Kinsale: Ireland’s Hidden Gem

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Find the “Pot of Gold” in Ireland’s Popular Holiday Resort

Kinsale Harbor

Kinsale Harbor

Castles, shamrocks, devilish Leprechauns, the Blarney stone, and a “Pot of Gold” at the end of the rainbow! All are images of a fascinating country that easily charms or bewitches visitors. IRELAND! An isle with ancient legends to uncover, amazing landscapes to explore, and enchanting villages to investigate.   Alluring visitors with its ideal location at the mouth of the River Bandon, Kinsale is recognized as a yachting and deep-sea angling centre and in recent years a world class golf destination. A visit to Kinsale is akin to finding the “pot of gold.” Carefully tucked away on the south western end of Ireland, this charming village enthralls and beguiles visitors into its loving clutches. And that’s no blarney! 

Narrow winding two-way streets of Kinsale

Narrow winding two-way streets of Kinsale

The Quaint Village
Kinsale is our first stop on our Irish holiday. Narrow winding roads with man-size hedges growing along the roadway and driving on the “left” provide a dramatic entrance into town. Unbelievable! Cars are parked along each side of the road as we arrive in town. Squeezing through, (okay- inhaling doesn’t make the car skinnier) we slip our small rental car into the first available parking spot. A wonderful compact village with a quaint air of antiquity Kinsale is best explored on foot. Originally a medieval fishing port, Kinsale is one of the most picturesque, popular and historic towns on the south west coast of Ireland.

Desmond Castle

Desmond Castle

Strolling the twisting streets of Kinsale we are enamored with its unique history. At St. Multose’s Church, built in 1190, we tour the church that has remained in continuous use to the present day. Here, Charles II was pronounced King, after King Charles I was executed in London. As the walkway climbs a hillside, we visit churches of St. John the Baptist and the Carmelite Friary. Atop the hill we have a fabulous panoramic view of Kinsale and its glistening harbor. A sign touting, “Free Tour Today at Desmond Castle” beckons us. Built around 1500 as an urban tower house by the Earl of Desmond, it has served as a Customs House, Prison, Ordnance store and a Workhouse. The Castle’s fascinating history includes how Kinsale was a designated a Wine Port and a supplier of ships for the Vintage Fleet back in 1412.

In the village we find an eclectic group of shops, boutiques, and several art galleries delightfully and playfully crunched together along the intertwining streets. Shopping is delightful with shops from upscale to whimsical. Strolling on River Street along the Harbor gives a totally different perspective of picturesque and captivating Kinsale. From Charles Fort, a star fort, located on the water’s edge just outside Kinsale, there are even more panoramic vistas of the village and the river as it leads out to sea. 

A Gourmet’s Delight
Hailed as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland, Kinsale boasts a multitude of eateries.   Each street offers a variety of amiable cafes, friendly pubs, and charismatic restaurants to suit every taste and budget. For a town of only 3,000, Kinsale boasts 58 restaurants, twelve of which are fine dining. Surrounded by some of the finest artisan producers Kinsale zealously guards its “gourmet” reputation and touts the best seafood, best cheeses, best preserves and best smoked foods. While our dining experiences are limited on a short visit, Kinsale lives up to its gourmet reputation. Our lunch at The White House’s Bistro is tantalizing open faced smoked salmon and a hearty Irish stew. Dinner at Fishy Fishy Kinsale is a seafood lover’s delight serving the most wonderful seafood dishes in their pier side restaurant. Their fish is all caught locally, from lobster to crab, crayfish to cod, monkfish, squid, John Dory and haddock. 

Old Head Golf Links on the craggy shoreline

Old Head Golf Links on the craggy shoreline

Spectacular Links Along A Craggy Shoreline
Ireland and golf are as synonymous as are Ireland and Leprechauns.   Just outside Kinsale is a most dramatic, most demanding, and most provocative golf course with absolutely the most unspoilt and most spectacular views.   The Old Head Golf Links is built on a 220-acre diamond of land, jutting out over two miles into the Atlantic Ocean and rising in places to over 300 feet.   Golfing Old Head is a “must do” for any golfer visiting the south coast of Ireland. Irish luck is with us today with clear blue skies and a gentle breeze. The courteous staff assures all of our needs are met. We take advantage of Old Head’s practice facilities then head out for a phenomenal day of golf in this awe-inspiring setting.   This promontory is basically an island with scenic views from every direction of the links, the Old Head Lighthouse, and the Atlantic Ocean.

A most demanding and scenic golf course.  Clear day!

A most demanding and scenic golf course. Clear day!

Old Head Golf Links is configured as two returning loops with nine holes along the cliff tops, providing exhilarating test of our golfing skills. The ever-changing sea breezes provide a stern test of our abilities to adjust to the new demand of the course. It is definitely a walking course. Old Head Golf Links has it all! It tantalizes golfers with amazing scenery and exciting golf. Hazards of numerous bunkers, major grasses and even mounds of grass, craggy cliffs and more come into play as well as its challenging greens.   Bring plenty of balls! Great massive boulders tell the history of this isthmus and the various cultures that lived in years past. Playing the 12th and 13th holes we spot the caves below the cliff sides as well as the remains of large stone structures. This is Richard’s kind of course. Despite some of the new challenges for us flatland golfers, he is happily racking up pars. Hurrah! My game comes together on the back nine and I’m excited to No. 16 a Par-5.   At the clubhouse, its time for a final photo of us with the magnificent Old Head Lighthouse in the background. Be sure to take a camera as photos are a “must” at Old Head.

View from the Irish countryside and bay from Carlton Hotel

View from the Irish countryside and bay from Carlton Hotel

Fantastic Views in a Relaxing Hotel
The Carlton Hotel Kinsale is perched on a bluff with beautiful vistas of the rolling Irish countryside and River Bandon. The rooms are modern with free internet, good work areas and sitting areas and a spacious bathroom. Our 3rd floor room overlooks the hillsides and river with an inspiring and peaceful view. The plush bedding and pillows are luxurious in this sleek modern room. For evenings we take the Hotel’s shuttle into Kinsale – saving the challenges of parking and parking fees – so it is well worth the small fee for the shuttle. Each morning we enjoy a hearty breakfast buffet of hot and cold items in the restaurant. The bright lobby with its huge windows and the stone patio outback provide relaxing venues to enjoy the scenic setting while planning our excursions. We particularly like the serene setting of the Carlton Hotel Kinsale, away from the crowded village of Kinsale and busy city of Cork but close enough to pop in. The Hotel offers numerous amenities of spa, a lovely pool and other activities for travelers staying for an extended visit. 

Richard kissing the Blarney Stone

Richard kissing the Blarney Stone

It’s about Blarney!
Actually, the birthplace of “blarney” is a short drive from Kinsale. Blarney Castle! One of Ireland’s greatest treasures, the Castle was built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy. It has been attracting attention ever since. Kissing the Blarney Stone is a must and we join the millions who have flocked to Blarney over the past few hundred years to check it off our “bucket list.” Climbing the steps in the ruins of the Castle, we reach the top of the Tower where the infatuating Blarney Stone is located. Kissing the Blarney Stone takes some effort to get in position to “kiss” the stone. The legendary Stone of Eloquence promises, “If you kiss the Blarney Stone you’ll never again be lost for words.” With our gift of eloquence, we find more mystical activities at Blarney Castle including the Rock Close, a magical place with landscaping around timeless features and enchanting tales.

The Mixa's at Old Head Golf Course

The Mixa’s at Old Head Golf Course

Kinsale is alluring, enthralling and bewitching. This is the one place in the world where even time getting lost will be worthwhile… We guaranteed, you’ll return home with memories that will last a lifetime.

If you go:
Blarney Castle & Stone, Blarney Co., Cork, Ireland; +353 21 438 5252; www.blarenycastle.ie

Carlton Hotel Kinsale, Rathmore Road, Kinsale, Co. Cork Ireland; +353 21 470 6000; http://www.carltonkinsalehotel.com/

Kinsale Chamber of Tourism, Kinsale, Ireland; http://kinsale.ie/ 

Old Head Golf Links, Ireland; +353 21 477 8444;   www.oldhead.com/

 

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About Charlene Mixa

Seeing new places, learning about cultures and seeing the sights has always been my dream. Growing up I was blessed with parents that enjoyed traveling and thought nothing of taking a family of seven on excursions. My career in Human Resources and later as a consultant for an international Human Resource firm offered some travel, but I knew as my husband and I approached retirement, my goal was to do more traveling and broader trips. The nine years since retirement has been filled with fantastic adventures from short local one day trips to several week excursions. Living in Florida, it is especially enjoyable to be away in the summer to cooler climates. Multi-week driving trips across the good ol' USA, settling in for a month in the mountains to explore the local area, or a combination of both fill much of our summer season. Our travels are predominantly self-orchestrated, bringing the fun and challenge of getting everything to click. It's all about doing and sharing! Experiencing a travel adventure is exciting. Reliving a special travel moment with a friend or family is exhilarating. I feel my heart race and pulse quicken, as I sharing that special moment. Thank you for joining in my travel adventures and allowing me to hear your stories.