The harbor town of Kinsale, County Cork, was home base for the first of our three months in Ireland. Neither of us had been to Kinsale, but from our research, it promised to be delightful. And it was! Kinsale is also within a half-day drive of many other interesting and beautiful sights. In this post we’ll visit quaint and historic Kinsale itself. Next time we’ll explore County Cork and Southern Ireland.
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We stayed right on the harbor at No.1 Lobster Cottage, World’s End. It was a very nice three-bedroom townhouse behind the red door in this photo. The extra bedrooms allowed us to invite family members to visit us from the US. You’ll meet them later in this post. This place was perhaps the best off-season travel bargain of the whole trip, at about $1100 US for the entire four weeks.
World’s End is the name of this point at a bend in the river. The Lobster Cottages are right around the point, just out of this photo. It was much more convenient to town than the name “World’s End” suggests!
Our front porch provided excellent views of sun- and moon-rises over the harbor.
Life in Kinsale very much revolves around boats and the sea.
You can see from the crab traps and trawlers that Kinsale is a working fishing town.
Kinsale is the home port for many private sailing vessels.
The mouth of the River Bandon makes Kinsale a perfect natural harbor. In 1601, English forces defeated a combined Irish and Spanish force here in the pivotal Battle of Kinsale. It was the beginning of the end of what remained of the ancient Gaelic order. The defeat led to the “Flight of the Earls” and the eventual Plantation of Ulster. For the next three centuries, England’s domination of Ireland would be total.
Kinsale is quaint, its old architecture painted with whimsical colors.
Though I often took pictures early in the morning when the streets were still empty, the town is typically filled with locals and tourists. I spotted this pint-sized fisherman-in-training during the weekly Market Day in the town square.
Here Sarah and her sister Deas, visiting from Florida, enjoy rest and refreshment in the square.
The gulls in Kinsale were fat and plentiful.
As were the swans. Here a mother escorts her cygnets.
Just upriver from us was this solitary ruin towering over the River Bandon.
I later discovered that that ruin was adjacent the town’s old graveyard.
Ruins, named and unnamed, are numerous and quite accessible all over Ireland.
And after dark, there are the pubs. This is the bar in The Spaniard, a famous destination for live traditional music. There is not as much live music in Kinsale in the off-season, but in high season you can hear it almost every night. I enjoyed listening to one session, and even got to play one of my tunes in The Spaniard. Sorry I did not get a photo!
Kinsale is also a world-famous gastronomic destination. Here, Sarah and I, along with my son, Joe (left), and my sister, Carolyn (right), enjoy a fine meal to celebrate Carolyn’s birthday.
Just outside of Kinsale we were surprised to find a Garden of Rememberance commemorating the 343 firefighters killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. The garden was created by Kathleen Murphy, a nurse from Kinsale.
Ms. Murphy had emigrated to New York some 40 years earlier. As a nurse in lower Manhattan she had come to know many of the area firefighters and wanted the world to remember them. She dedicated a portion of her property in Kinsale to them and planted a tree for each of the fallen. Now visitors and family members come to honor their sacrifice.
Charles Fort stands guard over the entrance to Kinsale’s harbor. It is a star fort, so named because the bastions form a star shape for improved defensive capabilities. Anyone approaching the walls would be caught in a crossfire.
Built by the British in the 17th century, the fort was actually a small village unto itself, where hundreds of soldiers lived.
The land approach to the fort was guarded by a drawbridge over a moat.
Most of the damage visible today was done after most of Ireland won independence from the British. Anti-treaty forces, who wanted all of Ireland to be independent, burned the fort during the Irish Civil War in 1921.
This delightfully-Irish employee of the fort helped bring our visit to life with stories about what we were seeing.
The fort’s bastions provide spectacular views of the River Bandon.
It’s thick walls and position on a high bluff made it impossible to attack by direct force for centuries.
The fort was never taken from the sea…
…though it did fall during a land-based siege during the Williamite wars in the late 17th century.
James Fort was constructed in 1607 across the River Bandon from Charles Fort.
James is not as large as his brother Charles, and not as well preserved. The interior is not open to the public at this time, but the exterior is quite accessible. Despite this accessibility, such ruins in Ireland are for the most part left alone. I have the feeling that in the USA these walls would be covered in graffiti.
Kinsale is well located for day trips to a prehistoric stone circle, a famous castle, dramatic coastlines, idyllic country scenes, and iconic towns. We’ll visit those places and more in the next post.