Ah Kinsale, a charming coastal, fishing town in southern Ireland with relaxed vibes.
Cute and colourful, narrow streets wind throughout town- facades of bright green, pink and vivid purple abound.
Charming shops and cosy cafes line each street, and there’s no shortage of excellent seafood. Located town centre, the scenic harbour is protected by a pair of forts that used to protect Kinsale from battle.
For many, Kinsale begins their journey along the Wild Atlantic Way, as it’s the southerly starting point.
My first visit to Kinsale fell in the midst of my first time venturing around Ireland- coming from Kilkenny and heading onward to Doolin. It was a fast paced, wonderful trip, but also meant we only had about a half day in Kinsale before continuing onward.
With COVID limiting overseas travel, I decided to take two summer road trips- one west, and another south/east.
Even though I’d been to Kinsale prior, I was excited to spend a night in the heart of town and have two days to see a bit more. Af the end of my stay, I even found myself wishing I could stay a bit longer- Kinsale is that lovely.
What to Do
Wander town: Kinsale is tiny enough to see on foot within only a few hours, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend a few mornings exploring all of the town’s winding streets, which are packed with bookstores, bakeries, flower shops, cafes, art galleries, and clothing stores.
Do a bit of shopping: If you’re like me, you won’t be able to resist popping into a few of Kinsale’s darling, local shops. Two of my favorites: Greenhouse & Other Stories, and Rain Beauty & Bath (ethical beauty products).
Enjoy sunset at Bridge Kinsale: A 20-25 minute walk from the heart of town, sunset views over the bridge are breathtaking. As the sun sinks below the horizon, watch dozens of fishermen and fisherwomen reel in their lines to check for the daily catch.
Drive out to, and hike the Old Head of Kinsale: The cliffs at the Old Head of Kinsale may not be as high or rugged as the Cliffs of Moher or Kilkee Cliffs, but they’re no less beautiful. Rugged, with rocks jutting out into the clear sea, walking the seaside trial along the cliffs is a beautiful way to spend a few hours.
Head to Cobh for an Afternoon: Last port of call for the Titanic, Cobh is a beautiful town in the south of Ireland to spend an afternoon in. Known for its cathedral, the tallest in the country, Cobh is full of other surprises- like it’s colourful deck of cards homes, similar to San Francisco’s pained ladies. We only spent a few hours in Cobh, but enjoyed wandering the seaside and picnicing along the waterfront.
Day trip to Mizen Head: If you’re lucky to have clear, sunny weather, venture two hours to the very edge of Europe, where sea blends with sky. Mizen Head is the tip of Ireland’s most southwesterly peninsula. From photos I’ve seen, it’s absolutely stunning. I tried driving out en-route to Kinsale, but was thwarted by unexpected fog.
Plus, en-route, you’ll pass lovely villages, like Clonakilty, Skibbereen and Baltimore. If you stop in Clonakilty, don’t miss the Blue Flag beach, or the Galley Head lighthouse at the Long Strand.
Where to Have Coffee:
- Poet’s Corner – The Reading Cafe: As the name suggests, great for a spot of reading, and a place to exchange books, if that’s your fancy
- Cosy Cafe: Great spot for breakfast
- Kinsale Coffee: Namesake coffee spots in a small town always win
- OHK Cafe: Very cute, great coffee drinks
Where to Eat
- Lemon Leaf Cafe: The perfect spot for a healthy breakfast or lunch
- Saint Francis Provisions: The spot for fancy cafe eats – do not miss the seasonal grilled cheese, it’s unbelievably good (mine had three kinds of cheese with green pesto and broccoli rabe)
- Jim Edwards: Not just a hotel, but also a renowned bar and restaurant with seriously good eats
- Fishy Fishy: The best spot for elevated, amazing seafood in Kinsale. The fresh fish and risotto can’t be missed
- Dino’s: There’s a line down the block for a reason- the best fish & chips in Kinsale
Where to Drink
There are plenty of pubs in Kinsale, and while we popped into a few, only one stood out as an absolute can’t miss.
Dalton’s Bar is the spot for traditional Irish music- it’s the best spot in town to listen over a few pints. Some nights are sing-a-long, and even if they’re not, you’ll love relaxing in the midst of the pub’s cozy interior- there’s a crackling fireplace, and plush wooden chairs.
If you’re looking for more than one pub to try- we also liked Oscar Madisons, Kitty O Se’s, The Tap Tavern, and the Folk House Bar for a coupla pints.
Where to Stay
My first time in Kinsale, we stayed at the Valley View B&B, which was okay. By comparison to some of other B&Bs we stayed at on our roadtrip, it fell short in a few regards (small rooms, no breakfast time flexibility, and a small window and small fan- read: a very warm room). However, the owner was nice, and the view from our window of the surrounding countryside was stunning. On that trip, we took a taxi into town for the evening so we’d be able to drink at pubs, and had no problem getting one back to our B&B at the end of the night.
On my second visit, I opted to stay town centre at Pier House Boutique. It was a bit of a splurge, but ultra comfortable- the beds were so plush, we loved having a balcony with water views, and the location was unbeatable- right across from a large parking lot, smack in the centre of town.
Have you ever been to Kinsale? Is it on your list of places to visit someday in Ireland?
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