Kinsale: 29km (18 miles) S of Cork, 87km (54 miles) SE of Killarney, 156km (97 miles) SE of Shannon Airport, 285km (177 miles) SW of Dublin, and 32km (20 miles) E of Clonakilty
Only 29km (18 miles) south of Cork City, Kinsale is a charming fishing village sitting on a picturesque harbor, surrounded by green hills. Considered the gateway to the western Cork seacoast, this artsy town of 3,000 residents supports dozens of little art galleries and craft shops filled with the work of regional artists. It also has made a name for itself as a foodie town, home to award-winning restaurants and pubs. Kinsale draws food lovers year-round, particularly in October during the 4-day Gourmet Festival.
With its narrow, winding streets, well-kept 18th-century houses, imaginatively painted shop fronts, window boxes overflowing with colorful flowers, and a harbor full of sailboats, Kinsale is enchanting. The downside of all this is that the secret is out: This is a tourist town, so add parking problems, crowds, and tour buses to the list of qualities making up the town's ambience.
In 1601, this was the scene of the Battle of Kinsale, a turning point in Irish history. In September of that year, a Spanish fleet anchored at Kinsale and came under attack by English forces. An Irish army marched across virtually the whole of Ireland to reach and help the Spanish troops, but they were routed in a battle on Christmas Eve. In response to their support of the Spanish, Catholics were banned by English administrators from the town of Kinsale -- a banishment that lasted for a century.
Just off the coast of the Old Head of Kinsale -- about 8km (5 miles) west of the town -- a German submarine sank the Lusitania, which was on its way from New York to Liverpool, in 1915. The attack, which killed 1,200, ultimately brought America into World War I. Some of the victims are buried in a local cemetery.