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“A must”

Kinsale Heritage Walks
Ranked #2 of 14 Tours in Kinsale
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Dermot Ryan’s Kinsale Heritage Town Walks, rated as “The ideal way to see Kinsale and learn its history” by the Irish Times, uses a unique blend of old photographs and maps to show the heritage of this special town. Daily from the Tourist Office, 10.30 and 3 p.m., lasting an Irish hour, Hail, Rain or Snow ! Adults, 5 Euro, Children free, Special group rates.
Reviewed June 19, 2014 via mobile

What an enjoyable hour. Very interesting and informative and Dermot made it entertaining too. Definitely recommend him.

1  Thank Diane P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"dermot ryan"
in 73 reviews
"town walk"
in 16 reviews
"walking tour"
in 39 reviews
"great tour"
in 14 reviews
"local knowledge"
in 5 reviews
"beautiful town"
in 7 reviews
"tourist office"
in 8 reviews
"great insight"
in 3 reviews
"ireland's history"
in 3 reviews
"great walk"
in 3 reviews
"come alive"
in 3 reviews
in 25 reviews
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98 - 102 of 248 reviews

Reviewed May 31, 2014


The soft warm drizzle barely kissed our cheeks as we walked the shoreline in the early morning. Oystercatchers stalked the water’s edge in gangs plundering the shellfish population. Sea anemones gestured seductively in the rockpools that lay among the weed festooned rocks. A sudden movement caught our eye up on the field above the tide line. A hare streaked across the strand effortlessly, suddenly stopping and staring at us. Now gone into the mist, or was it a fairy apparition?
Even now the sun is trying to show its face and by the time we’ve had breakfast the mist will be burned away for another day of warmth. And talking of food. . .
Originally a medieval fishing port, historic Kinsale, 'Head of the Sea,' is now known as the Culinary Capital of Ireland. Located on the south west coast of Ireland, Kinsale is full of character and charm.
In the 17th and 18th centuries Kinsale was an important English naval base, and it still has a distinct Georgian flavour. With its yacht-filled harbour, brightly painted cottages, bow-windowed houses and displays of flowers in pots, tubs and hanging baskets, it marks the beginning of scenic West Cork, and well deserves its booming tourist industry. Only 18 miles from Cork, it is ideally placed as a deep-sea angling and yachting centre.
Not only does this town lay claim to being the oldest town in Ireland, but it is also renowned internationally for the number and quality of restaurants in the town. It is hailed as the gourmet capital of Ireland, with no shortage of pubs and restaurants to suit every taste. However relaxed or active you wish to be on your holiday, Kinsale allows you to take things at your own pace.

The story of the Irish Wine Geese is fascinating. Their roots lie in the flight of the "Wild Geese", the soldiers who fled from Ireland to France after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691. During the 18th and 19th centuries many thousands followed these soldiers for political and economic reasons. Sometimes they travelled on the French ships that smuggled wine into the west coast of Ireland, described on the ships' manifests as "wild geese", evoking the lonely calls of birds travelling winter skies.

Perhaps the best-known historical attraction in Kinsale, Charles Fort is on the road just beyond Summercove. It is open all year, and regular guided tours are available. Charles Fort is one of the finest surviving examples of a 17th Century star-shaped fort, and much of the construction begun in 1678 remains. The fort has two enormous bastions overlooking the estuary, and three facing inland. Within its walls were all the barracks and ancillary facilities to support the fort's garrison. The fort continued in military use until 1922.

Desmond Castle was built in about 1500 by Maurice Bacach Fitzgerald, Earl of Desmond. It has had many uses. In 1600 and 1601 it was used as an arsenal by Don Juan Aguilla during the Spanish occupation of the town which lasted for 100 days prior to the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 that was a turning point in Irish history. For over 300 years it was a garrison town and port of consequence, leaving a legacy of Georgian and Victorian architecture.

Kinsale was a designated Wine Port, and a supplier of ships for the Vintage Fleet as far back as 1412. In that year, the Vintage Fleet of some 160 vessels plying to and fro from Bordeaux included five Irish vessels, three of which were from Kinsale, and two from Dublin.

In the 17th century the castle became popularly known as the "French prison" and was used for prisoners of war, most of whom were captured at sea. The majority of the prisoners were French, but many nationalities were ransomed or exchanged for their British counterparts. Some prisoners were housed in nearby huts, and the conditions were grim, with overcrowding, lack of food, starvation and disease. A disastrous fire in 1747 killed 54 prisoners.

During the American war of Independence, the crews of many American vessels were held prisoner in Kinsale in poor conditions. Help came from Rev. William Hazlett, a Presbyterian Minister in nearby Bandon, and from Reuben Harvey, a Quaker merchant in Cork. Through their influence conditions were improved. In 1783, George Washington thanked Harvey for "his exertions in relieving the distresses of such of our fellow citizens as were prisoners in Ireland".

St Multose Church was built in 1190, and has remained in continuous use to the present day. Some interesting features include an inscription in Norman French, the Easter sepulchre, the Baptismal font, the carved memorials, and the reredos from the Galway chapel as well as the wooden Coat of Arms.

The Old Courthouse and Regional Museum dates from about 1600, with additions in 1706 that included the frontage with loggia on the ground floor.

The Almshouses were restored in 1965-1970. They were built to accommodate eight aged destitute people of the town and they continue to this day to provide a service envisaged nearly four hundred years ago!

The "Wild Geese" was the name given to the thousands of families who migrated from Ireland from the 17th to the 19th centuries due to religious persecution, violation of treaties and prohibitive commercial legislation. Some of them entered the wine trade and are often referred to as the "Irish Wine Geese". Their descendants can be found in the four corners of the world. Desmond Castle was restored by the Office of Public Works and now houses the International Museum of Wine which opened in 1997. The exhibition uses a variety of media to recall the castle's eventful history and the amazing story of the Irish links to the wine trade which stretch back to Irish mythology and continue into the present day.

In 1997 a group of local restauranteurs and historians joined forces with the Irish Office of Public Works to set up the International Museum of Wine in Desmond Castle, once Kinsale's customs house, recording the travels of the Wine Geese to destinations as far afield as California and Australia. The museum is also home to the Order of the Wine Geese, which has members around the world linked through newsletters, visits and events in Kinsale.

Seafood of course is one of the main dishes on this warm seaboard that teems with an abundance of fish. Try the Mussels Mariniere cooked in white wine with a little garlic and parsley, the juices mopped up with fresh crusty bread from the local bakery. Or the langoustines seared over charcoal, the gentle smell of the charred shells anticipating the feast to come. And wild Atlantic salmon caught 20 miles up the river having spent three years across the ocean in the Sargasso Sea, and now responding to the timeless urge to breed in the place it was spawned. Wrapped in soaked newspaper, (the Irish Times of course), stuffed with herbs grown on the hillside near Old Kinsale Head, and steamed to perfection over the very hottest of charcoal, the succulent flesh falls off the bones. Washed by the warmth of the Gulf Stream this little town plays host to a variety of plants not thought of as belonging here. There is a warmth in the air that is almost Mediterranean.

At night, sit out in the balmy air that drifts in from the warm waters of the South, which started down near the Equator and washed the shores of Mexico. Kinsale is not just a village on the coast. It is highly cultured with a sophisticated and discerning population. Old Kinsale Head is worth visiting to look out over the deceptive and anonymous waves to where the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915 with the loss of a thousand lives.

Thank james_m186470
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 18, 2014

The walking tour of Kinsale not only added perspective of the local history, but really the history of Ireland overall. Even with the rain that day (he even had extra umbrellas for people) it was informative, though the rain, heavy at times, made it less relaxing as we all tried to stay dry.
Dermot Ryan was very knowledgeable and easy to ask questions of; he was very responsive when emailing him as well to confirm a time during the off-season. Well worth the 5 Euros per person.

Thank David K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 20, 2014 via mobile

Dermot Ryan's walking tour is well worth taking part in :-) For only 5€ you get the most informative, interesting & funny tour of Kinsale. Not only do you get to hear about & see historical facts, you also get an email after the tour which is full of information & pictures. Dermot is extremely welcoming, down to earth & open to questions. It really is a fantastic tour. A must for anyone who wants to learn about the history of Kinsale in a relaxed, friendly way!

Thank Beantin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed April 11, 2014

Dermont Ryan is the most knowledgeable historian of Kinsale, Ireland ever! Not only was the tour full of incredible wonderful history and events it was so personalized. He even provided umbrellas if needed. The best was even after the tour Dermont took time to another day to sit with me to discuss the history of Kinsale for a book I am writing. He gave me personal one on one time and supplied data and materials for my research. Thank you so much!

Ben Roberts

Thank KeywestBen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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