning shoppers. Also, many shops and galleries are happy to post/courier your purchases so they can follow you home!
Your choice of excellent venues including top hotels, a private estate, plenty of gourmet restaurants and cosy private rooms are all poised to host your most memorable occasion. You can avail of the advice and services of boutiques, milliners, jewellers, beauticians, photographers, printers and florists all within walking distance of the main venues. Also, transport and entertainment may be arranged to suit your requirements.