Plan a family day out
Whether you have little one in tow or are headed out with older kids, there’s plenty of things to do for families in and around Kinsale.
Put on your walking shoes and take the kids to wander Charles Fort, one of the best preserved star-shaped fortresses in the world. The 17th-century fortification provides incredible sea views out to the Old Head of Kinsale and a lesson in over 350 years of Irish history. Explore the old forts and castle-like structures on a 1km loop or stop into the onsite museum.
Although Kinsale's best-known fortification is Charles Fort, it's not the only one in town. James Fort across the water is a century older, and its historic ruins are free to visit and offer gorgeous views of the town, river and harbour.
Drive five minutes south of Kinsale to get to Garrylucas Strand, a beautiful stretch of sand and stone. If conditions are right, you’ll see kite surfers cutting through the waves close to shore. Explore the rocky pools with the family or take in the views on a long walk.
SUP, sail and kayak your way through Kinsale Harbour and the River Bandon with the Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre. The group offers exciting expeditions and expert-guided group lessons in all sorts of water activities as well as summer programs for kids. If you’d rather stay on dry land, try your hand at orienteering, rock climbing and archery.
Explore the gourmet capital
Worked up an appetite? Kinsale’s food scene is one of the country’s finest. Explore some of the best restaurants and food tours in the area.
If Kinsale’s food scene is the reason for your visit – or if you’ve got more restaurants on your list than you could possibly visit in one trip – get a taste of the very best on a Kinsale Food Tour. Founder and lead guide Suzanne Burns will share stories and introduce you to local vendors as you dabble in everything from seafood to sweet treats. Choose from the walking tour, the picnic and foraging tour and the luxe private yacht picnic charter, where you can enjoy a gourmet picnic while touring Kinsale Harbour with Sovereign Sailing.
For the full fine dining experience, book into Bastion, Kinsale’s only Michelin-starred restaurant. Savour a tasting menu for two by chef-owner Paul McDonald – think innovative and contemporary Irish dishes of Cork seafood and other local ingredients, like wild sea bass with pernod apple, buttermilk and horseradish.
The playfully-named and Bib Gourmand-recognised Fishy Fishy is one of Kinsale’s finest spots for, you guessed, it, fish. Chef-owner Martin Shanahan offers quality seafood dishes in his distinct style, like pan-seared yellow fin tuna and local crabmeat cocktail, both out of the main harbourfront location and the adjoining Blue Room wine bar.
One of Kinsale’s oldest restaurants, Man Friday has been serving local seafood staples and creative plates like moules mariniere, scallop and sea bass ceviche and fish pie since 1978. Book into the patio for stunning river views, or warm up inside over a decadent candlelit dinner.
Escape the rain
If the weather’s not right for a trip to the beach or an outdoor fort adventure, explore some of the best things to do in Kinsale on a rainy day.
Spend a quiet afternoon browsing paintings from some of Ireland’s leading artists at The Gallery Kinsale. The gallery on Main Street is a joy for art lovers, promoting the best of Irish and international contemporary art. If you’re looking to buy a piece, their professional services will help you shop with confidence.
Journey further up Main Street to Giles Norman Photography, a gallery of the photographer’s distinctive black and white images spread across a four-story Georgian building. His impressive body of work, including Irish landscapes, seascapes and street scenes represents over thirty years of travels.
If the weather’s not on your side, craft up a storm at the Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre. They offer courses in all sorts of handmade arts for adults and kids, from pottery and jewellery making to glass fusing and staining. Book a private lesson or hop into a group session and leave with an appreciation for a new craft.
The elegant four-star Kinsale Hotel overlooking Oysterhaven Bay is a destination in its own right, but you don’t have to be a hotel guest to take advantage of their exceptional Elemis Spa. Sink into relaxation after a busy few days sightseeing and indulge in hot stone massages, aromatherapy and body wraps alone or as a couple.
Shopping in Kinsale
Looking for treasures to bring home? Stroll through the heart of town and stop off at Boland Gifts Kinsale, Kinsale Silver and Kinsale Crystal. You’ll find fine jewellery alongside Cork-made crafts, glassware, homewares and more.
From harbour cruises to surf lessons, find the best things to do outdoors in Kinsale.
Venture down to gorgeous Garretstown Beach just south of Kinsale for surf lessons with Kinsale Surf Adventures. Book a group lesson or get one-on-one guidance from one of the school’s experienced instructors before you hit the waves. They also offer guided SUP and kayak sessions, where you just might meet a seal colony or basking shark.
The setting for the Old Head Golf Links couldn't be any more dramatic. Perched on a clifftop 15km south of town, this exclusive golf club is home to some of Ireland's most breathtaking holes: the par-four 4th clings to the edge of the cliffs on its way down to the historic lighthouse, while the par-five 12th runs a narrow neck with the ocean on either side of the fairway. Plan to book your tee time well in advance of your visit.
See Kinsale by water and spend some quality time together on a Kinsale Harbour Cruise. The hour-long tour surveys Kinsale's outer harbour and Bandon River and features nibbles and relaxing music along the way. Depending on when you visit, you might spot seals, otters, dolphins and water birds. In the summer months, take advantage of the romantic sunset tours.
Take a tour
Get to know Kinsale with the experts on a guided walking (or biking) tour of the town and surrounding area.
Get to know Kinsale on two wheels with a cycle tour from Wild Atlantic Sports. Cycle out to the Old Head of Kinsale and take in amazing coastal scenery at a relaxed pace with a local guide to show you all the sights. Get your heart pumping on a standard bike, or take it easy with the help of an e-bike.
If you’re keen on visiting Charles Fort and also plan on exploring Kinsale Harbour by foot, this 6km loop walk is a great way to spend an afternoon. If you’re quick, it’ll take you as little as an hour – but you’ll want to stop and take in the sights or stop off at a pub or cafe along the way. It’s also a relatively easy walk, making it appropriate for families.
Let local experts Don Herlihy and Barry Moloney guide you through Kinsale’s colourful streets on their Historic Stroll in Old Kinsale. The tour will bring you through the development of Kinsale from its medieval beginnings. The pair of guides have been leading visitors around town for over two decades, and their local knowledge is remarkable.
For another perspective on the town’s history, take a tour with Kinsale native Dermot Ryan. On his Kinsale Heritage Town Walk, he uses a selection of unique photographs and old maps to reveal the hidden layers of Kinsale's 800-year history.