Kinsale is such a beautiful little town at the coast of County Cork. I think when it comes to The Wild Atlantic Way, Cork gets a small bit left out of the party. I think this is partly due to it being at the end of the route and also with the others such as The Cliffs of Moher and Ring of Kerry being the most common places to visit, Cork gets left behind.
Personally, I haven’t explored Cork half as much as I would have liked. Having been down to places like Castletown Bear when I was younger I have always wanted to go back, but it just felt that little bit too far away. So, the opportunity arose to visit Cork a couple of weeks ago for the bank holiday and I jumped at the opportunity. Coming from Dublin/Kildare, this was how we spent our three days by the Cork coast – using Kinsale as our base for the duration of our stay.
Fota Wildlife Park
Fota is a 100+ acre wildlife park nestled just outside the city centre of Cork. Your eyes almost don’t believe it until you see it in all it’s glory, spanning as far as the eye can see. It is currently the second largest visitor attraction in Ireland outside of Leinster! Their whole ethos is planning around conservation and doing the best that they can for the animals. Many of the animals were brought in for care as they are unfit to survive in the outdoor world, or else are being kept in for breeding purposes to help endangered species.
We spent roughly 2-3 hours in the park wandering around the different areas but you can spend even longer there if you really wanted to. There are various different tours that you can take within the park, including a ‘behind the scenes‘ which allows you to feed animals such as the penguins. Unfortunately, my budget didn’t allow this VIP visit and I opted for the general adult pass for €16.50.
For this modest price, you get to experience animals from all four corners of the world. It is one of the few places that I have visited in the last few years where the animals were actually lively and happy in their enclosures also, something I didn’t find when I recently visited Dublin Zoo. It is a brilliant day out not just for people with children, but also for adults so if you are in the Cork area I would highly recommend paying a visit!
To find out more about the park, their opening hours and their ticket prices just click here.
Cobh is a town on the Cork city harbour, just a short ten minute drive from Fota Wildlife Park. There is loads to do in Cobh, but most notably is their Titanic Experience which walks you through the whole boarding and boat experience of The Titanic. More details on what you can expect at this museum can be found here.
Spike Island is an Island just off Cobh which has had many purposes in the past. It has been host to a 6th century Monastery, a 24 acre Fortress and more but most recently this Island is dominated by the 200 year old Fort Mitchel, the star shaped Fortress which became a prison holding over 2300 prisoners! There are daily tours going from Cobh to experience this unique island. Tickets for this Ferry ride & Tour are €18 for an adult and only €10 for a child. Find out more about the island here.
Being the basic b that I am, my favourite part about Cobh was the ‘Deck of Cards’ which is a row of identical houses sloping down the hill. Each house is painted its own unique, vibrant colour and with St.Colman’s Cathedral towering in the background you just really can’t beat the view. I tried to snap as best a picture as I could, but without a drone it was pretty hard to get in the whole scene.
The town is home to many great bars , restaurants and cafés so make sure to stop by one on your visit. If you are around Cobh for longer you can look at their website here and find more of the activities that you can do while you are there.
I have a soft spot for Clonakilty but I think it is just because the town has such a good buzz about it that it always brings back happy memories. There are tonnes of places to make yourself at home at in the town where you can eat and drink until your heart is content. I can’t really advise much more on town as these are my usual go-to activities when visiting! Clonakilty is right at the bay of the sea, with tonnes of stunning beaches in close proximity. To find out some of the places you can visit and things you can do, check out their website here.
If Clonakilty didn’t bring back happy memories, then Inchydoney definitely does! Rain, hail or shine this beach has a way of looking beautiful. On the day that I visited it was actually nice enough to go and enjoy the sun. I may have been slightly hungover (thanks to Kitty O’Sé’s pub in Kinsale!) so laying on the beach, napping intermediately and going for a swim was honestly the perfect day.
The Inchydoney Lodge & Spa is a stunning hotel overlooking Inchydoney beach and would be the perfect place to stay if you wanted something a little bit more comfortable. The hotel is incredibly picturesque and romantic. If staying here isn’t in your budget, I would still recommend grabbing lunch here. The prices are decent and the food is so fresh!
Due to our little road trips every day, our third day was our first day to explore Kinsale in it’s entirety. We started off the day by grabbing breakfast in the cute little spot called Jo’s Café which is actually a café and B&B. It’s small but the food and coffee is amazing!
Charles Fort is a star fort located at the waters edge in Kinsale. From the town centre it is about a 40-45 minute walk along the water which is very picturesque! Once you get to Charles Fort the entry fee is €5 for an adult. This gives you full access to walk around the Fort and you have the option to join a guided tour that they run on the hour. We opted to go on the tour since we arrived just in time and we were glad we did as we found out the whole history of the fort itself from when it was under British rule to when it was overrun by hippies in the 60’s. On a clear day, the views from the Fort looking out onto Kinsale and the sea is just something to behold! It’s not something I would usually find myself going to, but the one in Kinsale is steeped in history and with such stunning views from it it’s actually hard to leave once you get there!
There is actually another fort in Kinsale called James Fort that was built in the 1600’s. This site is a pentagon fort and is open to the public if you would like to visit it. It’s not as big as Charles Fort as far as I am aware, but if history is your thing it is definitely something to put on your list.
But, there is more to Kinsale than these forts and their stunning harbour. The town itself is crawling with amazing bars, restaurants, craft shops and more for you to spend your day exploring. The best way to relax in Kinsale is to take a walk along the harbour, stopping in along the way to the various places that catch your eye. The seafood here is amazing also, so make sure to grab some in one of the many places within the town itself!
I think it’s such a pity that Cork seems to be forgotten about on the Wild Atlantic Way by both others and myself. It’s a stunning county and clearly has plenty to offer. In just a short bank holiday weekend my friend and I managed to see all of the above, and I’m sure we could have even managed to do more had we really pushed ourselves! I honestly can’t recommend Kinsale and the surrounding areas highly enough if you are looking for a break in Ireland, or even just a staycation.
Have you ever been to the coast of Cork? Do you think it is somewhere you would like to go to?