Great things to do in Kinsale

Helen Kelleher looks at some fun family activities on offer in Kinsale
Great things to do in Kinsale
Out for a day's sailing in Kinsale are Abbey, Lauren and Jess Lalor. Picture: Dan Linehan

Having watched everything on Netflix and tired of all of the mindless scrolling on mobile devices, what an absolute joy it was to dive into ice-cold seawater.

A view of the Marina and Yacht Club in Kinsale, Co Cork. 	Pictures: Dan Linehan
A view of the Marina and Yacht Club in Kinsale, Co Cork. Pictures: Dan Linehan

Getting out on the water is the absolute best medicine after four months of being cooped up. No place better than Kinsale where there are no less than three marinas, a yacht club, two outdoor activity centres, boat and yacht hire, harbour cruises, beaches, sailing, kayaking, fishing and scuba diving for you to enjoy.

We took a family fun day sailing with skipper James Lyons who runs Sovereign Sailing (next to the Trident Hotel). Normally family bookings would constitute a small part of James’s business but with corporate bookings and international charters all cancelled James decided to offer more family excursions this year.

Lily Casey in a kayak enjoying the Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre summer camps in Co Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane
Lily Casey in a kayak enjoying the Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre summer camps in Co Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane

He is delighted with the uptake as more families are enjoying day trips with some even booking five-day sailing courses (€750 per person for each member of the family, and get to live on the boat and crew up with a skipper each day).

We did the half day trip which was very enjoyable. You can get as involved as you would like in the sailing, learn some skills, help to work the sails or simply sit back and enjoy the stunning scenery and if you are very lucky you might spot dolphins or whales.

Being a dad himself James loves to get the kids involved. A few minutes after we cast off Abbey (9) found herself steering a 40ft cruising yacht ‘Fore Runner’ past Charles Fort on her left and James Fort on her right. It was a terrific few hours on the water. We all got to feel the excitement and power of the wind in the sails and later we were able to anchor at Sandycove, have a swim and enjoy a picnic on deck.

James has a choice of five yachts – 27ft open yachts or larger 40ft cruising yachts. Cost is anywhere between €185 to €350 to get a guided three-hour sailing experience – all ages and abilities welcome.

For lunch it is a real treat (and we all need lots of treats right now) to pre-order a glorious picnic packed specially for you at Gourmet Pantry, Francis Provisions or Old Bank House (pre-order so they can have it ready for you).

This summer more than ever we are enjoying the great outdoors and appreciating what we have on our doorstep. It doesn’t matter if it rains or if the sun shines we want to have fun and there is a lot of fun to be had in Kinsale – everything from terrific coastal or historical walks, forts, art galleries, horse riding, golf, sea-angling, clay-bird shooting, pottery workshops, food tours, wine tasting, shopping, arts and crafts.

Helen Kelleher with her daughters Jess, Lauren and Abbey and skipper James Lyons, heading out for a family day of sailing with Sovereign Sailing Trips in Kinsale, Co Cork. 	Picture: Dan Linehan
Helen Kelleher with her daughters Jess, Lauren and Abbey and skipper James Lyons, heading out for a family day of sailing with Sovereign Sailing Trips in Kinsale, Co Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

Harbour cruise

One of the first things I did with my mum when the restrictions were lifted was to take her on the 50-minute harbour cruise which is always very enjoyable and offers panoramic views back into the town and the harbour. Jerome the guide gives a potted history of the town (adults €14, children €6 each or family bundle (two adults and two kids) €32 and under 2s are free. You can pre-book on www.kinsalehabourcruises.com. A lovely way to get to know Kinsale!

Beach outings

Families are enjoying The Dock beach just outside the town and if it too busy best to drive onwards to Garretstown and Garylucas where there is lots of space.

Both beaches are excellent for watersports. Check out www.pukanasurf.ie and/or contact www.atlanticoffshoreadventures.com for rentals, lessons plus kids camps (at time of going to print they still had availability for two-hour kids camps in August).

If you don’t have your own equipment you can rent everything (all craft and equipment is thoroughly disinfected after each use including wetsuits which are also quarantined for three days).

Or, if you prefer, Kinsale Sports Store sells most of what you might need including some very trendy poncho-towels so nice to pull on after a swim.

Outdoor education

Adults and kids galore are enjoying kayaks as well as stand-up-paddleboards (SUP) offering that lovely opportunity to just head out on the water and have a sense of getting away from it all that we could only dream of in the last few months.

If you want to learn the skills, then Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre (KOEC), Oysterhaven Holiday and Activity Centre and Kinsale Yacht Club are busy offering courses, rentals and lessons in all watersports. KOEC also have an outdoor climbing wall, take the Leap of Faith Challenge, abseil and zip line and orienteering. Prebooking essential.

Walking routes

Ever since lockdown, we have become a nation of walkers and we appreciate more than ever the great walks in and around Kinsale – James Fort, the dunes at Garretstown beach, Seven Heads Peninsula walks, Old Head of Kinsale Loop or Marine Park at Duggan Bridge – we are spoilt for choice.

The Compass Hill Loop Walk is an easy half hour scenic loop, about 3km long overlooking Kinsale town and harbour and the Bandon River.

Take a visit to Charles Fort at the opposite end of Kinsale in beautiful Summercove …. really is one of the most picturesque heritage sites.

You could take the Scilly Walk out of town – it starts at the Spaniard Bar and is ideal for young kids too – my three love to pick berries or wild garlic and take a rest at the bench halfway along.

The walks will take you around 20 minutes each way and you can continue on to The Bulman and to Charles Fort.

Guided tours

Visitors and locals might enjoy historical walking tours in the town – Dermot Ryan’s Heritage Town Walks 086 8267656 recently received Failte Ireland’s Covid-19 Safety Charter and Don and Barry’s Historic Stroll is open for private bookings on 0872500731.

Cycling choices

Cycling is popular and if the hills are too challenging,  you could rent an electric bike – Ruth Herman from www.wildatlanticsports.com has standard and electric bikes for hire and she will drop them to your accommodation and/or take you on a guided tour along some very scenic routes.

Check out www.kinsale.ie for information plus details on local attractions and entertainment, the Kinsale Advertiser (free and available from local businesses) and the Tourist Office. 

Instagram.com/helentkelleher Twitter @hkelleher007

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