Kinsale is a classic seaside town that belongs on any seven-day tour of Ireland.
It has the same character of many seaside towns and villages in other countries including the northeast and northwest coasts of the United States.
Not long ago, these places mainly served a single purpose, which was fishing.
Today, they serve another purpose: tourism.
Like others of its type, Kinsale has a peaceful and idyllic quality about it, especially because of its famous harbor filled with gently bouncing fishing boats and the easy-going atmosphere of its locals and visitors.
But Kinsale also recognizes its attraction to tourism with quaint and colorful shops, quality pubs and restaurants, and inviting places to stay.
This pretty and picturesque town in County Cork is a restful stop on Ireland’s “Wild Atlantic Way” tourism trail.
Instead of climbing steep castle steps or marching miles along the Cliffs of Moher, visitors can saunter through the streets or sit on chairs outside of a pharmacy eating massive vanilla ice cream cones. The size of the cones requires sitting, watching and thinking.
It is not a place to make visitors go “wow”. It’s a place for peace of mind and quiet contemplation.
Visitors often sit by the edge of the harbor to relax and absorb the scenery. Sometimes a kayak floats by or the harbor fills with a sailing class for children darting over the water in tiny dinghy sailboats.
The shops attract other visitors with their bright splashes of color, even on the pubs and restaurants.
Tourists like us stop for the afternoon on their way to other destinations along the trail. It is a nice change of pace from other strenuous attractions across Ireland — and the stress of driving on narrow country roads for hundreds of miles in a day for anyone touring Ireland.
A half day is enough to see the best of Kinsale, but other travelers may find Kinsale is a good choice for staying a night or longer.
The Irish themselves often use Kinsale as a vacation in itself, especially during the summer.
Nearby Kinsale Attractions
A pair of star-shaped forts, built in the 17th century, stands guard over the Kinsale harbor. Charles Fort is a mile southeast of town, and James is about a mile to the southwest.
Anyone on limited time may want to choose Charles Fort, the best-known historical attraction in the area. It was an active military fort from the 17th century until 1922, when it was besieged during the Irish Civil War.
Old Head Kinsale, about 10 miles south of town, is the location of the private championship Old Head Golf Links. It also is the nearest point of land from where the Lusitania sank in 1915 with 1,200 people lost.
Another attraction is The Kinsale Golf Club about three miles north of town.
Four beaches near the town make Kinsale more popular during the summer.
Experienced ocean swimmers swim out to and around the island of Sandy Cove, which lies about 10 minutes away. in the Pil River estuary just over the headland from the Kinsale Estuary. The island is home to a herd of wild goats.
Garrylucas is located beside R604 and next to Kilcolman Marsh and the Old Head of Kinsale. It is a sandy beach with sand dunes, public toilets, public parking and lifeguards during the summer.
Garretstown Beach has similar facilities plus summer lifeguards. It sits on R604 near Kilcolman Marsh, The Old Head of Kinsale and the nearby Ballinspittle village.
Local residents often go to Dock Beach. It is found on other side of the Bandon river by Castlepark Marina.
Summer is the best time to go to Kinsale. County Cork has an average high temperature that reaches into the mid 60s Fahrenheit and about 18 degrees Celsius during the summer months, according to 30 years of historical data from the Irish Meteorological Service.
Nighttime temperatures during the summer average in the mid 50s Fahrenheit or around 12 degrees Celsius.
April through July have the lowest rainfall of the year with an average of about three inches or more per month, the Meteorological Service says.
It rains an average of about 16 days during the month from April through September, while 20 days is more common from October through March.
But winters are mild. Daytime temperatures average in the mid 40s Fahrenheit or single digits Celsius.
Rain and snow total about five inches a month from October through January.
Places to Stay in Kinsale
Hotels include Acton’s by the yacht club, the boutique Blue Haven, the 10-room White Lady and the 75-room Trident, all located around the harbor.
Anyone touring the Irish countryside will find more bed and breakfasts than hotels. Some of them in Kinsale include Country House B&B, Townhouse B&B, Dempsey’s Hostel, Blindgate House, Jim Edward’s B&B, Perryville House, Old Bank Townhouse, The White House, Friar’s Lodge, Tierney’s Guesthouse and the Ballinacurra private estate.
Getting There: Dublin to Kinsale
Kinsale is 175 miles southwest of Dublin and best suited as an overnight trip for anyone staying mostly around Dublin.
For tourists on the Wild Atlantic Way, the town is about 20 miles south of the city of Cork. Take N71 south to R607, which is a narrow and winding country road.
It is an easy visit for anyone who plans to continue on N71 to the southern coast of Ireland.