Sea­side re­sort still top for tourism

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - KINSALE - Re­porter: Áilín Quin­lan

It’s no sur­prise that Kin­sale’s Old Head is the very first of the 188 Dis­cov­ery Points on the new and hugely pop­u­lar Wild At­lantic Way Pass­port.

This must-see at­trac­tion near the town is an iconic land­mark for any­one wish­ing to ex­plore Ire­land — as is the his­toric port town of Kin­sale it­self!

Whether it’s the pic­turesque har­bour lo­ca­tion that does it for you, the an­cient, nar­row wind­ing streets, the mouth-wa­ter­ing food on of­fer or Kin­sale’s many quirky, in­de­pen­dent shops, this is one town that suc­ceeds in its ef­fort to of­fer some­thing for ev­ery­one.

And it’s an ef­fort that re­ally brings great re­wards, be­cause if the last few months are any­thing to go by, sum­mer 2017 looks set to be­come a bumper sea­son for the town — ac­cord­ing to Jackie Daw­son of Kin­sale Cham­ber of Tourism and Busi­ness.

“We had a re­ally pos­i­tive start to 2017 ses­sion with a num­ber of very well-at­tended events,” she re­calls.

From the Kin­sale Pink Rib­bon Walk for Ac­tion Breast Can­cer in March to the large crowds en­joy­ing the town’s St Pa­trick’s Day fes­ti­val with its unique mar­itime pa­rade and the grat­i­fy­ing suc­cess of the Kin­sale Street Food Fes­ti­val — which was quickly fol­lowed by the al­ways-pop­u­lar Kin­sale Chow­der fes­ti­val in April — the signs are good for sum­mer.

“We’re look­ing for­ward to a full calendar over the sum­mer,” says Jackie, who says the sea­son will kick off I on June 10th with an ex­cit­ing vis­ual art ex­hi­bi­tion, Take Five, in which a group of cre­ative artists — Vivi­enne Roche, Charles Tyrrell, Kather­ine Boucher Beug, Ste­fan Sy­rowatka, and Sarah O’Fla­herty will use paint­ing, draw­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy, and sculp­ture to cre­ate an en­gag­ing vis­ual land­scape.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, which is sup­ported by Cork County Couc­nil will run un­til July 21st at the Old Mill, also known as the James O’Neill Build­ing.

Other events to look for­ward to in­clude the Kin­sale Re­gatta on the Au­gust Bank Hol­i­day: “In­di­ca­tions are al­ready good for sum­mer 2017,” says Jackie who says book­ings in the town’s ho­tels, bou­tique guest­houses and B&Bs are up on last year, while a lot of in­ter­est is al­ready be­ing ex­pressed in ac­tiv­i­ties such as sail­ing cour­ses, daily her­itage walls and har­bour cruises.

“It looks like it will be a very good sum­mer for Kin­sale,” she says, adding that the Old Head Golf Links is an­tic­i­pat­ing its busiest sum­mer in two decades of op­er­a­tion.

Shop­ping in Kin­sale is al­ways a plea­sure — stores are in­di­vid­u­ally-owned rather than be­ing sim­ply branches of in­ter­na­tional chain stores in towns and cities around the world.

What’s on sale too, is of­ten very dif­fer­ent to what you’ll see on a hum­drum high streets — shop­pers can browse a wide se­lec­tion of lo­cally pro­duced goods rang­ing from art, crys­tal and sil­ver to food.

Art gal­leries and an­tique shops pep­per its war­ren of wind­ing streets: “Kin­sale is quirky and gen­uinely Ir­ish with prod­ucts made in Ire­land — you get your hand­wo­ven scarves, your Ir­ish pot­tery, your lo­cal sil­ver and crys­tal here.

“There’s an em­pha­sis on the sale of Ir­ish prod­ucts which is some­thing that has evolved in the town over time,” says one long-term res­i­dent of the town. “Peo­ple love to walk into a shop and find them­selves speak­ing to the owner; this is a very at­trac­tive thing to do for many vis­i­tors, be­cause the re­tail world has be­come so ho­mogenised.”

For those in­ter­ested in his­tory, the Old Head of Kin­sale Sig­nal Tower, which dates from the 1804 has been re­stored and is open to the public for the past two years, while a new Lusi­ta­nia Me­mo­rial Gar­den was re­cently opened nearby to co­in­cide with the 100th an­niver­sary of the sink­ing of the Lusi­ta­nia.

Kin­sale at­tracts a healthy mix of do­mes­tic an over­seas vis­i­tors from the UK, USA, Ger­many, France and the Nordic coun­tries, Kin­sale is a must-see on the cruise-ship cir­cuit: “We also ben­e­fit from the cruise ships which come into Cobh and send buses of pas­sen­gers to Kin­sale for a day’s shop­ping and sight­see­ing,” says Jackie, who adds that the town does well through­out the year in terms of mini-breaks, ac­tiv­ity week­ends and high-end group so­cial out­ings.

“Kin­sale has great ap­peal for all ages,” she says, point­ing to the ar­rival of new busi­nesses, which have opened in re­tail and gallery spa­ces, con­tribut­ing to the over­all at­trac­tive­ness of this port town, which is al­ready renowned for its high­qual­ity restau­rants and cafes.

Lo­cal busi­nesses and busi­ness­peo­ple are do­ing well — the Kin­sale Su­per­valu won the Store of the Year 2017 award, while dur­ing the spring came the an­nounce­ment that lo­cal restau­ra­teur Liam Ed­wards, of Jim Ed­wards would hold the pres­ti­gious ti­tle of Pres­i­dent of the Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion of Ire­land for the year.

Kin­sale is a town which has, as one lo­cal said, a hell of a lot go­ing for it — and it makes the most of it all.

Its his­tory is hugely ac­ces­si­ble for vis­i­tors: guided his­tory walks from the Tourism In­for­ma­tion Of­fice be­tween April and Oc­to­ber at­tract a large fol­low­ing. They cover the town’s of­ten vi­o­lent his­tory — for ex­am­ple the Bat­tle of Kin­sale — and ex­plain the back­ground to some of its more pic­turesque street-names.

Kin­sale has strong ties to the sink­ing of the Lusi­ta­nia, — the in­quest was held in what was the for­mer court­house, now a mu­seum — while the legacy of the town’s lace-mak­ing tra­di­tion con­tin­ues to be of in­ter­est in Ire­land and abroad, at­tract­ing groups of lace-mak­ers each year.

One of the first events to take place in Kin­sale each year is Kin­sale Lace Week, held in March, which draws tra­di­tional lace-mak­ers from Cork, Kerry, Dublin, Gal­way, North­ern Ire­land, Scot­land, Eng­land and else­where . The renowned lace was made in the for­mer Mercy Con­vent which be­gan the tra­di­tion as a way to of­fer em­ploy­ment to lo­cal women from poor fam­i­lies.

At one stage 157 women were em­ployed in lace mak­ing and Kin­sale Lace was sold all over the world.

Dur­ing Lace Week last year, for ex­am­ple, a su­perbly-crafted piece of hand-made Kin­sale lace was pre­sented to parish priest Fr Robert Young, by the tra­di­tional Lace­mak­ers of Ire­land to be hung, with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing plaque, in St John the Bap­tist church in mem­ory of the lace-mak­ers of Kin­sale.

Kin­sale is a must-see place for vis­i­tors com­ing to Ire­land — and its strate­gic lo­ca­tion just 20 min­utes’ drive from Cork Air­port, makes it well-placed for vis­i­tors. Let’s not for­get that the town is also lo­cated at the very be­gin­ning of the hugely pop­u­lar Wild At­lantic Way!

■ Kin­sale Tourist Of­fice : 021 4772234.

Kin­sale, where the ex­cel­lent of­fer­ing of fine food, fun at­mos­phere and great re­tail is poised to cre­ate a real buzz this sum­mer.

Pic­tures: Dan Line­han

Vis­i­tors look­ing at brochures at Kin­sale Tourist In­for­ma­tion Of­fice.

Jackie Daw­son


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