Imagine a postcard-perfect seaside town with quaint cobbled streets lined with charming brightly-coloured buildings and a pretty marina full of bobbing yachts. 

Boost this dreamy location further with exquisite cuisine – after all this is the gourmet capital of Ireland. Then add a rich history packed with adventures and curiosities such as Atlantic pioneers, the Kinsale Giant who was more than eight feet tall, a long naval history and the starting point of the famous Wild Atlantic Way.

Welcome to the must-visit town in southern Ireland – Kinsale.

Wander through Kinsale town and harbour

Kinsale is a delight for all the senses. Marvel at the brightly-painted cottages. Enjoy the scent of the flowers in tubs and hanging baskets. Hear the music in the pubs so scintillating you have to dance. Plus the warm, laidback atmosphere of this adorable town will touch your soul.

Stroll through Market Street and neighbouring narrow lanes for the cottages and shops painted vivid pink, blue, green or yellow. Step into the gabled 18th-century courthouse which is now home to the Kinsale Regional Museum to discover more about its varied history. Look out for the shoes on display which belonged to Patrick Cotter O’Brien who stood eight feet three inches tall. 

Head for the 15th century Desmond Castle, a well-preserved tower house which was once a prison and now houses an International Museum of Wine

Enjoy far-reaching views from the Ringfinnan Garden of Remembrance commemorating 9 November 2001 and the Irish-American Michael Judge who was among the 343 firefighters who died that day.

Amble around the picturesque harbour and look out for the busts of Kinsale-born Antarctic pioneers Timothy and Mortimer McCarthy.

Discover Kinsale’s beaches and bays

Make time for a day at the beach as Kinsale has several beaches enjoyed by sunbathers, walkers, swimmers and surfers. A short walk from the town centre is Dock Beach, a bijou and beautiful sandy beach popular with families and swimmers. 

Sandycove is another popular beach for families. Look out for seals who also love swimming here and include a visit to Sandycove Island, also known as Goat Island for its goat population and seabirds. 

For surfing, Garretstown is the best beach. It’s the largest of Kinsale’s beaches and has lovely, soft sand. Next to Garretstown is Garrylucas beach, popular with windsurfers. You can see the Old Head of Kinsale from here. Near to the beach is a seasonal cafe, tennis courts and a pitch and putt course.

Garretstown Beach at the start of the Wild Atlantic Way – credit: Phillip Cullinane

Exploring the Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way is a magical coastal route starting (or finishing) at Kinsale in the south and winding its way along the stunning west coast of Ireland to the Inishowen Peninsula in the north. 

Travelling along the 1,600-mile (2,600kms) route of this stunning coast, you’ll enjoy nature at its very greenest, feel the power of the ocean, climb breathtakingly-beautiful mountains, enjoy panoramic views from the cliffs, swim in secret coves, and discover fairytale villages and ancient monuments. 

Why Kinsale is the gourmet capital of Ireland

Kinsale is known globally as the culinary capital of Ireland – no mean feat in itself. With some of the finest seafood in the country, this little town has been hosting an International Gourmet Festival each October to celebrate its fine fare. 

The Good Food Circle, which was founded in the 1970s and set up the festival, is made up of restaurants specialising in seasonal produce from the ocean, river and green fields around Kinsale.

Visit any pub or restaurant in Kinsale to be astounded by the quality of the fresh food. Chowder is a popular choice on many menus and once you taste the creamy goodness of the freshest seafood you’ll understand why.

Kinsale: The Gourmet Capital of Ireland – credit: Ireland AM

We would highly recommend you book a table at Fishy Fishy, run by one of Ireland’s top seafood chefs Martin Shanahan and his wife Marie. On the shorefront of Kinsale harbour, this award-winning restaurant’s menu changes to reflect the variety of the seafood caught by local fishermen. You can enjoy the deletes of lobster, mussels and oysters or traditional fish and chips. 

We’d also recommend a takeaway fish and chips from Dinos Kinsale. This family-run chippy has fabulous fresh fish along with ‘proper’ home-made chips.

If you’re looking for a great night out with food, head to The White House. There’s a super choice of beers, including Guinness, at the bar where you can also order meals. Or head for the restaurant and bistro – we highly recommend the seafood chowder followed by fish crumble.

Historical landmarks near Kinsale

  • Charles Fort is a well-preserved star-shaped fort built in the 17th century. There’s a lighthouse on the southwestern corner. It’s one of Ireland’s largest military installations and has been involved in some of the great events in Irish history including the Williamite Wars and the Civil War in the 1920s. The view over Kinsale Harbour is spectacular.
  • Opposite Charles Fort, James Fort was also involved in the Williamite Wars. This 17th-century marvel of military architecture has amazing views over Kinsale, the harbour and Charles Fort.
  • We had to include the site of one miracle in the miraculous island of Ireland. Just five miles from Kinsale is the traditional Irish village of Ballinspittle. In the 1980s, locals claimed to have seen the statue of the Virgin Mary move in the Ballinspittle Grotto. Thousands of pilgrims and spectators have flocked here to see if the statue will move for them too.

Where to play golf in Kinsale

Playing the Old Head of Kinsale golf course – credit: G Golf Ireland
  • For one of the finest golf experiences anywhere in the world, playing at the Old Head Links course is an incredible experience. The course is set out on this stunning headland jutting two miles into the Atlantic Ocean and 10 miles from Kinsale.
  • On the outskirts of Kinsale, Kinsale Golf Club is a championship course of two nine-hole loops. The course has incredible views of the surrounding countryside.
  • Also on the outskirts of Kinsale is FootGolf Cork which blends the silky skills of football with golf.

Altogether there are 13 golf courses in and around Kinsale and Cork.

Excited to start your Kinsale experience? Take a look at the six gorgeous Kinsale holiday homes we have waiting for you. Which will you choose?