Built in the 17th century, the vast star-shaped Charles Fort was designed to guard Kinsale Harbour. The site of fierce fighting during the 1690 Williamite War, Charles Fort was ceded by the British during the War of Independence in 1921, only to be extensively damaged during the Irish Civil War. The fort is now a designated National Monument.
Though much of the site is in ruins, Charles Fort has been partially restored and is still a fascinating place to explore. Visit the exhibition center, housed in the former commander's quarters, where displays illuminate the history of the site. Then, wander around the exterior walls, admiring the views overlooking the harbor, town, and the River Brandon.
The fort can be explored independently, as part of a guided hourlong tour, or as a part of various day tours, which typically leave from Cork city and combine a visit to Kinsale with other west County Cork highlights, such as Timoleague Abbey and the scenic coastline of the Old Head of Kinsale.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Charles Fort is a must for families, with lots of open space for kids to run around.
- Wear sturdy, waterproof footwear, as some surfaces are uneven and weather is always changeable.
- Restrooms and a tearoom are situated at the fort.
- The exhibition center is wheelchair-accessible, though the fort itself is only partially accessible.
How to Get There
Charles Fort is just southeast of Kinsale, about a 30-minute drive south of Cork. The most scenic way to get here from Kinsale is along the Scilly Walk, a picturesque coastal route signposted from Kinsale town. Local Link Cork bus service 253 also connects Kinsale to Charles Fort.
When to Get There
The fort is open year-round, though some facilities, such as the tearoom, have limited opening hours outside the summer months. As much of the fort is exposed and its views are a big part of the site's appeal, it's best to visit on a clear, dry day if possible.
Just across the harbor from Charles Fort sits another star-shaped fort, James Fort. Built between 1602 and 1607, James Fort was also tasked with guarding Kinsale Harbor and it saw much action during the Williamite War. Though it's less impressive and has undergone less restoration than Charles Fort, James Fort is nevertheless a fascinating site, and offers excellent views of Charles Fort across the water.