Kinsale is one of Co. Cork’s most popular fishing towns, that is most well-known for its beautiful buildings, historical sites, and great seafood. If you find yourself visiting this area, you’ll be happy to know that there are lots of fun things to do in Kinsale!

This lovely town is often visited because it’s part of the absolute must-do Wild Atlantic Way, but many people don’t realize how much history and culture this beautiful town has.

There are places to visit in Kinsale that most people overlook (especially #10, which you won’t want to miss). If you happen to be making your way here, be sure to go to at least a few of these attractions in Kinsale; you won’t regret it.

kinsale town
Kinsale town

Here it goes! The 15 best things to do in Kinsale: 

1. Charles Fort

Charles Fort is a 17th-century fortress right on Kinsale Harbour in Summer Cove village in County Cork. It’s one of the biggest fortresses of its kind in the whole country, which is why it’s one of the best things to do in Kinsale.

The fort itself is shaped like a star thanks to the architect, William Robinson, who also was the designer behind Kilmainham’s Royal Hospital in Dublin.

In addition to being an essential part of the Civil War by standing strong for 13 days, it also offers one of the best views of Kinsale Harbour.

kinsale fort drone shot
Charles Fort from above

Where: Charles Fort is in Summer Cove on Kinsale Harbour. It can be seen on Google Maps here.

When: From mid-March to October, the fort is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from November to mid-March. Visit in the morning to avoid the crowds.

Cost: Adult tickets cost €5, Senior tickets cost €4, child/student tickets cost €3, or you can purchase a family ticket for €13. Admission is free for everyone through the end of 2020.

Booking: Tickets can’t be purchased online at the moment because there’s free admission!

2. Old Head of Kinsale

The Old Head of Kinsale is a beautiful part of the land that is home to one of the most beautiful loop hikes in the country. It’s considered an easy loop walk too, so it’s great no matter your athletic level and hiking ability.

The loop is approximately 6 km and will take no more than 2 hours maximum, depending on how often you stop along the path. Make sure you pack a snack, some water, and layers because a lot of the walk is exposed to the sun or whatever weather there is.

When you visit the Old Head of Kinsale, be sure to also stop by the Old Head Lighthouse which dates back to the 17th century. This area is also home to the Old Head Golf Links course, which is one of the most famous golfing locations in Ireland.

Walking Old Head is one of the best free things to do in Kinsale. 

things to do in kinsale golfing
Beautiful place for a golf course!

Where: The Old Head of Kinsale is a peninsula and can be found in Downmacpatrick. See it on Google Maps here.

When: You can do this hike any time of day, but be sure to check the weather before you go out to start your walk.

Cost: This activity is free to do!

3. Fishy Fishy Restaurant

Fishy Fishy Restaurant is one of Kinsale’s most popular places to grab seafood! All of their seafood is caught locally, and the interior is very laidback, though the restaurant is mid-range to expensively priced.

The restaurant has won countless awards, including being listed as one of the Top 100 Restaurants in Ireland, which it’s been listed as since 2011. If you’re looking to try seafood during your trip to Kinsale, this is hands-down the place to try it!

Where: Fishy Fishy Restaurant is located right on Kinsale Harbour. You can see it on Google Maps here.

When: This restaurant is open daily from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., though there are different menus for lunch and dinner.

Cost: Dishes on the menu start around €16.95 and raise in price up to €45.

4. Desmond Castle/International Museum of Wine

Desmond Castle is one of the most historically-rich sites in all of Kinsale. It dates back to the 1500s when it was built by the Earl of Desmond at the time, Maurice Bacach Fitzgerald.

For a long time, the castle was a prison, though it later became a place of work, a business, and a tower house. It was even used to hold some of the Gaelic League meetings for a time during the early 20th century.

Though it was historically known for wearing many hats, it now holds the International Museum of Wine!

Though Ireland is more known for its beer and whiskey rather than wine, this is the place to come if you’d like to learn more about it while standing inside of a historic castle.

kinsale across the water
View of Kinsale Town

Where: Desmond Castle is located near downtown Kinsale. See it on Google Maps here.

When: The Desmond Castle’s International Museum of Wine is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and is closed on Sundays.

Cost: Adult tickets cost €5, senior tickets cost €4, child and student tickets cost €3, and family tickets cost €13.

Booking: Tickets can be purchased right at the door to the museum.

5. Kinsale Museum

The Kinsale Museum in Ireland is inside of an old courthouse that dates back to the 1600s. Inside, you can learn all about the history of Kinsale and its culture, including seeing displays of the Kinsale Giant.

Also, the museum is home to tons of maritime relics and artefacts. The biggest collection of artefacts of this kind are housed right inside this very museum!

Be sure to also take in the glory of the building itself, which is exceptionally historical. You can find the old jury rooms and governmental offices sprinkled throughout the Kinsale Museum.

Where: The Kinsale Museum can be found on Google Maps here; it’s in downtown Kinsale.

When: The museum can be visited from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. It’s closed Sundays and Mondays.

Cost and Booking: Ticket prices are not available online, but you can purchase them at the door to gain entry.

6. James Fort

James Fort is another one of the best attractions in Kinsale. It’s located right near Charles Fort and was built in 1607 as a fortification right on the Kinsale Harbour for protection.

Visiting James Fort is one of the top things to do in Kinsale, and in all of Ireland, because it shows what militaristic architecture looked like during the 17th century.

It also has the perk of offering some of the best views of Kinsale and the harbour, which is a plus.

Where: The James Fort is located right on Kinsale Harbour next to Charles Fort. See it on Google Maps here, for reference.

When: Unlike the Charles Fort, the James Fort is open at all times because it’s in ruins now.

Cost: It is free to visit James Fort.

7. The Bulman Bar & Toddies Restaurant

If you’re wondering what to do in Kinsale, why not stop by one of the best Irish pubs in the whole town? This mid-priced restaurant offers everything from local Irish dishes to some of the best pints around.

In addition to having great food, the Bulman Bar is also well-known for being home to excellent live music. The restaurant has been listed as one of the 100 best restaurants in Ireland for 11 straight years and is a Michelin-recommended restaurant.

bulman pub kinsale
The popular Bulman pub and restaurant

Where: The Bulman Bar is located near Charles Fort by the Kinsale Harbour. Its exact location can be seen on Google Maps here.

When: This restaurant is open from 12:30 to 11:30 p.m. Wednesday to Thursday, 12:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday to Saturday, and 12:30 to 11:00 p.m. on Sundays. It’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Cost: Starters on the menu begin around €7 and mains start around €15.

8. Kinsale’s Town Centre

Kinsale’s town centre is one of the most picturesque things to see in Kinsale. It’s filled with brightly-coloured shops and restaurants that are worth exploring and getting lost in.

Since Kinsale is a smaller Irish town, visiting the shops is one of the best ways to mingle and interact with the residents as well.

It may seem like something that seems so obvious, but try to pop into a few shops and speak with the workers; you’ll most likely learn about some hidden gems in Kinsale or at least get a better feel for the town itself.

Where: Kinsale’s town centre is the heart of Kinsale. While it doesn’t have an exact location, it’s generally the area right near the Kinsale Tourist Information Office, which can be seen on Google Maps here.

When: The town centre is open all the time, but most shops are available between the hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

9. Kinsale Food Tour

One of the best activities in Kinsale is going on a food tour! This is the perfect way to get acquainted with all of the fantastic food in the town while having a local guide with you the entire time.

Kinsale Food Tours is one of the top-rated tour guides offered in the town. This company provides a few different tour options: the Kinsale Walking Food Tour, the Foraging & Picnic Tour, and the ‘Takeaway’ Food Tour, though the first food tour is the most popular.

colourful homes kinsale ireland
Colourful Kinsale

Where: The food tour goes all through downtown Kinsale!

When: The tour lasts approximately two hours but is offered at different times throughout the day depending on your availability.

Cost: The Kinsale Walking Food Tour costs €55 per person.

Booking: Tickets can be booked online directly on the Kinsale Food Tours website.

10. Poet’s Corner

The Poet’s Corner is a hidden gem of a cafe located in Kinsale. Its menu is mid-range priced, and they serve up everything from excellent breakfasts to delicious sandwiches, and they, of course, have a wide variety of coffees and teas to choose from.

However, their food isn’t the highlight; the interior of the cafe itself is! The inside is entirely cosy, and there are bookshelves filled to the brim with books throughout the entire cafe.

Plus, if you bring a book of your own, you can take one of theirs to participate in their book exchange. How unique and fun is that?

Where: The Poet’s Corner is located just a 2-minute walk away from the Fishy Fishy Restaurant. Its exact location can be seen here.

When: This unique cafe is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

Cost: Menu prices range but start around €6 for smaller dishes, like eggs and sandwiches.

11. St. Multose Church of Ireland

St. Multose Church is one of the best places to visit in Kinsale because of how historical it is. The building was built back in 1190 and is most well-known for its belltower that was an original piece of the church, not part of the restorations.

There are a whole bunch of great architectural details throughout the church as well, such as etched stonework on its exterior and one-of-a-kind stained glass windows that help set it apart from other churches.

If you have the chance to stop by St. Multose Church, you should!

Where: St. Multose Church is located on the corner of Abbey Lane and Church Square. See its exact location on Google Maps here.

When: The church is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. during the winter months and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. during the summer months.

Cost: Visitors may go inside the church for free as long as they are respectful of service times.

12. Kitty Ó Sé’s Bar and Restaurant

Kitty Ó Sé’s Bar and Restaurant is one of Kinsale’s best traditional Irish bars. They serve up delicious Irish meals with locally-sourced ingredients, plus they, of course, have a wide variety of beverages on tap.

What makes this bar even better is that they also offer live trad music every single night of the week!

Kitty Ó Sé’s Bar and Restaurant is the only place in all of Kinsale where you can listen to live trad Irish music, so if you aren’t going for the food, at least stop by to listen.

pubs in kinsale things to do
Kitty Ó Sé’s Bar and Restaurant

Where: This bar and restaurant is located at the corner of Market Street and The Glen right in Kinsale’s town centre. Its exact location can be seen on Google Maps here.

When: You can visit this pub between the hours of 1:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily.

Cost: This is a mid-priced restaurant, with most dishes costing around €15.

13. Garrylucas Beach

If you’re looking for more relaxing things to do in Kinsale, why not stop by one of its beautiful beaches?

Garrylucas Beach is perfectly located right next to the Old Head of Kinsale and is a great spot to go surfing, swimming, or even just relaxing for the afternoon.

This white sand beach is easily accessible and has ramps and stairs for visitors to use. There are also fun dunes; if you take the time to walk along the beach, you might find them!

The great thing about Garrylucas Beach is that it is a bit of a hidden gem despite winning the Blue Flag Beach Award. No matter when you visit, you’ll find that it’s never really overcrowded.

Where: This beach is located near the Old Head of Kinsale and can be seen on Google Maps here.

When: The beach is open 24/7, though it’s best to visit while it’s lighter out for safety reasons.

Cost: It’s free to visit Garrylucas Beach.

14. Don & Barry’s Historic Stroll

If you’re looking for a historical walking tour of Kinsale, then look no further than Don & Barry’s Historic Stroll! This is one of the best family-friendly activities in Kinsale.

This walk is excellent for all ages and lasts for about one and a half hours. They are offered year-round, no matter the weather, so make sure you pack layers or at least bring an umbrella.

Don & Barry’s Historic Stroll comes highly-rated by past guests of Kinsale and has 1,229 5-star ratings out of 1,278 reviews total on TripAdvisor. This walking tour has also been mentioned by Rough Guides, Lonely Planet, and Rick Steves.

Where: This tour meets at the Kinsale Tourist Office. See its exact location on Google Maps here.

When: These tours are offered daily from March to October at 11:15 a.m. daily. You can also go on a tour between May to September at 9:15 a.m. between Monday and Saturday. Tours are available by appointment only from November to February, but Don & Barry rarely say no to giving a tour!

Cost: Tours cost €8 for adults and €1 for children. You pay at the end, and if you aren’t happy with the tour, you’re welcome to leave halfway through without paying anything.

Booking: Tours can be booked on Don & Barry’s website only. Click here to book your tour.

15. Kinsale Mead Co.

The Kinsale Mead Co. is a recent addition to the town, as it was found by Denis and Kate Dempsey in 2016. All of the ingredients that they use in their meads are locally-brewed, and this is the first meadery to open up in all of Ireland in the last 200 years!

One of the best ways to experience the Kinsale Mead Co. is to hop on an hour-long tour which will bring you behind-the-scenes of how mead is made.

Throughout the tour, you’ll be able to see the process, learn about honey, hear some exciting myths, and even taste some at the end.

Tours are offered from November to March from Friday to Sunday at 1 and 3 p.m. They’re also offered daily from Tuesday to Sunday at 1, 3, and 5 p.m. If you want to book this tour, it’s €14 a person and can be booked here.

Where: The Kinsale Mead Co. is located slightly east of the town centre. See its exact location on Google Maps here.

When: The Kinsale Mead Co. is open daily from 1 to 6 p.m.

Cost: If you’re visiting to go to the store, it’s free, but if you’d like a tour, it’s €14 per person.

old head walk kinsale
Beautiful Old Head walk in Kinsale

Now You Know What To Do in Kinsale

Kinsale is truly a hidden gem of a town in Ireland. It is a smaller town, so you’d genuinely only need a day or two here to get a feel for small-town Irish life.

From listening to live trad music to going on food-tasting tours, you’re bound to have a blast in Kinsale no matter your age. Learn more about the best places to visit in Ireland in our article here.  And, for more on travelling around Cork, see our complete guide to visiting Cork City, and our list of things to do in West Cork.

Images in this article were sourced on Shutterstock.

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