(updated November 2016)
Kinsale with Kids
Kinsale is a great little town on the southern coast of Ireland, roughly 20 minutes from the Cork airport. As we have family in Kinsale we’ve traveled with our kids there several times now and enjoyed it every time. Our favorite things to do:
Charles Fort is a 340-year-old Star Fort. The history is incredible, but that’s not what our kids care about – at least not yet. Instead they love climbing all over the fort walls, running up and down the grassy hills and jumping off of stone ruins. There’s a great view from the fort that parents can enjoy while their kids play, and there are educational displays inside the fort. This summer we started our European trip in Kinsale before moving on to Budapest, Venice, Copenhagen, Oslo, coastal Norway, Iceland and Scotland, and the Charles Fort was one of their top five highlights from the entire summer.
The town of Kinsale itself is a perfect place to spend a day, or parts of several days. There are numerous shops and cafes, a fun farmer’s market on Wednesdays with live music and excellent street food, a playground and several large ramps that our kids would always try to run to the top of, usually making it after a few tries. Be sure not to miss Bookstór, a great little book store. We’ve been buying books there since our oldest child was nine months old, and it’s always one of our first stops.
Sandycove Hiking & Sandycove Island
Five minutes from Kinsale is the neighborhood of Sandycove. There’s a small parking area near the water. From there you can hike around the coast, walk along the roads, or walk out to Sandycove Island (aka Goats Island) at low tide. Hard-core swimmers in wetsuits can typically be found swimming between the mainland and the island, and if you have a kayak it’s a perfect place to launch from. Our kids love climbing around the rocks and “beach” areas. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the area.
FYI, to reach the main hiking path around the coast, start at the parking area. As you’re staring out to the island, on your right near the water is a white house with a red table and chairs. You have to walk through their yard and you’ll see the slightly overgrown path. I’ve tried to find an alternate way to the path, but that seems to be the only way to get there. Oh, and in the late summer / fall the path is lined with blackberries. Bring a basket!
The Ghost Tour is run by the Tap Tavern and heads out every night except Saturday during the summer at 9:00. It’s a fun walking tour that will give you the history of the area in general and the stories behind some of the sites. I took my 10-year-old and 6-year-old. Both kids liked it and laughed at the surprises along the way, and at roughly an hour and 15 minutes it wasn’t too long for them.
Depending on how much your kids like being in the car, there are day trip options all around southern Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way. We’ve gone to Garretstown Beach (cold but pretty). We’ve driven to Limerick. We’ve driven into Cork a few times. The highlight in Cork is the English Market, and it’s worth the short half-hour drive from Kinsale IF you’re really comfortable with Irish driving, navigation and parking. Over the years we’ve gotten stuck on narrow one-lane roads with traffic coming towards us, gotten confused on complicated roundabouts, and struggled to find parking numerous times.
Fota Wildlife Park outside Cork is also a good place to spend the better part of a day. Even our kids, who have seen penguins in Antarctica and lions and giraffes up close in Africa, enjoyed the park-like animal exhibits and had fun encountering animals running wild, including peacocks and kangaroos. We visited in November and it was uncrowded but COLD, so be prepared!
We’ve never had a bad meal in Kinsale. Our current favorite places are The Bulman, a pub near Charles Fort, Fishy Fishy, the Lemon Leaf Café/Deli, and if you’re tired of fish and Irish food, Cobra Tandoori, an excellent Indian restaurant in the middle of town. If you’re in town on a Wednesday, pick up lunch from any of the stands in the Farmer’s Market.
Have you spent time in Kinsale and County Cork? What else would you recommend for families?