Kinsale, Ireland

Kinsale
Kinsale, Ireland
Kinsale, Ireland
Kinsale, Ireland

Kinsale is a lovely medieval village on the southern coast of Ireland in county Cork, and the beginning point of the Wild Atlantic Way or the ending, I guess, depending on the direction you are travelling 🙂 Each building in the town center is painted a different vibrant color, and there are sailboats galore lining the mouth of the River Brandon. This historic port and fishing town also is home to a 17th century fortress that offers sweeping views of the surrounding area! Kinsale is also referred to as “The Gourmet Capital of Ireland”, and they host a Gourmet festival every October or so said the brochures in the town’s tourist information center!

We visited Kinsale with our daughter as a day trip on our route thru Ireland from Cork heading to Killarney, and I highly recommend adding Kinsale to your Irish itinerary!

Travel: Kinsale is appx 25 km south of Cork, and the drive took us appx 35 minutes. When departing the drive took us appx 1 1/2 hours to Killarney. Other near by hot spots is the town of Cobh which is appx 45 minutes away or Blarney for a kiss on the Blarney stone which is appx 40 mins away.

Activities:

Kinsale Village: The village of Kinsale is full of shops, eateries, and winding interesting streets and squares! We enjoyed meandering through the narrow streets, and popping into the shops. We loved the Kinsale book store, and the ice cream shop. There are also lots of sail boats and kayaks lining the front of town in the harbor, and you can check out the Kinsale portal to explore water based activities. There is also a farmer’s market every Wednesday in the town center from 9 am until 2:30 pm. And definitely don’t miss the park:

Kinsale Town Park: There is a great park right in the center of town which is ideal for little ones!

Wild Atlantic Way Passport: Kinsale is the beginning of the Wild Atlantic Way. You can pick up a Wild Atlantic Way Passport at select post offices and visitor centers along the route. As you make your way along the Wild Atlantic Way you can get your passport stamped at each scenic spot. There are 188 discovery points listed in the Passport that are divided into 6 zones. The cost of the passport is 10Euro. Our daughter loved her passport and obtaining her stamps at each stop along the way! This is a great way to get kids engaged in the route! The visitor center is right in the middle of Kinsale on Pearse Street.

Wild Atlantic Passport
Get your Wild Atlantic Passport stamped at each stop along the route!

Charles Fort: Charles Fort is a 17th century star shaped fort that is located 3km from the base of Kinsale town. The fort charges admission of 5Euro per adult and 3Euro per child. This is a great family stop as the history is incredible and the views are gorgeous, but it also offers lots of fun for kids. You walk across a drawbridge to enter the fort, and then our daughter enjoyed rolling down the grassy hills with several other children, climbing on the stone walls, and racing through the ruins and discovering all of the coves, etc. Sometimes historical places do not allow for a lot of freedom, but there is lots of free range exploration inside the fort which is thrilling for adults and kids alike!

Don’t miss this charming Irish town!

Sailboats in Kinsale
Sailboats in Kinsale

Kid Friendly Irish Castles

Our 3 favorite Kid Friendly Irish Castles

Dromoland Castle
Dromoland Castle Estate

Birr Castle

#1 on our list! Birr Castle dates back to medieval times, and is still occupied! The castle is the private residence of the Parson Family who arrived at the castle in 1620. The family opened the castle to the public in 2014, and now offers inside guided tours of the castle thru pre-booking during May – August. We were not fortunate enough to be visiting during this time, but the castle grounds are still worth the trip! The gardens are stunning, and host a wide variety of rare plants. There is also a treehouse adventure area with Ireland’s largest tree house, a bouncy pad, hobbit hut, sand pits, play gyms, snack hut, and picnic tables. There is a cafe on site and an ice cream stand. Birr Castle also has a science center and the historic great telescope. The telescope was built in the 1840s and was the largest telescope in the world at that time. Scientific and creative minds from around the world came to Birr to learn and observe space! The inventor of the computer, Charles Babbage even visited Birr! Birr Castle is a pretty unique and inspiring place to visit! This lands it on our list as our favorite Irish castle estate, and our favorite for kids!

Birr Castle is located in County Offaly. We traveled to Birr Castle from Galway, and the drive took us appx 1 hour 20 mins. From Dublin the drive is appx 1 hour 30 mins, and from Limerick appx 1 hour. There is no parking on site at Birr Castle, but there is a paid park and display car park across the street. The parking machine only takes coins so we walked 1 street over into the main hub of town to get exact change. The town was lovely as well with lots of shops and eateries. Tickets are 9Euro per adult, and our daughter was free. Children 5 and older are 5Euro. If you are lucky enough to visit the castle interior then tickets cost 18 Euro, but is only suitable for children 12 and above.

Dromoland Castle

7E0462EE-462E-4929-843F-B7BCCAF7ED21

Dromomland Castle’s history dates back to 1014, and was the ancestral home of the O’Brien family who were the Kings of Thomond. When the castle grounds were comprised of more than 2000 acres, the O’Brien’s Tower located at the Cliffs of Moher was actually part of the original estate. The castle was converted in 1962 to a luxury hotel, and today encompasses more than 400 acres. We actually stayed on site at this hotel, and loved it! The estate has so many kid friendly activities that it is no wonder the castle is part of the “Adventures by Disney” itineraries. We participated in the falcon walk where we all, including our daughter, got to have a falcon land on our arm. This experience was brilliant, and our guide named Colin was wonderful. He spent a lot of time educating us on the art of falconry, and took us back to view all of the falcons/owls afterwards. The hotel also prepared a teddy bear picnic for us upon request complete with a teddy bear and miniature sandwiches/tarts for our daughter. There is a beautiful fairy garden, a lake with boats and ducks for feeding, lots of hiking/walking trails, tennis courts, swimming pool, spa, and golf course! Upon check in, we were all treated in the lounge with complimentary tea, coffee, and hot chocolate for our daughter with marshmallows! 🙂 Our daughter also received coloring pencils and an activity book at check in! We were impressed by all of the special touches personalizing this stay for our daughter. All of the staff referred to her as “princess” while on the premises! 🙂 The room was equipped with a junior robe and slippers, and during the nightly turn down service fruit worms were left for our daughter on her bed! The breakfast served in the main dining room is also amazing and enjoyable, and has lots of kid friendly options!

Dromoland Castle is located in County Clare. We arrived at Dromoland from Killarney, and the drive took us appx 1 hour. Drommoland is located 8 miles from Shannon airport; is accessible via car to Galway in appx 1 hour or 20 mins to Limerick. Upon departing Dromoland we headed for the Cliffs of Moher, and the drive took us appx 45 mins.

Kylemore Abbey:

C2DDD584-0C0C-4BD5-90C0-07C618EC394B

Kylemore was originally built as a castle in 1868 by the Henry family. Margaret and Mitchell Henry visited the ground of Kylemore in the mid 1840s on their honeymoon when there was nothing more than a hunting lodge in the valley of Kylemore. Mitchell Henry bought and built Kylemore for his wife Margaret as an act of love, and they enjoyed building their life and family of 9 children in the Connemara Highlands. Tragedy struck when Margaret died from dysentery while traveling in Egpyt in 1874. Today the estate is the Abbey and home of  the Benedictine community of nuns who arrived in 1920. The main rooms of the castle are open for viewing, but the gardens are really where we enjoyed spending our time. The gardens are very pretty, and there is a cafe next door. We also appreciated there are children’s activities along the walk to the gardens with various musical instruments available for play along the way. Kylemore is strikingly beautiful, and in my opinion the most beautiful castle I visited due to its location in the Connemara National Park. In front of the house there is also a paved pathway that will take you along the lake and there is access to a little sand beach with benches and picnic tables. Also on site is another restaurant and store which had great souvenirs! I can’t describe the beauty of this place and the feeling of serenity present. This was a great day trip with our daughter in tow!

We traveled to Kylemore Abbey from Galway, and the drive took us appx 1 hour 30 mins. The drive is beautiful thru Connemara National Park. The entrance fee includes access to the house and all of the estate and the cost is 13Euro per adult. Children under 10 are free, and tickets are discounted online!

Do you have a favorite Irish castle?

A New Irish Adventure **

Best 2 week Itinerary thru Ireland with kids
Our 2 week route thru Ireland

Our little family of 3 leaves for Ireland in 2 weeks, and I cannot believe it! We have been planning this trip for almost 2 years! We have friends in Ireland that we will be visiting, and get a load of this: We have NEVER met them! I know you are thinking I am crazy! But I have 2 friends from the Netherlands (who I have met:)) that introduced me via Skype to their Irish friend, Claire! Claire is Dutch, but married an Irish gentlemen and now lives in Co. Cork with him and their 2 beautiful girls. My friends in the Netherlands introduced me to Claire because they said they “knew we would like each other” plus she had a newborn while I was pregnant. Fast forward 4 years, and Claire and I are very good friends. We chat weekly, and our girls (hers is 4, mine is 3) have been pen pals sending little packages back and forth since my daughter was born! Plus Claire has been married to her husband 10 years also, and her husband is an electrician just like my husband. Pretty neat!

Because we have had Ireland on our radar for a while now, we have done a lot of research on how we best wanted to map out our trip thru Ireland.  We will be in Ireland for a total of 15 nights. At first we thought we wanted to cover both Ireland and Northern Ireland because we do have 2 full weeks on the ground, but after considering it we decided just to cover Ireland so that we can really enjoy this experience with our daughter instead of spending a good portion of our time in a car. Northern Ireland is still on my list for the future, and I hope one day we get to experience it as well!

Here is our itinerary! I will be blogging about each destination along the way so be sure to check back in for weekly Ireland posts starting mid April and all of our favorite kid friendly tips!

You can see our itinerary mapped out on the map above! 🙂

1.) Dublin: We will be in Dublin for 2 nights, and we have these items on our list: Trinity Library & Book of Kells, Guinness Storehouse, Jameson Distillery, Hamley’s Toy Store, Picnic & Playground in ST. Stephen’s Park. For eats we plan to pay a visit to Brazen Head(Ireland’s Oldest Pub), Butler’s Chocolate Cafe, and Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, plus several more! 🙂 We also may throw in a Vikings Splash Cruise depending on our mood.

2.) Powerscourt: National Geographic named Powerscourt Garden as one of the world’s top 3 gardens! You can read about it here! I am so excited about this day trip. Powerscourt waterfall is Ireland’s highest waterfall. There is a playground next door to the waterfall. Then this estate boasts the main house with a tea room, the walled gardens with Avoca Cafe and 2 golf courses. Our daughter is a huge fan of flowers and with plenty of room to run around I think this is going to be a favorite of hers!

3.) Kinsale: This historic port and fishing town is the jumping off point for the Wild Atlantic Way. We plan on meandering the brightly colored streets of Kinsale, visiting the fort, and the local playground.

4.) Killarney: We will be making Killarney our base for 5 nights as we explore Killarney National Park and the surrounding areas. We will be staying at the Aghdaoe Heights Resort. Our itinerary while in Killarney includes day trips to Dingle to see Fungi the Dolphin & Inch Beach, Ballybunion to play golf at the old course for my better half, Killarney National Park & The Gap of Dunloe, and Kenmare and Killarney townships. I will be covering each of these under a separate blog post so tune back in! 🙂

5.) Dromoland Castle: I did not feel we could come to Ireland without experiencing a real Irish castle! I selected Dromoland once I discovered this castle is part of “Adventures by Disney” itinerary.  This prompted me to do some research, and discovered how many activities are present at Dromoland for little ones. We will be participating in the falconry walk, the teddy bear picnic, and exploring the massive grounds of this 15th century estate and castle!

6.) Cliffs of Moher: I am nervous about the Cliffs of Moher with a little one so I will be sure to catalog all of my tips/experiences afterwards but we are all excited to experience this sheer magnitude and beauty of this natural phenomenon!

7.) Galway: We will be staying in Galway for 3 nights on a HOUSE BOAT! The house boat was my husband’s dream so he took care of those arrangements! TBD if it is a good experience! 🙂 In Galway we will be slowing down a bit before heading back home. We plan on enjoying the local scene while visiting lots of eateries including Dough Brothers, Morans on Weir, The Pie Maker, Galway Bakery Company, Gourmet Tart Company, and of course hitting up the playground in Eyre Square and visiting Claddagh Jewelers the home of the authentic claddagh ring!

8.) Bru na Boinne: Our last stop in Ireland on our route back to Dublin will be Newgrange. Newgrange is a World Heritage Site, and predates the pyramids & Stonehenge. It is a 5,200 year old Stone age passage tomb.

We will be jet setting to Ireland in 2 weeks, and I can’t wait to share our adventures with you in the coming weeks! Please comment if you have any suggestions for us before we embark on this adventure! I would love to hear from you!

xx, Kristin