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Desmond Castle County Cork

Desmond Castle County Cork


A self guided tour of the Earl of Desmond’s tower house, built in 1500 A.D. and restored in the late 1980s. Guided tours also available, starting on the hour, every hour and lasting approximately 30 minutes. Ireland’s International Wine Museum is housed within these walls (but no tasting room, darn!). It includes a display highlighting the world’s wine producing regions, with a spotlight on those of Irish heritage. Learn the history of the wine trade in Ireland and all the smuggling that went along with it. In 1569, to help curtail smuggling, Kinsale was designated one of the sixteen legal ports in Ireland for wine importing. Afterwards, have a glass at one of the fine wine bars or bistros down the hill in town.


Desmond Castle was built by Maurice Bacach Fitzgerald, the Earl of Desmond. Like the Bantry House in Bantry, it has seen much transformation over time. Originally, it was built as an urban residence. It became the Kinsale Customs House in the late 16th century, a French prison during the Napoleonic Wars, and a workhouse during the Famine, and a training center during the 20th century. During the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, the castle was used by Spanish forces under Don Juan Del Aguila. It was declared a National Monument in 1938.

How to get there

Located 600m from the Guard Well along Cork Street, close to the Carmelite Friary.

By car:

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

By bus:

See website for all current travel details and restrictions.

Opening times

April – October: open daily from 10AM to 6PM (last admission is at 5:15PM).

Admission fee

Adult 2.90 euro

Senior/Group* 2.10 euro

Student 1.30 euro

Family 7.40 euro (2 adults and 2 children under 18 yrs)

* Group rate applies to groups of 20 or more people.


Cork Street

Kinsale, Co. Cork

Tel: +353 (0)21 4774855


My experience

Very heavy rain during our visit. Okay, though, because most of the tour is indoor. It is a brief tour, we experienced it all in about 35 minutes.

I was most interested in the American prisoners who were captured at sea and imprisoned at the castle during the war for Independence. The Irish people of Kinsale were sympathetic to the prisoners and looked after them; President George Washington wrote a letter to the people of Kinsale thanking them for their kindness toward the prisoners.

Also interesting was the history of the “Irish Winegeese” – or those Irish people who emigrated to wine-producing regions of the world to start growing grapes themselves. I did not realize that many vineyards all over the world have Irish heritage. All that is missing here is a tasting room to sample the wines of the Winegeese.

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