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Kinsale Harbour

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Overview





Kinsale is situated on the south coast of Ireland about eleven miles southwest of the entrance to Cork Harbour and six miles north by northeast of the Old Head of Kinsale. It offers marina berths, moorings and the option to anchor, if a little further off, a thriving historic town.

Kinsale is situated on the south coast of Ireland about eleven miles southwest of the entrance to Cork Harbour and six miles north by northeast of the Old Head of Kinsale. It offers marina berths, moorings and the option to anchor, if a little further off, a thriving historic town.

Set into the fjordlike valley estuary of the River Bandon, and being a virtually landlocked natural harbour, Kinsale offers complete protection. The same features and scarcity of hazards outside the entrance provide for safe access in all reasonable conditions, night or day on any state of the tide.
Please note

Specific care should be taken if entering during a south to a south-easterly gale. A race may develop when the River Bandon is on an ebb-tide against-wind. This however only presents a challenge when a spring tide collides with heavy southerlies. In very heavy southerly conditions the sea tends to break on a three-metre bar in the outer harbour area close to Charles Fort. Once past this point, a vessel will obtain the complete protection offered by the inner harbour.




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Keyfacts for Kinsale Harbour
Facilities
Water available via tapDiesel fuel available alongsideGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaFuel by arrangement with bulk tanker providerSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore power available alongsideShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaInternet via a wireless access point availableChandlery available in the areaTrolley or cart available for unloading and loadingHaul-out capabilities via arrangementBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaSail making or sail repair servicesBus service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresTourist Information office availableHandicapped access supportedShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementSailing Club baseUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: harbour fees may be charged

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
3 metres (9.84 feet).

Approaches
5 stars: Safe access; all reasonable conditions.
Shelter
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.



Last modified
March 24th 2021

Summary

A completely protected location with safe access.

Facilities
Water available via tapDiesel fuel available alongsideGas availableTop up fuel available in the area via jerry cansMini-supermarket or supermarket availableExtensive shopping available in the areaFuel by arrangement with bulk tanker providerSlipway availableLaundry facilities availableShore power available alongsideShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaInternet via a wireless access point availableChandlery available in the areaTrolley or cart available for unloading and loadingHaul-out capabilities via arrangementBoatyard with hard-standing available here; covered or uncoveredMarine engineering services available in the areaElectronics or electronic repair available in the areaSail making or sail repair servicesBus service available in the areaRegional or international airport within 25 kilometresTourist Information office availableHandicapped access supportedShore based family recreation in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesAnchoring locationVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementSailing Club baseUrban nature,  anything from a small town of more 5,000 inhabitants  to a large cityScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Note: harbour fees may be charged



HM  +353 21 4772503      Ch.14 [KINSALE HARBOUR]
Position and approaches
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Haven position

51° 42.101' N, 008° 31.051' W

The position of the harbour master’s office located on the northeast pierhead alongside Kinsale Yacht Club Marina.

What is the initial fix?

The following Kinsale Harbour initial fix will set up a final approach:
51° 40.014' N, 008° 30.000' W
This waypoint is directly south of the harbour entrance, less than ¼ of a mile southwest of the Bullman Buoy and on clearing bearing of 065° of Blinknure Point open a little south of Frower Point used to clear Bulman Rock between Kinsale and Oyster Haven.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern Ireland’s coastal overview for Cork Harbour to Mizen Head Route location.

  • Enter the harbour to the south and then west of the Bulman South Cardinal

  • Steer for Charles Fort

  • Pass the three port buoys on their correct side to pass around around the Castlepark Penninsula


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Kinsale Harbour for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Castlepark Marina - 0.2 miles SSE
  2. Sandy Cove - 0.9 miles S
  3. Oyster Haven - 1.5 miles E
  4. Holeopen Bay East - 3.2 miles S
  5. Holeopen Bay West - 3.3 miles SSW
  6. Coolmain Bay - 4.2 miles WSW
  7. Robert's Cove - 5 miles ENE
  8. Courtmacsherry - 5.1 miles WSW
  9. Blindstrand Bay - 5.1 miles SW
  10. Broadstrand Bay - 5.1 miles SW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Castlepark Marina - 0.2 miles SSE
  2. Sandy Cove - 0.9 miles S
  3. Oyster Haven - 1.5 miles E
  4. Holeopen Bay East - 3.2 miles S
  5. Holeopen Bay West - 3.3 miles SSW
  6. Coolmain Bay - 4.2 miles WSW
  7. Robert's Cove - 5 miles ENE
  8. Courtmacsherry - 5.1 miles WSW
  9. Blindstrand Bay - 5.1 miles SW
  10. Broadstrand Bay - 5.1 miles SW
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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What's the story here?
Kinsale town Quay with its marinas on either side
Image: Michael Harpur


The historic resort town of Kinsale is a small commercial and fishing port with a significant military history. Set into a snaking fjordlike valley estuary, formed by the estuary of the Bandon River, the harbour is entered between Shronecan and Preghane Points. Both the outer and inner harbours cover approximately five square kilometres and it is easily identified by the river valley and the old 18th-century forts that once defended it. Located 1½ miles from the entrance the town provides good shelter.


Kinsale Harbour Office overlooking the quay
Image: Michael Harpur


All vessels should make contact with the harbour office Websitewww.irelandwide.com/port/kharbour, VHF Ch. 14 [Kinsale Harbour], Landline+353 (0) 21 477 2503 - office hour 9 to 5. Vessels arriving outside of these hours should establish contact with the harbour master as soon as the opportunity presents itself. The harbour office will be delighted to provide advice regarding the various berthing preferences.

These options include 3 marinas, the large Kinsale Yacht Club Marina and smaller Trident Marina at the heart of the town and the separately covered Castle Park Marina Click to view haven situated less than ½ a mile southward on the opposite east side of the river. There are also several anchoring opportunities. The 60 metres long Kinsale Quay is normally reserved for commercial, fishing and naval vessels but it may be possible to come alongside temporarily with the permission of the harbour office. It has depths alongside of 6.1 metres at MHWS and 2.7 metres at MLWN.


Kinsale Yacht Club Marina

Kinsale Yacht Club Marina
Image: Michael Harpur

Kinsale Yacht Club, also known as Kinsale Marina or Yacht Club of Kinsale, is a large scale 270 berth marina situated close north of the town quay in the heart of Kinsale. It holds about 50 visitor berths and can cater for vessels of up to 60 metres LOA and carrying up to 5.3 metres of water. Visitors to the marina automatically become temporary members of the club entitiling them to the use of all facilities. Kinsale Yacht Club can be contacted by VHF Ch. 37 / M [Kinsale Yacht Club], Landline+353 (0)21 477 343, E-mailinfo@kyc.ie, Websitewww.kyc.ie/ and also by Contact Form External link.


Trident Marina

Trident Marina to the north of the town quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Trident Marina is principally a yacht charter & RYA cruising school operated by Sovereign Sailing. They may also have additional berths close south of the Town Pier at the heart of the town. Sovereign Sailing can be contacted by VHF Ch. 9 [Trident Marina], Landline+353 (0)21 477 4145, Mobile+353 (0)86 858 6212, E-mailinfo@sovereignsailing.com, Websitewww.sovereignsailing.com and also by Contact Form External link.


Moorings & Anchorages

Mooring and anchoring area upriver
Image: Michael Harpur


The Kinsale Harbour office manage 6 visitor moorings that are located on the starboard side of the inner harbour just below the bridge. They are rated for 75 tons and are situated in 4 metres at low water.

Vessels may anchor above clear of the local moorings in Castlepark Marina and below the bridge that crosses the estuary where good holding in mud and shale will be found in 5 to 7 metres. Expect strong currents.

The bank opposite the town and to the north of James Fort
Image: Michael Harpur


It is also possible to anchor across the estuary from the town on the bank that extends from the head of the Castlepark Penninsula below James Fort in 2 to 4 metres.
Please note

Anchoring anywhere in the vicinity of Town Quay is prohibited as the area is used by large commercial vessels when manoeuvring. Any boat that obstructs harbour operations will be moved off.



All craft have to pay harbour dues as well as berthing/launching fees with the fee being already incorporated in all marina charges. This is approximately €10 for utilising the harbour.


How to get in?
Old Head of Kinsale
Image: Tourism Ireland


Convergance Point Use the details provided in available in southwestern Ireland’s coastal overview for Cork Harbour to Mizen Head Route location for approaches. The position of Kinsale Harbour is made unmistakable from all directions by the Old Head Of Kinsale that terminates with a lighthouse 4½ miles south by southwest of the entrance. 'The Old Head', as it is generally referred to, is a bold projecting headland, bounded by steep cliffs, that makes for an unmistakable feature of this coastline.


Passing to the east of the Old Head of Kinsale light
Image: Burke Corbett


The harbour entrance is also well marked for eastern approaching vessels by the Sovereign islets that lay outside the entrance to Oyster Haven. Most notably, Big Sovereign that is located 1½ miles east of Preghane Point and made up of two steep green-topped rocky outcrops, 22 and 28 metres high.


Bulman Rock Cardinal buoy off Preghane Point
Image: Burke Corbett


The entrance to Kinsale Harbour lies between Shronecan Point and Preghane Point, over a ½ mile east-southeast. The primary danger of the entrance is the covered Bulman Rock that has 1.2 metres over it. Bulman Rock lies ¼ of a mile south by southwest of Preghane Point and very much in the way of a vessel rounding in from the east. It is marked by the Bulman Cardinal Buoy, a South Cardinal Buoy Q + LF(W) Ev. 15 secs plus bell, moored just over 200 metres south by southwest of the rock.


Entering Kinsale Harbour with a basking shark, Bulman and Big Sovereign to
starboard

Image: Karl Gabe via CC BY SA 2.0


Local boats may be seen to pass between Bulman Rock and Preghane Point as there is a wide pass that has a least depth in excess of 6 metres between them. Nevertheless, the recommended approach for newcomers is to the south of the Bulman Cardinal and then west into the harbour.


Kinsale Harbour as seen from the north
Photo: H Kingston


Initial fix location The Kinsale initial fix will place a vessel south of the harbour entrance on clearing bearing of 065° T of Blinknure Point open a little south of Frower Point. This alignment is used to clear Bulman Rock when moving between Kinsale and Oyster Haven. From here, Kinsale Harbour will be open to the north and Charles Fort, set upon the eastern side of the entrance, will be visible between Money Point and Preghane Point. The Bulman Cardinal will be broad on the starboard bow about 400 metres away.


Charles Fort with its light on the eastern shore
Image: Michael Harpur


Proceeding northward steering for Charles Fort presents no danger. At night a sectored light is exhibited from a small white tower within Charles Fort, Lt Fl.WRG.5s, with the White sector 358°–004° leading in from the entrance.

The key danger of the western shore is within the entrance and called Farmer Rock. Farmer Rock is situated about 600 metres within Shronecan Point, the westernmost point of the entrance, and 150 metres out from the high water mark of the western shore. It uncovers at the three-quarters ebb and dries to 0.6 metres, and must be carefully avoided by vessels working in or out of the entrance.

Farmers Rock unmarked – approximate position 51° 41.000’N 8° 30.200’W


Kinsale's Outer Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


The outer and inner harbours cover approximately five square kilometres so, once inside, there is plenty of water for the cruising vessel. The harbour is largely free of dangers but the western shore must be approached with caution as it is generally shoal.


Spur Buoy off of Charles Fort
Image: Michael Harpur


Above Charles Fort, river rules apply with the best water on the apex of the bends. ​From above Money Point and particularly beyond Charles Forth the west side of the channel is encumbered by an extensive mudflat. This mudflat encircles Blockhouse Point out to a distance of 200 metres and confines the navigable channel towards the town to the east and then north shore.


Kinsale revealing itself around Blockhouse Point
Image: Simon Greig


The shoal area is marked by three port Light buoys; Spur Fl(2)R.6s, Spit Q.R and Crohogue Fl(3)R.10s. Thes buoys must be passed on the correct side to clear the mudflat. Kinsale will reveal itself around Blockhouse Point whilst approaching the second buoy, Spit Buoy, but do not be tempted to cut-in as a drying mudflat lies on the direct path.


Yacht approaching Kinsale Yacht Club Marina's Visitor 'G' Pontoon
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Berth as arranged with the harbour master or marina berthing manager.


Kinsale Marina Pontoon Plan
Image: Michael Harpur


Kinsale Yacht Club Marina's visitor berths are on the outer pontoon 'G' pontoon. A finger berth inside the marina may be available by arrangement. Trinity Marina berths as advised by the office.

Trinity Marina close north of Kinsale Quay
Image: Mark Murray via CC BY-SA 2.0


Vessels with a minimal air-draft may that can pass under Kinsale Bridge may continue upriver. Tidal ranges for the area are Springs 4.3 metres and Neaps 3.2 metres. The bridge’s clearing is 4.7 metres HAT, or from 5 metres at HW Springs to 8.7 meters LWS. A mid-tide expectation is about 7 metres.

Kinsale Bridge 600 metres above Castle Park Marina
Image: Michael Harpur



Why visit here?
Kinsale derives its name from the Irish 'Cionn tSaile' meaning 'head of the sea'. It is easily understood how it acquired its name being a perfect natural harbour that is set so close to the 'Old Head of Kinsale'.


Kinsale
Image: Tourism Ireland


Situated on the site of a monastery founded by St. Multose in the 6th-Century it became a small Norse trading centre by the 10th-Century. The Anglo-Norman De Courcy family took ownership of the area after the Norman Conquest creating the title of Baron of Kinsale or 'Kingsale' in 1181. They shaped it into a European style market town, building walls to defend the location and securing a royal charter in 1334 from King Edward II. Kinsale soon flourished becoming a coastal lynchpin for Norman trade and communications.

By the end of the 15th-Century, Kinsale was one of the most important towns on the south coast deriving considerable wealth from its large overseas trade, fishing and shipbuilding industries. Its mainstay industries were the trade of wine and salt when, at this time, its ships were recorded to be plying their trade with Bristol and France. It had also become a provisioning port for the English navy at this time. However, its relatively isolated position and excellent harbour made it attractive to pirates and freebooters in the later stages of the Middle Ages. But Kinsale’s historic standout point was to come at the dawn of the 17th-Century hen it was occupied by Spanish forces in 1601–02.

Elizabeth I
Image: Public Domain
The event that becomes known as the 1601 'Battle of Kinsale', also known as the 'Siege of Kinsale', decisively brought an end to what became known as the Nine Years' War. Sometimes also called 'Tyrone's Rebellion', this was a war that took place from 1593 to 1603. It was fought between an Irish & Spanish alliance, led mainly by Hugh O'Neill of Tyrone and Hugh Roe O'Donnell of Tyrconnell, against the forces of the English Tudor Crown. The war came about because of the steady tightening of Elizabeth I's assimilation of the Kingdom of Ireland. What coloured this assimilation, was the war between England and Spain the two global superpowers at the time.

The intense rivalry had reinforced an Anglo-Protestant identity that meant, to be a Catholic subject of Elizabeth, was to be an untrustworthy subject. As a result, the loyal Anglo-Norman lords of Ireland found that they were being excluded from privileged positions that they had become accustomed to occupying. Elevated positions such as in the army, the judiciary and the Parliament were ebbing away from them during Elizabeth reign. These were now becoming the reserve of so-called new English Protestants who are were seen to be much more trustworthy by the crown.

Irish Gaels, c. 1575
Image: Public Domain
The shift in the status quo caused a great deal of resentment in the Anglo-Norman families of Ireland. Up until this point the Lords of Ireland had become accustomed to their practical independence and felt like they were being squeezed into a tight corner. A corner where they were of a lower standing and one where privileges would increasingly be stripped from them. They felt they were being abandoned by their sovereign after been, mostly, loyal down the long years since they first conquered Ireland in the 12th-Century.

For the first time, they found much common ground and respect for the Gaelic Irish Lords. These chieftains were feeling a pernicious squeeze themselves by the increasing Tudor practice of plantation on their Gaelic territory. So they were by no means happy about the actions of Elizabeth either. The result was Ireland's leaders from all sides were set to explode. The spark that ignited discontent into open rebellion was the appointment of a Captain Humphrey Willis as sheriff of Fermanagh in spring 1593. This was the same Willis who had previously been driven out of Donegal by Hugh Roe O’Donnell in February 1592 for illicit raiding and spoiling of local inhabitants property. Hugh Maguire, Lord of Fermanagh, responded by ejecting Willis from the county, but only after he was reinforced with troops from Tyrone. Maguire then launched raids into Sligo and Roscommon and the country started to spiral into a destructive conflict.

Hugh 'the Great' O’Neill (1540–1616), 2nd earl of Tyrone
Image: Public Domain
The principal player of the war would however be Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone, who controlled the last great bastion of mostly unmolested Gaelic Ireland. He was playing the Tudor loyal subject at the time of the outbreak and was putting down the Hugh Maguire rebellion for Elizabeth. But Hugh had inherited his title when Ireland in midst of the blowback from the destructive aggression between England and Spain. He could see that Elizabeth would most likely remove him due to his religion. It also came at a time of heightened tensions when the power of the Ulster lords was threatened by the encroachment of the English administration in Dublin keen to spread her plantations into Ulster. So, when Elizabeth did not show him any particular favour for his support in putting down the insurrection, he threw in with the rebels.

So Maguire’s revolt became Tyrone’s war and because O'Neill was the preeminent power of Ulster, the ensuing war was mainly fought in his area and was mostly led by a triumphant O’Neill. He did however take the war to other parts of Ireland including Munster, Leinster and Connacht where there were sympathetic uprisings. Hugh and his associate Lords won some important early victories, such as the Battle of Clontibret (1595) and the Battle of the Yellow Ford (1598) but O’Neill’s most decisive move was to internationalize the conflict by appealing for Spanish aid in the name of the Catholic cause.

The Spanish interest was less about religion than the desire to shift the balance of global politics between Spain and England that were the two biggest powers of the time. Ireland was a means to tie up valuable English troops in a meaningless internal squabble. And any defeat they could inflict in Ireland would badly dent the English fighting spirit. All of which could draw English resources away from their allies in the Netherlands, the Dutch Estates, as well as provide another base for privateers to disrupt English and Dutch shipping. Such complications would help keep Spanish holdings, such as those in the Caribbean, more secure.


Battle of the Yellow Ford 1598
Image: Public Domain
Unfortunately, King Philip II of Spain's first fleet, known as the 2nd Spanish Armada was smashed by storms off Cape Finisterre in October 1596. Philip, by now ill himself, sent forth another armada the following year but this failed too due to storms, bad luck and ill planning. In the meantime, Elizabeth was trying to bring it to an end by calling for peace talks in 1595. These dragged out into early of the following year. When it finally looked like an agreement was about to be reached Philip changed the landscape by showing renewed interest in supporting the Irish cause and setting about dispatching another Armada. This renewed the spirit of the Irish and in 1599, the Lord Deputy of Ireland, the Earl of Essex arrived in Ireland with almost 20,000 troops, to put this down decisively. He was quickly defeated by Hugh Roe O'Donnell, son in law of Hugh O'Neill, at Curlew Pass. Having agreed to a truce, Essex was recalled by a furious Queen Elizabeth.


Gaelic Chieftain Monument overlooking Curlew Pass today
Image: Gavigan via CC BY 2.5


But by the time King Philip of Spain could play his hand and get his fleet to Ireland, the English were already starting to subdue the rebellion. Elizabeth’s newly directed George Carew, who was appointed treasurer at war in Ireland in 1599, was making up for the poor training and field engagements by a scorched earth policy. They established a policy of burning the houses and crops and carried away the livestock of the Irish population so they would go hungry. The plan being, that the resultant famine and disease would sap the will of the Irish population to fight. Although harsh, it was a highly effective strategy and by the time of the arrival of the Spanish ships at Kinsale, in 1601, the Irish were coming to heal. Sir George Carew was already subduing Munster, and O’Neill was under severe pressure from Lord Deputy Mountjoy, the assigned Lord Deputy of Ireland, commanding the Crown's forces.

Philip II of Spain
Image: Public Domain
The Spanish expeditionary force was roughly 3,500 strong and led by the respected veteran soldier Don Juan del Águila, known in Spain as 'the man born without fear'. The rebel forces made plans to move southward to link up with the potential war-winning troops. But on hearing of the Spanish landing, Charles Blount and Lord Mountjoy risked the security of the Pale to beat the rebels to the Spanish landing grounds. They then drew themselves up an order of battle before them. Pinned down by a vastly superior English force and knowing that O'Neill and his allies were coming to relieve them, Águila decided to barricade themselves within the walls of Kinsale. Lord Mountjoy settled in outside with an army of 11,800-foot soldiers under his command as well as 857 cavalrymen. His forces constantly probed the Spanish lines in the hope of breaking through or drawing the Spanish out.

The result was a dramatic three-month standoff featuring incredible displays of courage on all sides. At the outpost Castle Ny-Parke, subsequently rebuilt as James Fort, a Spanish garrison of 33 men and a boy kept an English force of 10,000 at bay for four full days before finally succumbing - see Castle Park Marina entry External link. Despite Lord Mountjoy's best hopes, the Spanish clung stubbornly to the walls of Kinsale whilst all the time ravaged by hunger, dysentery and shivering through one of the harshest Irish winters in memory. And this provided the time that they needed for the rebels to arrive.

George Carew
Image: Public Domain
O'Neil accompanied by Rory O'Donnell, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell younger half brother of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, were said to have brought 4,000 foot each while O'Donnell also fielded an impressive cavalry detachment of 3,000 men. O'Neill favoured a light-handed approach to the coming conflict whereby the English forces could be harried by small attacks and subject to the rigours of winter. But the younger more energetic O'Donnell wanted to bring on a full-scale battle as soon as possible to secure total victory. His point of view prevailed in the end and it is thought that the older O’Neill reluctantly agreed so as not to have his prudence mistaken for being faint-hearted.

So on Christmas Eve 1601, the plan was for the Spanish, when be signalled by a musket shot, to come out from their gates and attack the English from the rear and the rebel forces would press them from the front. The stage was now set for a historic victory that would see a large English army completely defeated and the war would be brought to an end. That was the plan at least and it defiantly brought events to a conclusion, if not that one exactly.

In reality, the battle Kinsale was something of a mess for the rebel forces and it went wrong from the start. First off, the Spanish failed to appear from behind their walls after the signal was given. The shot could have been lost amongst the crashing thunder and lightning, that harried the day. But it is believed by most that Águila was convinced the battle plan was an English ruse to lure them out into the open where they would be overwhelmed. So he ignored it. Despite this immediate setback the rebels still possessed a large force that was at the very least the equal of its English counterpart.

Juan del Aguila
Image: Public Domain
But unfortunately, the rebels were not able to use these forces effectively. O'Neill’s men, not O'Donald's, advanced into battle. The Irish infantry was poorly trained for pitched battle in formation against a well-drilled professional army. They moved forward in a disorganised mess jostling with one another rather than marching forward in a unified line. At a pivotal point, O'Neill then noticed that the Spanish had failed to appear at the appointed time. Having been against an all-out assault from the outset he decided to then declare tactical retreat and began to move his troops back towards their camp.

Blout and Lord Mountjoy sensed a golden opportunity and seized it with both hands sending their Calvary down upon them. The organized withdrawal ceased and turned into a route with troops fleeing in a chaotic mess to be easily slain by the Calvary. Seeing this O'Neill ordered the retreat into the marshes, hoping to mire the English cavalry in the soft land and halt the massacre. But this was to little avail and in the end, the Irish were overpowered by the English cavalry, who charged through O'Neill's men and prevented a flanking manoeuvre by O'Donnell. Here the English cavalry techniques of using the lance, as compared with the Irish method of no stirrup and overhead spear throwing was pivotal to the deadly outcome.

O'Donnell's forces had not as of yet engaged but seeing what was happening, ordered a full withdrawal as well. And that was the end of it from the rebel forces. Most of the Irish fled back to Ulster, though a few remained to continue the war with O’Sullivan Beare and Dermot Maol MacCarthy Reagh. The Irish army left the field in some disorder while the supporting Spanish army led by Ocampo tried to obstruct the English charge and the ensuing massacre of the Irish.

In the event, O'Neill's troops suffer the brunt of the casualties in the battle with O'Donnell and the Spanish escaping practically unarmed. But the Spanish now had no hope of being rescued from the trap in which they were stuck. But the exhausted English knew they couldn’t take Kinsale without appalling bloodshed. So both parties eventually agreed to terms and finally surrendering on the 2nd of January 1603. Águila’s Spaniards sailed home undefeated, their flags flying and their weapons by their sides.


Battle of Kinsale Map (English camp in the centre) 1633
Image: Public Domain


The routing of the confederate forces and the Spanish surrender signalled the total strategic defeat of the rebels. Though they did not all lay down arms immediately Hugh O'Neill managed to escape the debacle with his life. When terms were offered by the English during the peace talks of the Treaty of Mellifont, 1603, he took them and he was wise to do so. The terms Elizebeth offered, life, liberty and his earldom in Tyrone, were in fact very generous. All things considered, she would have been quite justified in executing him. Hugh had raised his banner in rebellion scorned her at the original peace talks and cost the English crown an absolutely ruinous amount of money.

The Treaty of Mellifont with O’Neill depicted surrendering to Mountjoy
Image: Public Domain
But it was for this very reason she was lenient. The war against O'Neill and his allies was the largest conflict fought by England during her reign. At the height of the conflict (1600–1601) more than 18,000 soldiers were fighting in the English army in Ireland. So it was just as understandable that Elizabeth was anxious to put an end to the conflict restore peace to the island. To take revenge on High could antagonise his many relatives. But it would not be her concern anymore as she died in 1603 and her nemesis King Phillip II had long since passed.


James Fort was constructed after the Battle of Kinsale
Image: Michael Harpur


So ended the story of the nine years war and the O'Neill role in it. Some Irish Earl's continued to fight for a time while others left for Europe to seek help in furthering their cause from the sympathetic Monarchs. Few would return and what Kinsale did most was precipitated the event known as the 'Flight of the Earls'. After the loss, most Irish Earl's simply fled the island and in a single stroke ended their historic legacy. And by abandoned their territory they left a power vacuum that loyal Tudor backed administrators could neatly slip into. This enabled the completion of the Tudor conquest and the eradication of Brehon law along with the traditional frameworks of native Irish power.


Battle of the Boyne between James II and William III
Image: Public Domain


So the battle of Kinsale saw the zenith of Gaelic military power, signalled the end of Gaelic independence and the defeat of Gaelic Ireland. This loss of Ireland's aristocracy proved to be a devastating blow. Without leaders the Gaelic population were helpless pushed back upon by rapidly expanding plantation projects. English settlers freely colonized the land in a bid to make Ireland more amiably English. Specifically, the 'flight of the northern chiefs', that including O’Neill in 1607, left Ulster leaderless and precipitated the extensive Ulster Plantation. This was the introduction of a large number of Scottish and English settlers intended upon transforming the most Gaelic part of Ireland into the most pro-English. One that ensured that there would always be a disenchanted and understandably bitter underclass. It would ensure that Ireland would enduring English rule for the next 300 years and that it would remain in Ulster. And while this wasn't the end of the rebellion in Ireland, there are plenty more rebellions to come, it was the end of organised Gaelic resistance to the enforcement of English influence in Ireland.


The fortified naval base of Kinsale in the 1800s
Image: Public Domain


After the Spanish departed the town of Kinsale the English immediately expelled all Irish inhabitants.
From that date on it became an English town where the Irish were not allowed to live until the late 18th-century. Construction work began on James Fort in 1602 to protect the town and harbour. The fort was completed in 1604 and named James Fort in honour of King James I who was on the English throne at the time of its completion.


James Fort and Charles Fort today
Image: Michael Harpur


Kinsale was to see one last flurry of international intrigue when it was the scene of the landing of James II. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when England quickly united behind William and proclaimed him as king, James II headed initially for France. He knew that his one remaining power base was in Ireland. So he started his campaign to take Ireland with the assistance of the French army from Kinsale. The county of Cork joined him in his fight for the crown in Ireland and a month later, James laid siege to Derry. His army clashed with William's at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and although a relatively minor skirmish, it led to James fleeing the battlefield in defeat. So ended his hopes of taking back his throne and James fled to France once more, departing from Kinsale. The war continued in his absence, but soon the Williamites marched south to retake Kinsale.


The outer walls of Charles Fort
Image: jpc.raleigh via CC BY SA 2.0


During the 17th and 18th centuries, Kinsale was an important English naval base that was used as a rendezvous point for large squadrons of the British Navy. It provided the ideal drop-in location for 'homeward' bound East and West Indies fleets. Its position in relation to mainland Europe, most notably being almost exactly 500 miles due north of La Coruna, ensured its continued strategic importance. This is reflected in the strength of the harbour defences, most notably its corresponding forts that guard the entrance. Charles Fort, located on the opposite water's edge at Summercove, was commissioned in 1677 and named after Charles II. An underwater chain was strung between the two forts to close the harbour mouth during times of war.


'The Gourmet Capital Of Ireland' Kinsale has a huge variety of restaurants of
every nationality

Image: Tourism Ireland


But in the years that followed, Cork Harbour overtook Kinsale as the key strategic southern port, and Charles Fort reverted to becoming an English militia depot. The fort remained in use until 1921 when the British garrison withdrew following the establishment of the Irish Free State. Shortly after, during the Irish Civil War in 1922, anti-Treaty forces destroyed the barracks and burned the buildings. It then fell out of use. It is today one of Europe's best-preserved star forts. Both forts offer fine views of the town and the estuary.


Kinsale Yacht Club Marina on the quay at the heart of the town
Image: Michael Harpur


Today Kinsale is one of Ireland's most attractive small towns, with its beautiful setting, waterfront and winding streets. Foodies flock to Kinsale, as it is well known as 'the gourmet capital of Ireland'. The town pioneered the Irish small-town tradition of fine dining and it has a host of top-grade restaurants and pubs to choose from. The general standard of dining in Kinsale and its surrounding area is exceptional.


A traditional port of call for bluewater sailors
Image: Michael Harpur


A must for provisioning is the Kinsale Market on a Tuesday morning where you will find the best quality produce, chutneys, smoked salmon, farmhouse cheeses, fresh fish, and an array of organic goodies to stock up with. It is also well worth visiting Kinsale late in the season when it hosts the Cork Fringe Jazz festival.


Kinsale offers a tranquil respite from the Atlantic
Image: Lukasz Warzecha


The historic old port is of enormous interest to visiting boaters due to its ease of access, excellent protection, and extensive services. In addition to this, the town’s heritage and international flair never fail to delight and surprise. All this makes this very picturesque port a must stop for a coastal cruiser. Apart from the perfectly secure harbour, excellent facilities and superb dining, it remains the great point of depart for international voyages that made it the naval base of the past. And from a more modern perspective, being just twenty minutes from Cork International Airport, it is also a useful crew change-over destination.


What facilities are available?
Kinsale has two fully serviced Marinas, Kinsale Yacht Club Marina and Castlepark Marina, with visitor berths available plus moorings. All shore facilities are available within a short stroll from the quay including an internet café, a host of shops, banks, supermarkets, pubs and restaurants. Up river there are a couple of yacht boatyards where repairs may be attended to, one of which has a 40 ton travel lift. Kinsale caters for approximately 100 commercial vessels per year and as such is a port of clearance. You can clear in through the harbour master where you may subsequently be visited at the discretion of the Irish Customs officer (Cork) 021-4315422. There is a local tourist information centre at the Quay, on Pier Road, that can help you make the most of your visit to Kinsale.

Bus Eireann runs up to 15 buses a day to Kinsale town centre (50 minutes) from the Cork Bus Station via Cork Airport. There is no other public transport in the Kinsale area but plenty of taxi services are available.


Any security concerns?
The Marinas have secure entry systems and crime is minimal to non-existent on moorings.


With thanks to:
Captain Phil Devitt, previous Kinsale Harbour Master.

























Kinsale History




Kinsale




James Fort



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