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It was a happy accident I landed on two nights in Kinsale, Ireland when we were traveling through Ireland. As I started to see everything to do in Kinsale, I realized it was where we were meant to start our Ireland road trip. So I’m sharing this insider guide to Kinsale, and why you should visit, too!

Originally, I had booked a few nights in Cork, but I desired a more “small town” coastal experience for our time in Ireland. I asked around, and several people kept recommending Kinsale. This colorful, bright, seaside village set in County Cork is most known for its kaleidoscope of colors that adorn the city walls. But what most don’t know is that Kinsale is also known as the foodie capital of Ireland.

When I arrived in Kinsale, I knew we made the best decision for our family road trip. While small, it was lively and had that intimate community feeling I adore when traveling. Nearby, grand landscapes like the Cliffs Old Head of Kinsale and fortresses, and in town, lots to see, do, and eat.

Guide to Kinsale, Ireland: Things to Do & More

What makes Kinsale unique (besides its bright colors) is that it sits at the mouth of River Bandon. So while it’s a coastal town, it is also very much a port town — you’ll see fishing vessels and sailboats coming in and out of the harbor all day.

This unparalleled access to the sea means incredible fresh seafood, and just beyond, pastoral lands for all the fresh produce and dairy products. So it’s no wonder that Kinsale is bustling with incredible food and purveyors.

In terms of what to do, there’s more than enough in town to explore within 15 minutes for a few days of slow travel. And further afield, you can embark on part of the “Wild Atlantic Way” as Kinsale is the starting point for this iconic drive.

Read on to learn more about the best things to do in Kinsale, where to eat, local businesses to fall in love with, and more.

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels and Things to Do in Kinsale:

Hotels

  1. Actons Hotel Kinsale, for the best in-town stay
  2. The Old Bankhouse, for the best boutique hotel stay
  3. Trident Hotel, for the best upscale stay
  4. Perryville House, for the best luxury B&B stay

Things to Do

  1. Kinsale Foodie Walking Tour

For more Ireland resources, don’t miss my travel guides to Killarney, Dingle Peninsula, and the Gap of Dunloe!

Travel Tip: The best way to explore Ireland is by driving yourself. We use Discover Cars for our rental cars in Europe, choose full coverage insurance, and opt for trusted companies like Alamo, Hertz, or Sixt. Renting a car in Ireland is quite easy, and while you drive on the opposite side, you’ll get used to it quickly. Book your car with Discover Cars here.

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Kinsale, Ireland


What to Know Before Visiting Kinsale

Guide to Kinsale, Ireland: Things to Do & More

How to Get to Kinsale

By Air

The closest airport to Kinsale if traveling regionally is Cork Airport where several airports around Europe fly into. For international travelers, you’ll likely fly into Dublin Airport. From the airport, a rental car is most certainly needed to explore Kinsale and the surrounding area.

Rental Car

If you plan to self-drive, plan to pick up your rental car on arrival at the airport. We use Discover Cars for our rental cars in Europe, select full coverage insurance, and opt for a reputable company like Alamo, Hertz, or Sixt. Renting a car in Ireland is very straightforward, and while you drive on the opposite side, you’ll get used to it quickly. Book a rental car with Discover Cars here.

How to Get Around Kinsale

Park and Explore on Foot

Once in Kinsale, there are a few paid lots in the city center that are well-marked. The town itself is designed to walk through on foot, so park in one of the lots to do so.

Guide to Kinsale, Ireland: Things to Do & More
By Tour

If you’re staying in Cork nearby, you could consider hopping on a full-day tour like this one to Kinsale which includes Barney Castle if you don’t want to drive. Another option would be this private full-day tour from Cork City as well.

Best Time of Year to Visit Kinsale

The best time to visit Kinsale, Ireland, is during the late spring to early autumn months, from May to September. The weather is mostly mild, plan on some rain but intermittent. The summer months do get quite busy, so keep this in mind when planning your trip.

How Many Days to Visit Kinsale

I would suggest a minimum of two full days in Kinsale which will give you ample time to explore the town and the majority of the sights nearby. I could have spent a few more nights personally to see nearby places as well.


Where to Stay in Kinsale

When it comes to choosing accommodation in Kinsale, you have two distinct options: one of the few boutique hotels in town or a private vacation rental. The accommodations sell out super fast in the summer, so really do try to plan ahead. We stayed in this 1-bedroom vacation rental with the most amazing views of Kinsale. A few places I would have loved to have stayed if I had planned earlier on:

Hotels

  1. Actons Hotel Kinsale, for the in-town stay
  2. The Old Bankhouse, for the best boutique hotel stay
  3. Trident Hotel, for the best upscale stay
  4. Perryville House, for the best luxury B&B stay

Vacation Rentals

  1. The Marian Cottage 1br vacation rental with parking in town
  2. Beautiful 2br House vacation rental in town
  3. 1br Waterfront Duplex vacation rental (where we stayed)

The Best Things to Do in Kinsale, Ireland

Spend Time in Town and Shop Local

You could spend a proper half-day exploring the town of Kinsale itself. It’s full of local boutiques, restaurants, and charming streets to stroll through. I found myself just loving sitting down for a coffee and taking in the atmosphere here. You’ll see in town that there are several great leather stores as well — keep an eye out for Kinsale Leather, Mamukko Shop, and Ruxx.

Guide to Kinsale, Ireland: Things to Do & More

Another favorite find was Lindas of Kinsale for fine jewelry — ask to see their antique charm collection, it’s one of a kind. Down the street, don’t miss Granny’s Bottom Drawer, this store has the most incredible collection of knits and homeware.

See the Historic Sites

Guide to Kinsale, Ireland: Things to Do & More

With its ideal position, Kinsale has two important historic fortresses — Charles Fort and James Fort. Both are well worth a visit as they offer a look back in time and incredible views. If you prioritize one, I’d visit Charles Fort. In town, Desmond Castle is highly rated for a peep (though currently closed for 2024, you can at least see the outside of the stone building). For those wanting a better understanding, stop by the Kinsale Museum that’s in the 17th century courthouse for more Irish history.

Taste the Local Spirits

Guide to Kinsale, Ireland: Things to Do & More

Two noteworthy stops for those looking to try the local spirits are Blacks Brewery and Distillery and Kinsale Mead Co. Both unique in their offerings, Blacks is worth the scenic coastal drive about 10-minutes drive outside of town. The beer offerings are unique here, with rotating flavors like a coconut stout and seasonal IPAs.

Kinsale Mead Co stands as Ireland’s first new meadery in 200 years. Mead is the world’s oldest alcoholic drink made from honey, and a tour here will give you everything you need to know. It’s right in town, so it’s an easy walk-to experience when visiting.

Join a Foodie Tour

Let the experts take you on a foodie walking tour experience through Kinsale with this highly-rated tour. It’s 3 hours and you’ll get to experience everything from fresh oysters to even making a classic Irish coffee. It was one of the food tours I didn’t book ahead and wish I had after giving the reviews a read (it sells out fast!). As part of it, you’ll also get a tour of the town.

Do the Scilly Walk

Guide to Kinsale, Ireland: Things to Do & More

A favorite afternoon was embarking on the Scilly Walk that begins just outside of town. It’s a paved path that leads around the River Bandon out to Charles Fort, the star-shaped fort on the river. The views from here are really beautiful of the port.

Get Out on The Water

Guide to Kinsale, Ireland: Things to Do & More

If you have the time to spend some time on the water, several tours leave out of Kinsale to explore the seas. I had eyed a variety of experiences to consider like Kinsale Wellness On Water for private charters, and Kinsale Harbour Cruises for dolphin/whale watching tours.

Soak in Views from Cliffs Old Head of Kinsale

Guide to Kinsale, Ireland: Things to Do & More

The drive alone out to the Old Head of Kinsale is worth it alone. The scenic drive takes you through the pastoral lands that lead to the sheer cliffs. The parking area to see the Cliffs of Old Head of Kinsale is a bit unmarked, but you’ll see cars pulling off. It’s just right at the entrance to Downmacpatrick (Old Head) Castle before Old Head Golf Links (a top Irish golf club). Be sure to walk carefully as you peer out over the cliffs — these are incredibly impressive. On the way, you can also visit the Lusitania Museum & Old Head Signal Tower.


The Best Restaurants in Kinsale

You could quite literally just eat your way through Kinsale. Below I’ve included the list we ate at, the ones that were unfortunately not open when we were there (but wish were), and other starred favorites.

Fishy Fishy Cafe

Fishy Fishy Cafe is a classic for all things fresh seafood. I came in for a platter of fresh oysters and a soup, so so good. It’s all locally caught seafood here.

The Spaniard Inn

Our favorite dinner out was at the classic pub-style restaurant, The Spaniard Inn. You can’t miss the bright yellow building, and their food was to die for. We loved their steak sandwich, fish & chips, and the chicken curry was delicious too.

Man Friday

One of those unassuming spots in town as it’s just off the street before. This spot is modern and chic and has a great take on fresh seafood with a view.

Lemon Leaf Cafe Bar & Townhouse

For brunch lovers, come to Lemon Leaf. We came in on our last day for a long brunch (lines can be tough), but it was well worth it.

Saint Francis Provisions

If one restaurant is set apart from the rest, it’s Saint Francis Provisions. This Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant packs a punch with flavor, and thoughtful plating, and is one of the toughest reservations in town right now. I was so deeply bummed they were on vacation the week we were there, and after speaking to several friends who ate here, I will be returning to Kinsale for here.

The Black Pig

It’s a wine bar that meets artisan food. A slight Meditteranean flare, The Black Pig was so busy while we were there, and for good reason.

JESK of Kinsale

I had the best ice cream of the entire trip at JESK — you have to get the honeycomb ice cream!

seeds bakery

Lovely local bakery for all the fresh pastries and bread. It’s right next JESK as well.

Where to Get Coffee

There are endless coffee options in Kinsale so do try a few. Our favorite was The Collector which we went to twice when there. The other ones that we loved were The Post House Coffee Shop, OHK Cafe, Wild and Tame, and then Koko Kinsale for hot chocolate.

Bastion

If you’re looking for highly elevated cuisine, head into Bastion for a Michelin-starred meal. One of the restaurants to define the Kinsale dining scene, it’s a staple for an elegant meal.


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I use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

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Xx,
Jessica

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