Kinsale (Co. Cork / South)
Kinsale (Ceann tSaile -`Tide’s Head’) (pop. 2400), originally a medieval seaport that received its first Charter in 1334 from King Edward III, is for many the jewel in Cork’s crown. Scenically situated on hilly ground at the estuarine mouth of the River Bandon, the town derives its special character from the elegance of its C17th and C18th buildings and fascinating nooks and crannies, as well as magnificent views. Kinsale enjoys a fine reputation as a holiday resort for its fishing, sailing, entertainment and nightlife, and takes its title of “Gourmet Capital of Ireland” very seriously.
The Battle of Kinsale
The Battle of Kinsale in 1601 ended the Nine Years War, and was probably the single most important military event in Irish history.
About 3,400 Spanish troops under the command of Don Juan del Aquila occupied the town on 3rd September 1601, sent by King Felipe III to aid Gaelic and Old English Catholic insurgents in return for the crown of Ireland. They used Desmond Castle, until then the Port of Kinsale’s customs house on the medieval quayside, as an armoury and gunpowder magazine.
The town was soon blockaded by a 7,000-strong English army under Lord Mountjoy, whose objective was to prevent them from joining forces with advancing rebel armies led by Hugh O’Neill, Hugh Roe O’Donnell and Richard Tyrell.
On 24th December 1601, the undisciplined rebel troops were skilfully scattered and routed in less than two hours. To emphasise his victory, Lord Mountjoy had between two and three hundred prisoners hanged in front of the town walls.
The Spaniards, who had also landed troops further west along the coast, held out for over a week in the hope of reinforcements by land or sea, but surrendered on 2nd January 1602, and also agreed to the surrender of the castles held by their compatriots at Castle Haven, in and near Baltimore, and at Dunboy. They were allowed to return to Spain with full honours, but on arrival Don Juan was unceremoniously thrown into a dungeon, where he died.
This defeat was utterly disastrous for the Gaelic chieftains, leading to the “pacification” of West Cork by Sir George Carew, the Siege of Dunboy, the virtual annihilation of the O’Sullivan Beara clan and, eventually, the confiscation of O’Neill and O’Donnell lands, the “Flight of the Earls” (the exodus of Gaelic nobility) and the Plantation of Ulster.
Desmond Castle (c.1500) is also known as the French Prison, as it was used during the C18th wars to house up to 600 French seamen, 54 of whom died in a tragic 1747 fire. It was also used to intern rebel colonial sailors during the American War of Independence, and became the local gaol until 1846, when it was converted into an auxiliary workhouse to cope with increased pauperage during the Great Famine. Restored in 1997, it now houses the International Museum of Wine.
The Old Courthouse (c.1600), long used by Kinsale’s Sovereign (Mayor) and Corporation to conduct municipal affairs, now houses the Regional Museum, where many items of historic importance relating to Kinsale’s maritime, commercial and cultural past are on display, including old town charters, model ships, and relics of the `Kinsale giant’, Patrick Cotter O’Brien (d. 1806). The Inquest on the victims of the Lusitania disaster was held in the courtroom here, which holds many artefacts from the ill-fated ship.
St. Multose Church (CoI), named after a holy man who lived locally in the C6th, believed to have been a nephew of Saint David, the patron of Wales, was built in 1180 and bears a legible inscription in Norman French. One of the few Irish medieval churches in continuous use until today, It was here that in 1649 Prince Rupert, whose fleet was at anchor in the harbour, heard of King Charles I‘s execution in London, and made his historic proclamation by of Charles II as King. The church is full of fascinating memorabilia, including the C15thtown stocks and flags from the Battle of Waterloo, and there are interesting memorials and graveslabs in both the interior and the churchyard.
St John the Baptist church (RC) is an elegant neo-classical structure built in 1829, the year of Catholic Emancipation.
Kinsale Methodist church (1873) was built to replace an earlier church (1813) that stood on the site of the first (1786) at te top of the town. Kinsale’s connection with Methodism began with a vist by Charles Wesley,in 1748; his brother John came at least eight times.
The Bowling Green, where John Wesley famously preached in 1785, was remodelled in 1986 and is now a pleasant park.
The Municipal Hall is an elegant venue for interesting art exhibitions and events.
The Alms Houses on the Mall were built in 1682 by Sir Robert Southwellto accomodate elderly and destitute townsfolk (and stll do).
Little remains of Kinsale’s formerly busy Quays. The elegant Waterfront is linked by walking trails to the nearby seaside villages of Summercove and Scilly, thought to have been so named by settlers from Cornwall.
The Ringfinnan Garden of Remembrance is dedicated to the 343 New York fire fighters who lost their lives in the World Trade Center tragedy of 11th September 2001.
Food & Drink / Accommodation
Kinsale’s superb restaurants are internationally known, and its many pubs of character are well worth exploring. Several of the best places to eat and drink are in the town’s hotels.
Acton’s Hotel, created in 1946 from several large period houses on the waterfront Pier Rd., is the most famous hotel in Kinsale, and home to the award-winning Captain’s Table restaurant and a good bistro / bar.
Jim Edward’s on Short Quay is a much loved seafood and steak establishment.
The Trident hotel at World’s End on the waterfront, features the Pier One Restaurant and the Wharf Tavern.
The Blue Haven hotel, traditionally one of the greats, is located on Pearse St. and contains the Blu restaurant and a bar housed in a conservatory with an outdoor deck.
The White House, also on Pearse St., is an upmarket “boutique” guesthouse noted for its Restaurant d’Antibes, and also has a good bar / bistro.
The Fishy Fishy Café on Pier Rd and the smaller Fishy Fishy Shop on Guardwell St are highly regarded.
Crackpot’s Restaurant on Cork St. is unusual and imaginative in terms of both décor and cuisine.
Max’s Wine Bar on Main St., run by a young French couple, has an excellent reputation, as do the nearby Hoby’s Restaurant and The Little Skillet, while the Cobra Tandoori is one of many “ethnic” eateries.
The White Lady hotel on O’Connell St. has a medium-priced restaurant of the same name.
The Armada Bar on Market St. serves traditional Irish dishes. The neighbouring Cucina Café has a large and loyal following.
The Spinnaker Bar & Restaurant at Scilly enjoys lovely views of the Harbour. Nearby, Man Friday is probably most famous for its stuffed duck, while The Spaniard is a popular Wednesday night music venue.
The Bulman Restaurant & Bar in Summercove, established in 1901, serves Irish food with a Mediterranean touch.
The Carlton Hotel on Rathmore Rd. houses the superb Oysterhaven View restaurant and a bar serving good food.
Perryville House in the town centre has an excellent reputation for fine B&B facilities.
Kinsale’s Gourmet Festival, organised by the Kinsale Good Food Circle every October, attracts foodies from every continent, while the Fringe Jazz Festival in the same month has deveoped an excellent reputation.
The Port of Kinsale is home to a once thriving fishing fleet and is used for some other commercial activities, but is primarily a pleasure boat facility with two fully equipped marinas.
Angling Kinsale arranges coastal tours, deep sea fishing excursions and whale / dolphin spotting trips.
Kinsale Harbour a long elbow-shaped inlet, was protected by two strongholds strategically located facing each other across the narrowest stretch. An underwater chain used to be strung between the two forts during times of war to scuttle enemy shipping by ripping out their bottoms as they were coming in.
James Fort, on Castlepark Head, was built on the site of a previous fortification occupied by the Spaniards in the winter of 1601. Completed in 1607, James Fort was where King James II, ousted by the English Parliament, arrived in 1689 to head a Franco-Hibernian army in an attempt to reclaim his throne from King William III; he also sailed from here after his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne the following summer, and it was captured by Williamite troops shortly afterwards. The fort was subjected to much alteration over the years, until recently in ruins, it is currently undergoing restoration.
Charles Fort, in Summercove, is a fine example of a C17th star-shaped fort. Widely considered to be Kinsale’s star attraction, it was built in 1678 on the site of a previous edifice that had held out against the Ormondists in 1642, but fell to Oliver Cromwell‘s troops in 1649 without a struggle. Following the defeat and exile of King James II, Charles Fort was besieged and captured by John Churchill, the future Duke of Marlborough. It remained in use until partially burnt in 1922 by Irish Republican irregulars. Faithfully restored, it is open to the public in the summer, and there are conducted tours on the hour.
The Scilly Walk follows the line of Kinsale Harbour from The Spaniard Pub as far as Summercove.
The Maritime Walkconnects the centre of Kinsale to Castlepark Head.
A ferry service operates dring the summer months between Castlepark and Kinsale.
Kinsale Harbour Cruises offer tours of the estuary and bay to see the town from the water and observe wildlife, including seals, herons, cormorants, terns and otters.
Baron of Kingsale (sic) is one of the most ancient non-Gaelic Peerage titles in the British Isles; the holder is the Premier Baron of Ireland. It was created by writ in 1223 for Myles de Courcy, and confirmed by leters patent in 1397 for the 9th Baron, William de Courcy. The 23rd Baron, Almeric de Courcy (1664 – 1720) was a Lt. Colonel in Patrick Sarsfield‘s regiment at the Battle of the Boyne. The current 36th Baron, Nevinson Mark de Courcy, who also holds the feudal titles of Lord Courcyand Lord Ringrone, lives in New Zealand.
Ringrone Castle, the de Courcy family seat overlooking Kinsale Harbour, was built in the early C13th. Fineen MacCarthy was killed in an assault on this castle in 1261. The edifice was abandoned in the late C17th, and is now in an advnced state of ruin.
Kinsale is within easy reach of Innishannon on ByRoute 2.
The Old Head of Kinsale
“The Old Head of Kinsale” commonly refers to the peninsula extending 7km out to sea between Kinsale Harbour and Courtmacsherry Bay, although technically the name should really only be used for the headland at its southern tip.
Old Head and Lispatrick are two small villages on the peninsula.
The Speckled Door is a highly rated rural restaurant with wonderful views.
The Old Head of Kinsale headland is magnificent and rocky, featuring dramatic sea-cliff scenery and teeming birdlife, including kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills.
Unfortunately, it also features a large championship golf course which, since it opened in 1997, has restricted access to the formerly public amenity to golfers and guests only. This is among the most expensive golf courses in the world, patronised by very rich vacationers who fly in specially to play here.
The Old Head’s transformation from public beauty spot to elitist playground has been controversial. A major battle has been conducted in the courts and on the ground between the competing interests of entrepreneurial private property on the one hand and the Keep Ireland Open spirit on the other. The long-running Free the Old Head of Kinsale Campaign has mainly taken the form of “incursions” onto the headland to hold “People’s Picnics”. It is claimed that a traditional right of way existed historically, but this is denied by the club. Both sides seem to accept that casual strollers cannot co-exist with golfers, and no compromise is thought possible by either camp.
The present lighthouse dates from 1853, but lighthouses have been built here since early Celtic times, and there are still ruins of a C17th cottage lighthouse and a circular C18th structure that used candles and polished copper to reflect the light.
In spite of the lighthouses, the Old Head has witnessed many shipwrecks. In 1816, 267 lives were lost after the troop ships Lord Melville and Boadicea sank in a storm while returning soldiers from the Battle of Waterloo. Other notable wrecks include the Albion (1822) and the City of Chicago (1892).
On 7th May 1917 the passenger ship Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine 9 miles off the Old Head, and 1178 people drowned within sight of land.
Holeopen Bay East and Holeopen Bay West straddling the Old Head are so named for an open hole / tunnel connecting them, which divers enjoy plunging through at high tide. Both bays are scenic, and great spots for birdwatching, but the western bay is exceptionally beautiful; it is mentioned in James Joyce‘s Ulysses.
Ballinspittle & Garrettstown (Co. Cork / South)
Ballinspittle / Ballinspittal (Béal Átha an Spidéil – “the ford-mouth of the hospital”, thought to refer to a medieval institution established by theKnights Hospitaller of Jerusalem) is a rapidly growing community.
The Ballinspittle Moving Statue
Ballinspittle became an international laughing stock in the summer of 1985, when some locals claimed to have witnessed a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary “dance”.
As news of the phenomenon spread, thousands of pilgrims and spectators flocked to the site. Many of the visitors claimed that they observed similar movements, and soon other statues of Our Lady were performing jigs and reels all over rural Ireland.
The Roman Catholic hierarchy maintained a neutral stance regarding the authenticity of the claims. Ireland was plunged in a deep economic recession at the time, which may or may not be relevant. The phenomenon was never scientifically confirmed.
A wise Hindu commented that those who saw the visions were to be envied.
Hurley’s Bar / Restaurant is a friendly family-run establishment.
Ballinspittle Wood is a popular Coillte forest recreation site on part of the former FranksEstate, with fine Atlantic views. The local chalybeate waters were discovered in 1750 to have therepeutic qualities.
Ballycateen Fort, an impressive three-branching Ring Fort nearby, dates from 600 AD. It was here that the Vikings were first defeated by Munster warriors in 910 BC.
Garrettstown / Garretstown and neighbouring Garylucas are effectively a single seaside family holiday resort, popular with caravanners and surfers of every variety. There are two Blue Flag beaches within 100m of each other, Garrettstown Strand and White Strand.
Garrettstown House, an C18th mansion that was long the residence of the Franks family and later a hotel, currently stands derelict at the centre of a holiday caravan park.