Towns of Cork
Kinsale —County Cork
The very attractive town of Kinsale is just 29km directly south of Cork City on the R.600 route. Kinsale has many popular attractions which include heritage, gourmet restaurants, sailing, deep sea angling and golf.
Kinsale has been designated an Irish Heritage Town and is working with Cork Kerry Tourism and Fáilte Ireland on major plans for significant heritage projects in the town. These plans will further enhance the town's important place in Irish tourism.
Early settlers in Ireland came to live in the area which we now know as Kinsale. Indeed the Old Head of Kinsale has been attributed as the site for some of the earliest settlers in Ireland. Later a number of Christian settlements were established in the surrounding countryside.
Kinsale also has an important place in Irish history. It was near here in 1601 that the Battle of Kinsale was fought. At this battle the Irish forces with their Spanish allies challenged the power of the English troops. In December of that year the English proved to be victorious.
It is believed that Kinsale town was founded by the Anglo Normans in about the year 1177, in a small walled area which was close to the water. Kinsale received its first of several Charters in 1334 from Edward III by which time it was a well established town. Prosperity in Kinsale continued in the 15th and 16th centuries, and in 1666 it was described as 'One of the most important harbours in Europe', with a substantial trade in wine and salt. The town was a significant naval base in the 17th and 18th centuries. Indeed in the 18th century Kinsale seems to have enjoyed a degree of prosperity not otherwise common in Ireland. In 1966 it became the first town in Ireland to be awarded the Flag of the Council of Europe.
In this century the great liner 'Lusitania' en route from New York to Liverpool was lost 11.5 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale. On 7 May 1915 the vessel was hit by a German submarine torpedo. Of a total of 1,959 passengers on board 1,195 perished. For many years the exact cause of the disaster has been debated. One theory is that there was a major explosion on board the Lusitania. Three of the victims of the disaster are buried in the Churchyard of St. Multose Church in Kinsale.
Even the casual visitor to Kinsale will be captivated by its beautiful setting, with the long waterfront, narrow winding streets, and Compass Hill rising sharply behind the town. The River Bandon rises in West Cork and flows east through Bandon to Innishannon, and turns south to enter the sea at Kinsale. The old fortifications of Charles Fort and James Fort guard the narrow entrance to Kinsale from the sea.
Kinsale owes its unique character to the fact that it was a garrison town and port of consequence for over 300 years, hence its magnificent Georgian houses and the Dutch influence of its architecture. It was also in the days of sail, the natural landfall for all ships from the continent and the Americas. The flat of the town, from the Coal Quay at the Trident, Denis Quay, the gardens of Actons, the Short Quay behind the Temperance Hall and the Long Quay running up to the White House, were all filled in later, and the Pier road built. The original town market and focal centre was on the level of St. Multose Church, Desmond Castle, and the Courthouse with narrow streets and quays radiating from it.
Kinsale was the national winner of the Irish Tourist Board Tidy Towns Competition in 1986. They followed this success in 1986, by being placed third in the prestigious European competition Entente Florale. This competition is designed to select the towns and villages in Europe who make the best use of trees and planting in the urban environment. Kinsale has continued to be very successful in the Tidy Towns Competition and frequently is judged to be the best small town in Ireland. The development of Kinsale's keen interest in the environment has been marked by an unusual ability of the people of the town to work closely together to improve their local area. Environmental quality has been on