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Kinsale Ireland: Your Romantic Weekend Escape Planned

Sailboats anchored in Kinsale Harbour in Kinsale Ireland with small buildings behind them.

Kinsale is more than just another pretty city on Ireland’s south coast. It is charming, idyllic, and romantic. This town at the southern starting point of the Wild Atlantic Way has inspired artists of various stripes. Singer-songwriter Tori Amos transformed a Kinsale house into a residential recording studio. It’s where she recorded her brilliant album Boys for Pele

Pirate Anne Bonny was born in Kinsale. The White Lady, a ghost who jumped from the ramparts of Fort Charles to her tragic death, is said to still wander around the town. One of Ireland’s most famous battles took place here in 1601 – the aptly named Battle of Kinsale. Kinsale is a city with history. 

Many consider Kinsale the Gourmet Capital of Ireland. Old Head, one of the world’s greatest golf courses, is here. Located where River Bandon meets the Atlantic, we find the town romantic – perfect for a couples getaway. 

Itinerary for a Romantic Weekend in Kinsale, Ireland

Friday

We never like for our arrival days to be too ambitious. Instead, day one is about checking into your hotel or vacation rental, shaking off the stress of travel, and enjoying a great meal and perhaps, some tasty beverages. 

Savor every moment of your first evening in Kinsale by treating yourself to a multicourse meal prepared by Ireland’s 2023 Chef of the Year, Meeran Manzoor. Make your reservations for Rare 1784. 

Dining here is an event. When you arrive, you are invited to sit in the lounge area for a pre-dinner craft cocktail (or two) before being brought to your table in the more formal dining room for your multicourse meal of delights, starting with an amuse-bouche. Courses are well-paced, and service is beyond attentive. You won’t feel rushed, or like you’re waiting for what’s coming next. 

When you make reservations for Rare, you can choose between a 5-course and 7-course meal with or without a wine pairing. At that time, you can specify any dietary restrictions, including letting them know if you’re vegetarian or vegan. We recommend treating yourself to the wine pairing – the stories behind the wines and the pairings add extra depth to a delicious and decadent evening.  

Saturday

Kinsale, Ireland -- Melissa wearing a grey turtleneck and black sweater holding a Pumpkin Spice Cruffin on a small white plate.

Popular with locals and returning tourists alike, OHK Cafe’s seating is limited, so make your reservations well in advance.

Pro-tip: try their pastries. We tried their cruffins — well beyond delicious.

Tours depart from the Kinsale Tourist Office for a fun and engaging lesson in Kinsale’s remarkable history. Since you stroll as you learn, you can walk off the pastry. Call 0872500731 or email moloney.barry@gmail.com to secure your spot. 

Duration: About an hour. 

It’s a short walk from where the historic walk ends and the cruise begins, so you should have no trouble arriving the recommended 20 minutes before the Spirit of Kinsale’s one o’clock departure time. On the cruise, you’ll take in the stunning views of Kinsale Harbour, including Charles Fort and James Fort, and hear stories about the area. 

Duration: About an hour.

2:00 PM Lunch at The Wharf Tavern*

Now that you’re famished, you can keep the nautical theme going by grabbing a bite and beverage at The Wharf Tavern and Terrace in The Trident Hotel. Their menu has options for most palates, from meat lovers to vegans.

After lunch, wander in the direction of Kinsale Mead Company –  a 20-minute walk from The Wharf Tavern. Stop into a shop or two on your way. A few of our favorite shops include Eoin O’Connor Gallery, Weavers of Ireland, Ruxx, Boland Craft, Canvas Works, The Merchant Princess of Kinsale, Gourmet Pantry, and Koko of Kinsale.

*The Wharf Tavern closes for lunch at 2:30, so if they’re unable to accommodate you, we recommend grabbing a sandwich from Gourmet Pantry and finding a lovely spot to sit — perhaps in a nearby park or along the shore.

4:00 PM Kinsale Mead Company for a Tour & Tasting

You can tour Irleand’s first meadery in 200 years at Kinsale Mead Co. Learn how mead (honey wine) is made, some mead-making history, and sample some of their award-winning meads. We enjoyed the meads so much that we bought a couple of bottles to drink and share with guests during our three-month stay in Kinsale. 

Duration: Somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours. 

After the tour, do a bit more shopping or rest and relax. You’ve earned it. 

Run by husband-and-wife team John and Julie Finn, the place is cheery and charming, from its popping pink and green exterior to the inviting interior’s pretty touches. In addition to their grass-fed, pasture-reared, free-range beef and lamb sourced primarily from the Finns’ family farm, their menu includes a fish dish featuring a fresh catch from the nearby waters of West Cork and a vegan option. 

Arrive with room for three courses. You’ll be having such a good time, thanks to their warm hospitality, that you’ll want a good reason to linger a little longer. For starters, you may want to try their Oyster Haven Oysters, Sticky Pork Ribs, or our favorite – Leek & Truffle Mac N’ Cheese. You can’t go wrong with a steak for a main – make sure you save room for one of Julie’s divine desserts. Their menu does change with the seasons, so when you arrive, there may be other delicious items to try. 

Be sure to arrive a bit thirsty as well. Their wine list is extensive and curated with care. Some wines are available to order by the glass. We enjoyed a bottle of Zenato’s Ripassa Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore on our last visit. Wine Spectator scores the bottle at 91; Wine Enthusiast gives it a 90. We give it an oh my gosh, it tastes great and even better with our steaks.

Not ready for bed yet? Stop by Tap Tavern before returning to your hotel. If you arrive around 9:00 PM, you might catch a ghost tour that departs from here.

Sunday

The entrance to Charles Fort in Kinsale Ireland with Kinsale Harbour in the background.
The entrance to Charles Fort.

Lemon Leaf Cafe is a cheery and charming cafe where you can enjoy a light scone and coffee or more pre-hike-appropriate fuel like their eggs benedict or a full Irish breakfast.

It takes about 45 minutes to walk from Lemon Leaf Cafe to Charles Fort via the Scilly Walk. This relatively easy walk has plenty of picturesque spots to photograph. We encountered two challenges on our walk. The first was sharing what seemed only large enough to be a walking path with a car or two. That wasn’t so much a challenge as a surprise. The second was nearly getting lost right before reaching The Spaniard Pub. 

Travel Tip: Get to The Spaniard Pub and look for signs near it to help you find and stay on the Scilly Walk. 

Charles Fort, named after King Charles II, is a star-shaped fort built between 1677 and 1682 as an English Coastal Defense against foreign naval forces. The fort has endured much—a 13-day siege during the Williamite War, being burned by anti-treaty forces during the Civil War, and later, being lived in by hippies. It has withstood it all and is now an amazing place to enjoy. Views from the bastions alone make it worth a visit. 

Travel Tip: When you arrive at Charles Fort, see if any guided tours are available. There’s plenty to enjoy without a docent-led tour, but the stories told on tours are almost always great in Ireland. If Padraig is there giving tours while you’re visiting, you are in luck. 

NOON Bulman’s Bar or The Spaniard for lunch.

Both restaurants are on the way back to town from Charles Fort. We’ve stopped at Bulman’s Bar once for lunch and at The Spaniard for a pint. Service was great at both places.

On Sovereign Sailing’s Taste of Sailing, you’ll learn the ropes of sailing under the guidance of a professional skipper. You’ll sail from Kinsale Harbour to the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re lucky, you might see a sea lion or two. There’s something so romantic and relaxing about sailing. It’s the perfect final activity for a weekend in Kinsale.

Duration: 2.5 to 3 hours. 

After a day of sailing, dining at a place called Fishy Fishy seems right, doesn’t it? Besides, it might be Kinsale’s most famous place to grab a bite. Another husband-and-wife team, Martin and Marie Shanahan, own this iconic Kinsale restaurant. Martin is well-known throughout Ireland (and beyond its shores) for his cookbooks, including his bestselling Fishy Fishy Cookbook. He’s shared his expertise on a few television series—Martin’s Mad About Fish, Martin’s Still Mad About Fish, and Surf ‘n’ Turf.

Fishy Fishy fish is fabulously fresh. Chris fell in love at first bite with their hake. I’m not a fish person, but I found their Roasted Summer Vegetable dish and their Salad with Chicken and Crisps delicious. For dessert, it’s hard to go wrong with their Classic Crème Brûlée.

For a comprehensive but not exhaustive list of dining options in Kinsale, check out our Food Lover’s Guide to Ireland’s Culinary Capital.

Where to Stay in Kinsale, Ireland

When we went for a weekend, we stayed at The Trident Hotel and loved it. You can see our full review here

Getting to Kinsale:

Kinsale is just a 20-minute drive from Cork Airport and three hours from Dublin. We use driving between Dublin and Kinsale as an excuse to spend the night in Kilkenny and time exploring Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile. 

What's the best time to visit Kinsale, Ireland?

Visiting between May and October is ideal if you want to take advantage of all that Kinsale has to offer. Some activities and restaurants slow down or close down during the winter months.

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