Reporting Jay Lloyd
So this guy walks into a bar, eyeballs the taps, nods to the barkeep and says, “How do you expect to sell Murphy’s Stout, when you’ve got Guinness right next to it?”
All conversation stops, and a chorus replies, “Murphy’s is local.”
Now, this wasn’t any bar, but a neighborhood pub in the city of Cork. I was the guy. The response spells out the Irish mindset – each town and village is a world unto itself. For a unique St. Patrick’s week experience, get spontaneous, pick a town in Ireland and unwind with the locals. How about Kinsale in County Cork? – Jay Lloyd
Southeast Coast of Ireland
Kinsale is a small town with a disproportionate number of restaurants, most of them striving for gourmet status. By any other yardstick, it would be a sailing and commercial waterman town with great pubs, where salty yarns are spun and a lot of Guinness (or Murphy’s!) is tapped. In other words, it’s a fun place to be. Kinsale is known in recreational sailing circles as one of the few Irish ports where you can charter a boat for a week and enjoy leisurely cruising along a coastline studded with ancient castles. Combine sailing with seafood straight from boat to table, immaculate bed and breakfast accommodations, nearby golf and scenic seaside hiking, and you have the perfect home base for an Ireland getaway.
WHERE TO STAY
If you’re looking for a full service hotel with a commanding view of the harbor and a first rate dining room, try Actons. While St. Patrick’s week creates a buzz of activity, it’s still off season in this unique Irish town. That means you can book for about $130 a night. Plus, the hotel is an easy walk to restaurants and pubs and a short ride to golf and nearby points of interest.
Guest Houses and B&B’s that run just north and south of $100 a night for two are located around central Kinsale and just outside town. Look for a listing here.
Kinsale is very close to Cohb, the last port where the ill-fated Titanic made its final landfall. Cohb (pronounced: “cove”) was a stop for many ocean liners bound for America. My first view of Ireland was from the deck of a Holland America line ship, the Maasdam, traveling from Amsterdam to New York. Cobh is the site of an impressive exhibit of Titanic history and artifacts. Above all, the town has waterfront appeal that traces Irish seafaring history.
A short ride from Kinsale brings us to the fabled Blarney Stone. All you have to do is kiss the Stone, they say, and you’ll be eloquent beyond words. We reach the Stone by climbing 200 steps in the ruins of a County Cork castle on a vast manicured estate with gardens, stables and a babbling brook. You mount the stairs, bend backwards over the rampart walls — held tightly by a perfect stranger with whom you trust your life — and pucker up. For the health conscious among us, bear in mind that millions of lips have gone before yours in planting a smooch on the same patch of stone. But does it work? One visiting kisser told me, “Well, I think I was eloquent enough when I kissed it. I don’t think it made any difference.”
Still, some make the climb and then find a reason to avoid putting lips to the centuries old stone.
“I don’t know if I could get back up again. There’s a degree of fitness required. But it is a magnificent view.”
If anyone tells you it’s just a tourist magnet, remind them that anything as magnificent as a castle that weathered over six centuries is worth touring.
Of course, if you want to get right to the heart of Irish whiskey, County Cork is home to the Jameson distillery. Tours and a taste are also within toasting distance of Kinsale.
The newly merged U.S. Airways has one daily non-stop flight from Philadelphia to Dublin. Take the train to County Cork from there.
If you’re willing to fly out of Newark, NJ or JFK in New York, there are more flight options and somewhat lower fares. United flies non-stop from Newark, while Delta and Aer Lingus have several daily flights from JFK.
The Republic of Ireland’s currency is the Euro. Currently, it’s worth $1.38 in U.S. currency. Try to find a credit card that does not charge a “Foreign Exchange Fee.” They run about 3% of the total on any charges and conversions. The only fee-free card that I currently know of and carry at present is issued by Capital One. Be aware that most bank debit cards do have the fee, so check with your bank before leaving home.
Ireland has a very good inter-city rail system. Local bus services get you around and between towns. Public transit buses also make frequent trips to local attractions. Car rentals are available, but remember, you’ll be driving on narrow roads and on the left-hand side.
The Irish are among the world’s most friendly people. Everyone, it seems, has a relative in America, and many have been here. You’ll be heartily welcomed, you’ll never be a stranger in a pub, and if you stand on a corner looking at a map, you’ll be surrounded by locals who are eager to help.
Go. You’ll like it.