Kinsale – Ireland’s Foodie Town

a view from the hill

a view from the hill

Kinsale was one of my favorite destinations while in Ireland.  How could it not be?  It’s very picturesque and known as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland.  I will not comment on that claim, as I have not the depth of knowledge of Ireland’s food scene, but my limited exposure tells me, if its not tops, it is certainly near the summit.

If you are not driving, Kinsale has regular bus service to Cork via the Cork Airport – it takes about 20 minutes. You do not need a car to explore Kinsale proper itself, and in fact, I strongly recommend walking.  It has its fill of twisty roads filled with wonderful shops and restaurants to explore.  If you drive you might miss something.

A Bit About the Town

Kinsale is a town of about 2,500 souls in County Cork, Ireland. Located some 25 km south of Cork City on the coast near the Old Head of Kinsale, and at the mouth of the River Bandon.  Like a lot of tourist focused towns, its population swells during the summer months when tourists, and the boating fraternity descend in large numbers.
a view from our B&B

a view from our B&B

Kinsale is known for its many gourmet restaurants and leisure activities – including yachting, sea angling, and golf.  I’ll add window shopping, art gallery gazing and meandering to the list.  It also holds an annual “Gourmet Festival”.

In 1601, Kinsale was the site of a battle in which English forces defeated an Irish/Spanish contingency, led by the princes Hugh Roe O’Donnell and Hugh O’Neill.  The resulting loss led to the Flight of the Earls in which a number of the native Irish aristocrats, including the Earls of Tyrone and Tir Conaill abandoned their lands and fled to mainland Europe.

In 1690, James II of England and Ireland, following his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne, departed to France.

a blue house

a blue house

Charles Fort, located at Summer Cove and dating from 1677  guards the entrance to Kinsale harbour. It was built to protect the harbor from use by the French and

a shop to explore

a shop to explore

Spanish in the event of a landing in Ireland.  James’s Fort is located on the other side of the cove, on the Castlepark peninsula. An underwater chain was strung between the two forts across the harbour mouth during times of war to scuttle enemy shipping by ripping the bottom out of incoming vessels.  You can see the forts on both sides of the harbor and imagine what a sight it was back in the day.

When the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915, some of the bodies and survivors were brought to Kinsale and the subsequent inquest was held in the town’s courthouse. A statue in the harbour commemorates the effort.

Sites to See

Charles Fort

A view of Charles Fort at sunrise

A view of Charles Fort at sunrise

Perhaps the best-known historical attraction in Kinsale, Charles Fort, is on the road just beyond Summercove.  Charles Fort is one of the finest surviving examples of a 17th century star-shaped fort.  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.  If you run, there is a path along the water front that takes you from downtown Kinsale to the fort ~ 3 miles away.  Its a lovely walk too, with some pubs and restaurants to address and nutritional needs.  A regular bus is also available for transportation.

James Fort

looking at

looking towards the forts and the Atlantic

James Fort holds a commanding position directly across the harbour mouth from Charles Fort.  Together, these forts guarded the narrow harbour entrance.  Construction began on James Fort in 1602. It was completed in 1607. It has undergone much alteration in the intervening centuries.  This fort is mostly in ruins but is still worth a visit if your schedule permits.  Many people pack a picnic when exploring this site.

Desmond Castle & The International Museum of Wine

Our B&B was two blocks away from this place, so we were not going to miss it.  The guide was very friendly, and gave us a personal overview of the history both of Desmond Castle, and the converted wine museum it had become.

Desmond Castle was built around 1500 by Maurice Bacach Fitzgerald, Earl of Desmond, and has served many uses in its lifetime.  Between 1600 and 1601, Don Juan Aguilla used it as an arsenal when the Spanish occupied the town, prior to the Battle of Kinsale in 1601.

All signs point to wine

Dating back to 1412, Kinsale was a designated wine port, and supplied three of the five Irish ships for the Vintage Fleet.  In that year, the Vintage Fleet, consisting of 160 vessels plyed wine to and from Bordeaux.  Desmond Castle was a customs house during a portion of this time.

In the 17th century the castle became known as the “French prison” and was used for prisoners of war, mostly French sailors captured at sea.  The prisoners were ransomed or exchanged for their British counterparts. Their conditions were horrendous, with overcrowding, lack of food, starvation and disease.

During the American Revolution, crews of many American vessels were held prisoner in Kinsale in similar conditions.  The situation was ignored until the Rev. William Hazlett, a Presbyterian Minister, and from Reuben Harvey, a Quaker merchant in Cork raised awareness. Through their influence conditions were improved.   In 1783, George Washington recognized Harvey for

Serving wine  - stained glass window

Serving wine - stained glass window

“his exertions in relieving the distresses of such of our fellow citizens as were prisoners in Ireland”.

I was not sure what to expect of this wine museum, maybe something more grand, given its name “The International Wine Museum”.  The concept of the museum is not to encompass the history of wine throughout the world, but focus on the wine trade and industry from the Irish perspective.  However, once, I gleaned the intent of the museum, I was fascinated to learn how the Irish had scattered worldwide and yielded considerable influence on the international wine industry.

serving up world class food and brew

serving up world class food and brew

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 various reasons including: religious persecution and prohibitive commercial legislation. Some of them entered the wine trade and are often referred to as the “Irish Wine Geese”, and “spread their wings to the four corners of the world”.   The museum in Desmond Castle recalls the castle’s eventful history and the amazing story of the Irish links to the wine trade.  The link included in this paragraph does a great job touching on the history, the countries, and the families that made a name for themselves in the wine industry.

St Multose

St Multose

St. Multose Church

Built in 1190, this church 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 and the wooden Coat of Arms. The Southwell Memorial in Carrera marble, is the work of Arnold Quellin of London. It was in this church that Prince Rupert proclaimed Charles II as King, upon learning that Cromwell had executed King Charles I in London. Prince Rupert’s fleet was conveniently anchored in Kinsale harbor.

The Almshouse

The Almshouses were built by Sir Robert Southwell (1635-1702) who was born in the Kinsale area, and became one of the most famous and powerful men of his time.  They were built to accommodate aged, destitute people of the town and they continue to this day to provide the service envisaged nearly four hundred years ago!

Ringfinnan Garden of Remembrance

Temperance House

Temperance House

Kinsale Garden of Remembrance is dedicated to Fr. Michael Judge, Chaplain in the New York Fire Department and fire fighters, who lost their lives in New York on September 11th 2001. The Kinsale Garden of Remembrance was initiated by Kathleen Murphy, a nurse in New York City. She was born in Ringfinnan, Kinsale and her family still resides here. The first tree planting ceremony took place in November 2001.  The dedication ceremony was attended by Irish relatives of the deceased New York fire fighters. Many of the fire fighters were of Irish descent, and the garden is regularly visited by US visitors. Attached to each tree is the name of a fireman.

Foodie Destinations

A Must Mention: Fishy Fishy Restaurant

I had seen a lot of positive press about this restaurant so I was determined to check it out on our visit; I dragged my not so reluctant mom along to sample its delights – I did a good job talking this place up.  I will not pretend to be a restaurant reviewer, but based on our single meal, I’d recommend Fishy Fishy to anyone in a heartbeat.  First, let me say, I have never been struck by the service as I was by this place.  Everyone, from the bus boy to the waiter – anyone from the restaurant that we came in contact with made us feel welcome and special and relaxed.  I’ve eaten at many fine dining establishments in my time, but Fishy Fishy blew them out of the water in my humble opinion.  Especially when you consider we had unknownly showed up 15 minutes before closing time.  They never rushed us or gave us any indication that we were causing any sort of impact.  Now on their site they have extended hours, but when we visited, they were only open for lunch and closed at 4:30 pm.  We had thought to have an early dinner given the popularity of the restaurant, and got there about 4:15pm, as other diners were finishing up.
and this was just the starter

and this was just the starter

Based on my previous statements, I know you’ll not be surprised when I say, that the food was delicious, nay outstanding.  We started with the mussels; they were perfectly cooked and the waitress needed to refill our breadbasket as we wanted to capture and savor every drop of the sauce.  Rarely have I had seafood that still tasted so fresh from the sea, I can still recall the briny taste of the mussels that was perfectly attune with the spices in the broth.

Fishy Fishy fish

Fishy Fishy fish

The fish dish was superb – not overcooked, and flaked apart with the gentlest of pressure with my fork.  It was nestled on a bed of shredded cabbage, and the flavors were fresh and complimentary.  Also included were several slices of potato that were fresh and truly tasted of potato not some pasty imitation – giving further evidence that Kinsale is ideally situated in the agricultural mecca of Cork County to offer a bounty that rivals what it gets from the sea.

The real deal

The real deal

Amazingly enough after a bit of walking we managed to find room for dessert.  Given all the signs for ice cream made from the famous local bovines, how could we resist?  I sampled a Guinness ice cream, and my Mom had a Bailey’s Irish Cream flavor – both were luscious, rich and smooth.  We chose well indeed.

I have no idea what Kinsale is like at the height of tourist season, we visited in the middle of September and while we had a bit of trouble getting a room, the town was not over run with tourist.  It had a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere that was a breath of fresh air.  This is a place I would choose to visit if I wanted a few days to get away from it all and still treat my stomach with all sorts of delicious treats.

Oysters on Creamed Leeks with Guinness Hollandaise

Modified from a version by Margaret Johnson

Ingredients

24 oysters, shucked, with liquor (juices) retained
2 T butter
2T water
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, thoroughly washed and sliced
2/3 cup cream
S + P

Guinness Hollandaise:

¾ cup (1 ¼ sticks) butter
½ cup Guinness
3 egg yolks
Juice of ½ lemon

Directions

Over a small bowl, shuck oysters, strain and reserve the liquor and shells.  Add the butter and water to a medium bowl and cook heat until butter has melted. Add the leeks and cook until slightly tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cream and reduce until it thickens slightly, stirring continuously, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm in a bowl over hot water.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. In another saucepan over medium heat, combine the reserved oyster liquid and Guinness and bring to a boil. Cook until liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Transfer the mixture to a food processor. With the motor running, add the egg yolks and lemon juice, then slowly drizzle in the melted butters until the mixture thickens.

Preheat the broiler. Place the reserved oyster shells on a baking sheet. Divide the creamed leeks evenly into the shells and top with an oyster. Spoon the Guinness hollandaise sauce over each and place under the broiler until the sauce is browned and bubbling. Serve 4 oysters per person.

NOTE: Apologies for the onslaught of Irish posts, I had intended to mix it up a bit, but in the process of moving, all my materials are boxed up, so I’m going with what I can write about with photographs on hand.

Update me when site is updated

32 comments for “Kinsale – Ireland’s Foodie Town

  1. December 10, 2009 at 3:18 PM

    This makes me want to visit Ireland even more. Sigh. ;-D I’m definitely going to try that Guiness hollandaise sauce.

  2. December 10, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    More and more I want visiting Ireland and to enjoy beautiful places like this foodie town.
    The oysters with Guinness sound positively sinful :)

    Cheers!

    Gera

  3. December 10, 2009 at 5:29 PM

    Oysters, leeks, Guinness, oh my! We should organize a foodie trip to another country now!

  4. December 10, 2009 at 6:47 PM

    Thank you so much for the information on this town! Sounds like a must visit! And I simply must try this Guinness ice cream and Guinness Hollandaise sauce!

  5. December 10, 2009 at 9:39 PM

    Sounds like a delicious trip, and I just love all the colored houses and buildings-how fabulous is that! And Guinness ice cream–hmm-imagine it must have been good.

  6. December 10, 2009 at 10:09 PM

    Wow. Guinness Hollandaise? That’s damn cool! But where’s the potatoes? 😉

  7. December 11, 2009 at 4:34 AM

    MMMMM,..oysters, Guiness hollandaise,…??? What’s not to love????

    MMMMM,…a lovely trip you have made! Everytime, I come over here, I travel a bit,..Thanks for sharing!

  8. December 11, 2009 at 6:54 AM

    Well, you out did yourself. They oyster dish is out-of-this-world (or at least off-this-continent). Having just spent time in Ireland, I bemoan all the places I did not take in. That little country has so much! The history – all those battles between countries – Europe certainly was a hotbed. If it was later in the day I might have considered a Guiness to go with the post!

  9. admin
    December 11, 2009 at 9:08 AM

    Jenn – You’ll get there soon and then you’ll unleash all your creative genius in Irish interpretations – I’m standing by to see the results.

    Gera – Its a wonderful place, and I am sure you would have a great time.

    Natasha – I bet Kinsale is on your list for your visit next year.

    Romney – It was a fantastic trip, very special to share with my mom – and yes the Guinness ice cream was divine!

    Sophia – You betcha. I leave the potatoes to Daily Spud – can’t compete with her.

    Sophie – Agreed! My pleasure

    Claudia – The oysters and Guinness is an incredible combination. You’ll just have to go back for another visit, and now you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

  10. December 11, 2009 at 3:54 PM

    I’ll definitely have to visit Kinsale some day! The coastal views look amazing, and the food sounds fantastic. As for the Guinness Hollandaise, that’s a must try as well!

  11. December 11, 2009 at 4:24 PM

    Ireland is a beautiful place with lots of yummy foods.
    Love your picture of Fishy Fishy fish, so tempting.

  12. December 11, 2009 at 6:12 PM

    What a beautiful place filled with such history. I hope I get to visit one day. The fish dish is gorgeous – it has my mouth watering! And Guinness hollandaise – how divine!

  13. December 11, 2009 at 9:17 PM

    Guinness hollandaise? Talk about gilding the lily. Double yum!

  14. December 11, 2009 at 11:33 PM

    Guinness hollandaise and ice cream?? Just that in itself has me going nuts over here! Such a gorgeous place. The oysters and the fish look superb!

  15. December 12, 2009 at 6:53 AM

    Wow! What a beautiful place!!!!That fish dish looks wonderful.

  16. admin
    December 12, 2009 at 7:57 AM

    Lisa – I think you would have a blast, and of course the food is right up your alley

    Christine – thanks

    Reeni – Tasty stuff, that Guinness and so versitile too

    Carolyn – agreed!

    Lisa – they are and its good!

    Erica – thanks

  17. December 13, 2009 at 5:56 AM

    Don’t apologise for the quantity of Irish posts – each is so interesting and fun, you could just keep on writing indefinitely. I have never even heard of Guniness in a Hollandaise sauce, but now I just have to try it.

  18. December 13, 2009 at 7:23 AM

    Ah Ireland, as I have said before, I miss it, and had such fun…but do not remember it being such a food place, so I have to go back. I like these interesting place you have posted!

  19. December 14, 2009 at 5:44 PM

    Ah, Kinsale, a subject close to my heart. I’ve only eaten in Fishy Fishy once but it was enough to make me want to go back again – for both the fish and the potato that tasted of potato! I also want to check out the Fishy Fishy version of fish ‘n’ chips…

    And thanks for the compliment re: my potato prowess – I’ll have to put that on my CV 😀 Meanwhile, I need to check out that Guinness hollandaise – a definite must-try.

  20. December 14, 2009 at 5:52 PM

    oooohh, I’ve been wanting to visit Ireland for so long and all of my friends are convinced “it’ll be there anytime” meaning, we should wait until we’re old, I guess?!?! But your post has reignited my need to begin the peer-pressure once again. Looks like a lovely little town!

  21. December 15, 2009 at 10:06 AM

    Wow! Such a beautiful place! I love liqueur flavored ice cream! and chocolates and cakes LOL.

    By the way, I’ve been having this problem for a while. How can I close or minimize the side bar you have on the upper left? It covers part of the blog post and I can’t read it. :(

  22. December 16, 2009 at 2:06 PM

    I love the architecture of the houses in Kinsale, they look so cute and peaceful. And I wish I can join you to see the bottom of the dish after finishing all mussels:) It’s my favorite, but never cooked it myself.

  23. December 16, 2009 at 3:06 PM

    I beginning to think your are Irish… GREG

  24. admin
    December 17, 2009 at 6:55 AM

    Crystal – Thanks for the support, the Guinness Hollandaise sauce is most yummy, so you have to give it a try.

    Chef E – I was told mixed reviews about the food in Ireland, and for the most part very much enjoyed what we sampled.

    Daily Spud – I did say, reviews were not my think =) but serious, I’ve eaten a lot of pasty stuff and tasting one that was as delicious as that potato, well I had to note it. Your potato prowness is legend in my book, so I defer to you on this subject entirely.

    Megan – Keep the pressure on those friends, you really need to go.

    Kitchen M – It was beautiful and the liqueur flavored ice cream would definitely have gotten me in trouble.

    Zerrin – The architecture was beautiful as was all the colorfully painted houses. Those mussels were heaven, we’ll have to meet up one of these days and share a big bowl – definitely one of my favorite activities.

    Sippity – I know – sorry =) I have a lot of posts lined up, but feel a bit helpless with everything boxed up.

  25. December 17, 2009 at 9:47 AM

    Whoa, look at the size of those mussels!!! You guys hit all the great spots in Ireland. The wine museum sounds like a very interesting place. the ice cream shop, though, is what got me. Mentioning how you enjoyed Guinness and Bailey’s ice cream when you know some of your readers have never had the pleasure of savoring those things is just cruel, LouAnn. Seriously.

  26. admin
    December 19, 2009 at 9:23 AM

    Leela – I cannot tell you how good those mussels were after a long day of traveling. I am so sorry to be cruel, and in an effort to redeem myself, I included a link to a Guinness Brown Bread Ice Cream recipe, from the blogger, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Punch: http://breakfastlunchdinnerandpunch.blogspot.com/2009/06/fathers-day-guinness-brown-bread-ice.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BreakfastLunchDinnerPunch+%28Breakfast%2C+Lunch%2C+Dinner+%26+Punch%29

    Lori – You will love the place, I’m also working on a post for Cork – there’s certainly some foodie activities to take advantage of there. Have a wonderful time traveling

  27. December 23, 2009 at 6:06 AM

    So glad you shared this! My husband is headed to Dublin again for work next summer, but we won’t have much time to do a big Europe trip this time around. We are thinking of exploring more of Ireland and this is a great idea. We’ll probably go to Cork so I’ll definitely be keeping this in mind.

    I’ve been out of the loop, but I hope the move is going well. I know exactly what you mean regarding writing about what you have access to. I’ve come up with ideas only to say, wait, that resource is in a box. Ha, ha!

  28. January 7, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    I love Kinsale.. Cork is lovely as well… Oysters right out of the water and smoked salmon, brilliant on black bread with Irish Butter.

    Ah.. the travel bug!

    http://www.global-writes.com/chronological/index.html?-Token.article=121&-Token.index=1

  29. admin
    January 7, 2010 at 7:00 PM

    Cork has the wonderful English Market that was a fantastic foodie place. Traveling and food are two past times of mine that I think go best together. Great write up. I’m sensing a lover of oysters here.

  30. January 7, 2010 at 7:04 PM

    yes, I love oysters.. especially those from Maine. Very similar to Ireland in topography and people. Love of great ingredients, simply prepared and the passion that goes into preparing great foods.

    The Culinary Institute of America/ProChef, smartbrief picked up my cast iron pan article, enjoy! wb

    http://www.smartbrief.com/news/cia/search.jsp?searchTerm=cast+iron+pan&search.x=0&search.y=0&search=search+news

  31. admin
    January 8, 2010 at 8:17 PM

    Warren, I read that post – you are certainly a gifted writer. Any tips to share? =) Look forward to checking out more of your work. I added your Wild River Review to my feed. Look forward to the stories. Thanks so much for sharing all this wonderful work

  32. February 23, 2010 at 11:38 PM

    Great work! keep the posts coming… i’ll keep reading them. Thanks

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