This guide is for the traveler who wants to slow things down. It’s about living in the moment and immersing yourself in the culture and community you are staying in. You will not find any whirlwind itineraries or information on crowded tourist sites here. There are no tips on crazy nightlife or recommendations for fancy hotels and over-priced restaurants.
Instead, you will find a thoughtful guide with 6 simple characteristics that make a destination like Kinsale slow travel-friendly. That means exploring stress-free and living like a local. We will give you suggestions on things like local art and food classes, community events, easy day trips, fresh food markets, and so much more. We have researched, enjoyed, and slow traveled to all the destinations in our guides.
For a more in-depth look at what we look for in a slow travel destination, check out our post here .
So whether you are new to slow traveling or a slow travel veteran, being fully present and taking it slow will be the most rewarding travel experience you will ever have.
We call it traveling like a tortoise and not a hare —”It’s all about the journey and not the finish line” and you can read it all here!
Kinsale is one of the most colorful towns in Ireland. Located in County Cork, it explodes with brightly colored buildings at every turn. It’s also situated perfectly for exploring the Wild Atlantic Way. You will never run out of things to do in Kinsale in fact, check our “6 Cool Things To Do in Colorful Kinsale” post for some ideas. It definitely is on our Top 5 list of perfect slow travel destinations.
You can slow travel anywhere, but the smaller towns with a population of less than 10k seem to be more suited to the lifestyle. As serious slow travelers, we don’t like to get bogged down with traffic and crowds so checking the population is important to us before we decide on a destination.
Kinsale is the perfect sized town with just over 5000 people. It definitely picks up in summer with tourists and visitors but it’s nothing like the crowds that Dublin would have in the summer. We found March to be a perfect time of year to visit Kinsale since the weather is good, it’s before peak season, and the streets are still pretty quiet.
Sense of Community
Feeling like you are part of the town is one of Kinsale’s most outstanding features. There are plenty of places to congregate for some good ‘craic‘ with friendly locals.
Our top choice for socializing in Kinsale is the local pub. You’ll always find a townsperson who wants to ‘gab’ and share their story. We have met so many wonderful people at the local watering holes in Kinsale. Most pubs are family-friendly until about 8 or 9 pm, but if that’s not your thing–have no fear we have other suggestions for you.
1. Daltons Bar
Dalton’s is definitely our number one pick for the best place to chat with a friendly stranger. Their Traditional Irish Music Nights are the real deal and not to be missed! It is a cultural experience you will never forget.
The young and the old gather together in a booth with their instruments and play some great folk songs. The bar is small, so you have to get their early to get a seat and make sure you ‘bone up’ on your Irish Folk lyrics before you go because everyone sings along.
During the peak season, they have Trad Sessions on Mon, Tues and Thursday nights.
(via Rado Likar)
Location: 3 Market Street, Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland
Hours: 5 pm- 11:30 pm
Website: Facebook Page
2. Kitty Ō Sē’s
Another great place for fun and locals is Kitty Ō Sē’s, which is just down the street from Daltons. Trad Sessions are some of the best community events and we are always on the look-out for a good one. Kitty Ō Sē’s has some good trad sessions nightly and if you’re hungry they also serve food. It’s larger than Dalton’s with a livelier crowd.
Location: 1 Pearse Street, Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland
Hours: 10:30 – 11:30pm
Website: Facebook Page
4. Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre
Obviously, there are other ways to meet people in Kinsale beside the town pub. How about doing something creative? Art classes are always a great community event with mostly the local folks. One place to go is Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre. It is located about 1.5 miles just outside of the town center in the Ballinacurra House Stables. It not only offers pottery classes, but mosaics, jewelry, and glass fusing also.
Location: Olcote, Ballinacurra, Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland
Hours: Check website for classes
Website: Kinsale Pottery and Art Centre
5. Kinsale Gourmet Academy with David Rice
And for all you foodies, Kinsale also offers cooking classes with award-winning Chef David Rice. The school is located on the same grounds as the pottery center in Ballinacurra House.
Location: Ballinacurra House, Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland
Hours: Check online for class schedule
Website: Kinsale Gourmet Academy
6. Community Events
Most communities have annual events, and Kinsale is no exception. Make sure to check out the Kinsale Tourist Office online calendar like the example above for festivals, street fairs, walks, and more. Or you can visit them in person at- Emmet Place, Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland.
A few big events are the:
- Guinness Kinsale Jazz Festival held on the October bank holiday weekend Oct. 25-28 2019
- Kinsale Gourmet Festival – October 11-13 2019
Not only is slow travel good for the mind, but also for the body. Living like a local also means cooking your own meals whenever possible.
It seems crazy, but you learn so much about a community in the town supermarket. You get to see all their native foods, the difference in names for things, calculating measurements you’re not used to, the language, communicating with the checker…I could go on and on. We always cook on the road and have a post on slow travel cooking tips and gear guide here.
In addition, to supermarkets, other resources you may need are laundry services, shops, and even a free co-working hub!
1. SuperValu Kinsale
When we walked into the supermarket for the first time we were so surprised. The outside does not do it justice, but the inside is beautiful with an excellent fresh produce section, which is important to us since we are vegans. It’s minutes from the center of town and definitely walkable or you can drive over and park at the underground parking garage.
Location: Kinsale Quarter, New Road, Kinsale, Co. Cork, P17 RY11
Hours: Mon-Sat: 8 am to 9 pm, Sunday and Bank Holidays: 9 am to 9 pm
Website: Facebook Page
2. Laundromat or Laundrette
We usually have a washer and dryer in our Airbnb but occasionally we don’t. So we are always happy to find a laundromat. Luckily, in the parking garage of Supervalu there is a very large washer and dryer. You could throw a load in before you go upstairs to shop for food or just sit in your car, or even comeback. I am sure your laundry would be perfectly safe if you left it.
3. Co-Work Hub
For all you bloggers and working people, Kinsale actually has a Co-Work space with good Wi-fi that is free to use! You just need to bring your own device. It is located in the Newport Lounge of the Blue Haven Hotel.
Contact Kinsale Business Hub for more info!
Locations: Blue Haven Hotel Newport Lounge, 3/4 Pearce Street, Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland
Hours: Opens at 7:30 am
Website: Kinsale Business Hub
4. Tourist Office
The Kinsale Tourist Office is a great resource for things to do in Kinsale. More importantly, it’s the starting point for “Don and Barry’s Historic Stroll” made famous by Rick Steves. It’s a great tour, very informative and a good way to get your bearings when you first get into town.
Location: Emmet Place, Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland
Hours: March-Oct Daily at 11.15 a.m Mon-Sun and May-Sept 9.15a.m Mon-Sat
Obviously, drivability only applies if you have a car. But if you do, then you want to make sure you stay in an area where you can get to the main roads easily and quickly. We have stayed in many small towns, and have learned the hard way to check the map for main highways before we stay. Our rule is we want to be on the main road driving at least 40 mph within 15 minutes.
Kinsale gets an A+ for drivability because the main roads are minutes from the town center. Many are beautiful single carriage roadways with 50 mph speed limits that will eventually lead you to dual carriageway somewhere along the way. It’s easy to get out of town if you want for day trips from Kinsale.
Proximity To Other Areas
Proximity to other areas just means how close are you to your interests, like castles, beaches, shopping, towns–whatever it is you like to do. Kinsale is such a great home base for so many things. As slow travelers, we don’t go anywhere farther than 2 hours away so that we can take our time, enjoy our stops, picnic along the way and return before dark. Luckily Kinsale has so many great day trips and sights nearby.
1. Wild Atlantic Way
First and foremost is the Wild Atlantic Way, . It’s a 1500+mile coastal drive that takes you through 9 counties and 6 regions. It starts (or ends) at the Old Head of Kinsale. It’s a beautiful scenic drive with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. There are clearly marked blue signs with little wavy lines all along the way, and a great online website for you to plan your trip. It’s a one-way drive, so you could do the bottom section near Kinsale in different snippets. You could return to Ireland and plan a whole trip around the Wild Atlantic Way if you wanted!
2. Rock of Cashel (1.5 hours from Kinsale)
I am a bit torn on Rock of Cashel located in Killarney. Mike liked it, I felt it was a bit touristy but since it’s 50/50 I am including it. The views and grounds are gorgeous. You do have to park in a paid lot at the bottom of the hill and hike up a bit. It’s a busy town and busy tourist site.
Location: St. Patrick’s Rock of Cashel, Cashel, County Tipperary
Hours: Opens at 9am daily, closing time between 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm depending on time of year
Admission: Adult : €8.00, Group / Senior : €6.00, Child / Student : €4.00 , Family : €20.00
Website: Heritage Ireland
3. Cobh (1 hour from Kinsale)
Cobh is a seaport town on the south coast of County Cork. It definitely has enough to do to spend the day there. It has the distinction of being the single most important emigration port in Irish history. Six million people emigrated between 1848 to 1950, 2.5 million were from Cobh. It’s also the last port of call for the Titanic. You can follow the history of the emigration at the Cobb Heritage Centre which we found very interesting, or visit the Titanic Experience for more.
There’s St. Colman’s Cathedral, which has a stunning view of the harbor. And don’t miss the colorful homes that are nearby. You will see that snapshot frequently on Instagram.
There is a choice of taking the cute little ferry across the river or going around. We chose to take the ferry, because, “What’s the hurry”, right?! It’s 6 Euros and takes 5 minutes. I don’t think it shortens the driving time, but it’s a beautiful ride over.
4. Blarney Stone (1.5 Hours from Kinsale)
The Blarney Stone lives at Blarney Castle in Killarney, it is a busy tourist site which usually means crowds, but it was manageable for us. It could have been the weather or time of year or the fact that the grounds are pretty spread out but it wasn’t bad.
Everyone knows the big draw is kissing the Blarney Stone, which has been kissed by thousands maybe even millions of people. That’s a whole lot of germs! The thought of that was a little bit unnerving for me, so I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. I kept going back and forth between, “NO WAY” and “Alright maybe”……If you want to know whether I kissed the stone, watch our silly IGTV video here!
I think it’s worth the visit if the time of year is right and it is not crowded.
Location: Blarney, County Cork, Ireland
Hours: 9 am to anywhere from 5 pm to 7:30 pm depending on the time of year (check website)
Website: Blarney Castle
5. Kenmare (1.5 hours from Kinsale)
Kenmare is a small town with a population of fewer than 2,000, but if you take your time it’s a nice day out. There are shops, pubs, restaurants–and surprisingly we found a great vegan restaurant called Bookstop Cafe that was delicious. It’s rare for us to find a vegan restaurant in such a small town so that really sold us on the place. You will also find a small stone circle that’s worth a visit and they have lots of options for outdoor activities like horseback riding and kayaking.
There are lots of places to stay in Kinsale–from Airbnb‘s to boutique hotels. We have stayed in 2 great Airbnb’s our last 2 trips like this one below which was right in the town center. It had a great kitchen and living area.
Kinsale does have issues with parking though, it would take us a few minutes of driving around to find a spot every night.
But if you would rather go for the unique and unusual how about a real Mongolian yurt! It has an outdoor bath and shower with a wood-burning stove for hot water.
Then there’s the skinny house at just under 10 feet wide.
How about this old fisherman’s hall from the 1800’s? It’s one of 8 most historic buildings in Kinsale.
There’s also Dempsey’s Hostel for the budget-minded traveler.
Finding a place to stay for the slow traveler will not be a problem in Kinsale. Just check sites like Airbnb/Kinsale with over 200 listings for beds, or the Kinsale Tourism site for links to guest houses, B and B’s, and hotels in the area.
Kinsale is one of our favorite places to stay in Ireland because it’s so warm and friendly and always feels like home to us. They have everything you need there to slow travel. Definitely, think about putting it on your list for your next slow travel adventure!