Hundreds of years of Norman, Spanish, and English cultural influences have created a town that revolves around fine food and sailing. Kinsale is not a place to get an early breakfast. It is a place to slow down, sleep in, spend a day at sea, and come to shore decked out for dinner and drinks. Or cozy up at a B&B and spend your day soaking up the array of art and culture.
What to See and Do
Hear music, see live theater, and absorb art during Kinsale Arts Week, a boutique festival during July. Walk along the quay to Charles Fort, a National Heritage Site. Charter a yacht. Buy a yacht and join the Kinsale Yacht Club. Wander the many fine art galleries. Sign up for an art appreciation course at the Further Education College. Pick up some Irish throwing and sculpting skills at the Kinsale Pottery and Art School; they host weekend two-day workshops for amateurs or those wanting to further develop their techniques. Visit Desmond Castle and the International Wine Museum. Golf at the Old Head Golf Links, located on the picturesque point. Swim at The Dock Beach, Sandycove, or Garretstown – or build a sand castle. Browse the local Farmer’s Market, on Market Quay Tuesdays 11AM to 1PM.
Where to Eat and Drink
Quay Food Co. is a specialty food shop on Market Quay, run by David and Laura Peare. The have a wild selection of local, Irish farmhouse cheese as well as olives and homemade pates. I bought a wedge of Gubbeen cheese, made in West Cork; it also comes in a smoked variety - very tasty on spelt bread sandwiches. Find all the fine Irish chocolates here, too: Cocoa Bean, Skelligs, and Gallweys of Waterford. They also prepare fresh sandwiches to go, such as the goat’s cheese and sundried tomato with pesto mouth-watering type, my personal favorite combo. Pick out gourmet rolls and illy coffee to go, for a breakfast on the waterfront. Picnics and hampers prepared upon request. Web: www.quayfood.com.
For supreme coffees and homemade pastries, there’s Lazy Jack’s café and bistro. Relax in a comfy leather chair in a bright room surrounded by exquisite sketches. Nice place to chill on a rainy day. Dinners are such comfort food as potato skins loaded with fresh toppings or a big beef chili bowl.
E. Kirby 66 is an Italian-inspired café tucked away on Lower O’Connell Street, open daily from 9AM – 5PM.
Jola’s, also on Lower O’Connell Street, is eastern-European cuisine in dramatic setting of velvet pillows, stonewalls, and a chandelier dropping from the high ceiling. It all suggests luxury, for a modest price.
Where to Sleep
Cucina is a new place on Market Street with loads of Continental charm. Eat, Drink, and Sleepover: www.cucina.ie. Also a nice spot to meet for afternoon coffee.
The Blue Haven is a boutique-style hotel in the heart of town, with the Hamlet’s Café & Bar next door: www.bluehavenkinsale.com.
The Friar’s Lodge is a four-star guesthouse up the hill: www.friars-lodge.com.
The Trident Hotel is for sea-lovers, with a prime location by the pier: www.tridenthotel.com.
The White Lady Hotel is a luxury B&B with adjoining fine restaurant.
How to get there
From Cork, take N71 south to Halfway, transfer to R607 south to Kinsale.
From Skibbereen, take N71 east to Clonakilty, transfer to R600 east to Kinsale.
See www.buseireann.ie website for all current travel details and restrictions.
When to go
A trip to Ireland and Kinsale from April to October, when the days are longer and the sun comes out. St. Patrick’s Day parade. Rugby 7’s Festival is during the May Bank Holiday Weekend. Kinsale Sevens by the Sea in early May. Kinsale Point to Point Horse Races at Fort Arthur in June. Lee Delta Blues Festival is during the June Bank Holiday Weekend. Sovereign’s Cup at end of June. Kinsale Arts Week the second week of July. King of the Hill Triathlon at end of July. Kinsale Regatta and Beach Volleyball Festival in early August. National Dragon Championship third week in August. National Heritage Week at Charles Fort National Monument at the end of August/early September. Kinsale Karnival is family fun in September. Kinsale Gourmet Festival in October. Kinsale Fringe Jazz Festival is during the October Bank Holiday Weekend.
I had fun here, although it is not a place for a budget traveler. There is a funky hostel option on the edge town, but it wasn’t up to our standards. We had trouble finding affordable accommodations. So we cruised the city by day, attending Kinsale Arts Week, a youthful festival full of vitality and fun, and tasted some nibbles of the gourmet food. No camping in the vicinity.
Written by Liz O'Malley - Summer of Travel 2007