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Visiting Kinsale? 4 Top Tips from an Insider

25 Mar 2024
The Canvas Works Kinsale

Kinsale is a beautifully picturesque coastal town in County Cork, Ireland. It also marks the official start (or end) of the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s famous coastal route on our western seaboard. 

Kinsale has been an incredibly popular town to visit for decades now and it’s not difficult to see why.  Full of charm and character, Kinsale punches way above its weight when it comes to food and drink and the town has carved out an enviable reputation for the quality of its restaurants over the years.  

As a Dubliner living in Kinsale and running my vintage travel poster and canvas prints business here since 2007, I’ll forever be a blow-in and I’m okay with that.  There’s plenty of us here and the town has always welcomed visitors warmly - whether they’re here for a few nights or for the long haul like me.

Since opening the gallery in Kinsale in 2012, I’ve had the good fortune to meet hundreds of visitors to the town - I really enjoy it and look forward to it every year.  We’re busiest in the gallery in the summer months but the season starts in March and runs all the way through to October. 


The Typical Visit to Kinsale? At Least One Day too Short!

What I’ve noticed over the years is that most people tell me they wished they’d had a night or two extra in the town.  I hear it every single year and I completely understand why.  Most of the US visitors to Kinsale are trying to cram in so much into their trip to Ireland.  A typical US visitor will be covering:

  • Dublin, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Kenmare, Killarney, Cliffs of Moher, Galway and more!

And it’s usually only a week or 10 days to cover all that.  Again, I totally get it but it’s a huge amount to attempt to do in such a short space of time. Our US friends are used to big highways and whilst the intercity roads in Ireland and now very good, the small roads between the little towns on the Wild Atlantic Way are pretty challenging and tiring to drive.

My Top Tips for Kinsale

So with all that said, what are my top tips as a business insider for visiting my adopted home town. Apart from giving yourself more time to enjoy everything the town of Kinsale has to offer, here’s my top four suggestions for things to do and places to visit while you’re here: 

1. Walk out to Charlesfort - Don’t take the car!

If you’re relatively fit and mobile, leave your car at the hotel or guest house and enjoy the beautiful walk from town out to Charlesfort.  It’s about a 40 minute walk - shorter if you’re like me and walk at a decent clip.

Keep the water on your right side and walk around the inner harbour and up the gentle hill that will take you to your first stop - the famous Spaniard Inn pub.  Then leave the main road and walk downhill with your back to the Spaniard.  You’ll find yourself on a narrow pedestrian only lane called the Scilly Walk.  This narrow lane will take you along the inner harbour with fabulous views over to Jamesfort.

There’s a slight incline as you move along the path before a steep decline down to the next stop off on your walk - the amazing Bulman pub. This gastro pub has it all - a wonderful menu from the talented Donal Crosbie and the most glorious location right by the water.  Sit on the wall outside and take in the views or if the weather permits, pack your swimming togs and dive in - The Bulman is popular swimming spot in the summer months and you can see why. 

After your drink or lunch, head up the hill to the left of The Bulman and you’ll reach Charlesfort.  There’s loads to see, do and learn about in Charlesfort and the really adventurous walkers will ramble along the little path further North of Charlesfort that will reward you with amazing views and lots of little information stops along the way telling you of the history of the harbour, including the tragic loss of the Lusitania.

 2. Go on Barry’s Walking Tour of Kinsale

Yes there are other walking tours of Kinsale but none come close to Don and Barry’s - it’s the original and the best.  Don has hung up his guiding boots but Barry will take you on the most entertaining and illuminating walking tour of the town, teaching you about the fascinating history of the town and pointing out interesting locations, talking points and quirky features of this beautiful town.  I highly recommend it.

3. Book a Table at The Black Pig or St Francis Provisions (Or Both)

When it comes to recommending good places to eat in Kinsale, I could literally be here all day.  Right across the road from my gallery is Max’s - run by French man Olivier and his wife Anne Marie.  It’s a wonderful classic french bistro and highly recommended. Just down the street is the famous Fishy Fishy run by Martin and Marie Shanhan.  I love Fishy Fishy for lunch in particular - there’s always such a great buzz there in the summer.

And I could go on and on - Kinsale really is full of great places to eat and drink.  
But my two stand out recommendations would be The Black Pig winebar and St Francis Provisions.  The Black Pig is on Lower O’Connell Street and has one of the best wine lists in the country.  It’s effortlessly cool, has a lovely vibe and staff and a stunning outdoor garden room at the back.  Try the mushrooms on toast, the tomato salad or their famous garlic prawns.

St Francis Provisions is in the heart of the town on Short Quay square.  It’s tiny so my advice is book ahead of time.  The cooking here is of national or international quality and is packed full of spanish-influenced tapas style sharing plates.  The flavours jump off the plate and it’s such a fun and energetic place to be on a summer’s evening.  I absolutely love it.  Please go and soak up the vibe here.

4. Come and say hello to me at The Canvas Works

Well, you didn’t think I wouldn’t add my gallery to your must visit list right?? The Canvas Works is right on Main Street, just up the road from my good friend Giles Norman and his fantastic gallery of Black and White landscapes.

When you’re finished admiring Giles’ stunning work, do come in and browse my collection of retro travel posters of Ireland.  We’ve got some great new designs just added and are always working on more designs from iconic landmarks and towns across Ireland.  I hope to see you during your stay in Kinsale and really hope you enjoy the town as much as I do.

And remember, if you’re just booking your trip around Ireland at the moment, give yourself at least 24 extra hours in Kinsale - you will thank me for it!

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