I traveled to Ireland for the first time this summer and spent a week exploring Dublin and Cork County. What was the highlight of my trip, you ask? Easy! Visiting the colorful and historic port town of Kinsale. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Kinsale. I stepped off the bus from Cork City, (which takes less than an hour) walked for about five minutes, and quickly discovered the most vibrant little buildings. This quaint, village-like town boasts many independent bookstores, coffee shops, restaurants, boutique clothing, antiques… you name it! It was an overcast day but that didn’t matter with such colorful surroundings.
I’ll admit, I originally decided on visiting Kinsale because I heard so many amazing things about their restaurants, and more specifically, their seafood. Lucky for me, Kinsale Food Tours was founded about a year ago by the lovely Suzanne Burns who spent the afternoon showing us exactly why foodies must visit Kinsale.
We learned that Kinsale was originally a Norman walled town which quickly became a thriving fishing port. But overtime, fishing was usurped by tourism which isn’t very surprising to me. The beauty, history, architecture, and fresh sea breeze of Kinsale easily draws tourists every year. Kinsale has now evolved as a world class gastronomic delight thanks to the many delicious eateries and fine dining restaurants in town. Suzanne’s goal for the afternoon was to share the stories, scenery, seafood, and tasty treats that Kinsale has to offer. Spoiler alert: she succeeded in every way.
A typical Kinsale Food Tour lasts around two hours, but we decided to add on an extra hour for a foraging tour which Suzanne also offers her guests if they are interested. It costs extra but is absolutely worth it if you want to escape the town by car and see some of the beautiful landscape just a few minutes away. But first, the food!
Our first stop was Lemon Leaf Cafe which is equally as charming on the inside as it is from the outside. I got the sense that this place is a favorite amongst the locals. At Lemon Leaf, you can expect friendly service in a relaxed atmosphere and innovative dishes with top quality locally sourced ingredients. We sampled some little (and tasty!) bites which included smoked salmon and crab on rye bread, local cheddar cheese, and rare roast beef with a horseradish-gorgonzola cheese. I also enjoyed the fresh side salad topped with their delicious in-house vinaigrette. Apart from the food, my favorite element of the Lemon Leaf Cafe was their small outdoor seating in the back which ran along a remaining part of the old Norman wall!
Food tours are not just about the food, so as we strolled to our next place, Suzanne shared bits of history and fun facts about Kinsale. She even pointed out a few details that I would have easily overlooked, like a small mural of an original advertisement for Guinness!
Our next stop was Gourmet Pantry, a delicatessen bakery that serves healthy and tasty takeaway. We were only here for a few minutes to collect our scrumptious treats before hopping in the car to one of the best picnic spots in Kinsale. You’ll discover Sandy Cove only about a 10 minute drive away from the town center, although it felt world’s away. Thankfully, the rain held off long enough for us to eat our lunch outside while overlooking this hidden gem. Courtesy of Gourmet Pantry, we feasted on a marinated chicken sandwich with basil pesto mayo (YUM), dried tomatoes and rocket, plus spinach and feta pastry rolls which were to die for.
With an extensive background in wildlife and zoology, Suzanne was the perfect person to forage around Sandy Cove. She pointed out some wild shellfish and several different types of edible seaweed and plants. We hopped back in the car and drove about 15 more minutes to the Old Head of Kinsale which left me speechless. I had heard many wonderful things about Ireland’s beautiful cliffs, but actually seeing them in person was truly spectacular. As much as I love food (and trust me, I adore it), this alone was worth the trip to Kinsale and I am so grateful that Suzanne was my guide.
I picked my jaw off of the ground eventually and we headed back into town to one of Kinsale’s best seafood restaurants: The Blue Haven. They were voted as one of the Top 20 Seafood Spots in Ireland so come hungry if you’re a seafood lover! I really enjoyed the nautical themed decor, especially the porthole windows, but the food was the main star. On a very Instagrammable wooden platter, we tried their chunky seafood chowder, fish and chips, possibly the freshest oyster in the world, and a baby Guinness to wash it all down. My stomach was in heaven.
We ended on a sweet note at Koko of Kinsale. This adorable shop sells handmade artisan chocolates that are made in the heart of Kinsale. If you’re thirsty, they also serve coffee, teas, and most importantly, hot chocolate and their signature chocolate shots. We got to try three delectable morsels which were all very unique: hazelnut praline, Gran Marnier truffle, and ginger honey seaweed. That last one really surprised me, in a good way, and I couldn’t resist buying a small book-like box to take home with me.
A Kinsale Food Tour costs 50 euros per person or 70 if you want to add on the foraging trip. 50 euros is on the cheaper side for a food tour (trust me, I’ve been on a lot), and the value Suzanne offers is incredible. She really helped me make the most of my day in Kinsale! I left with a full belly and a deep appreciation for the people who are so passionate about this culinary town.
Have you visited Ireland? Are you a fan of food tours? Let me know in the comments below!
*Note: I did receive 2 complimentary tickets but opinions are entirely my own. I would only ever recommend something that I actually enjoyed!