Ireland  April 14th to 21st

I loved Kenmare, the town was lovely and easy to get around. The Garda were really nice there too!! The one that stopped me for crossing double lines at the roundabout, ended up giving us directions to our B & B when I told him I was confused as to which way to go, which was why I had inadvertently crossed the lines. Kenmare is the centre of the lacework and fantastic crafts work museum. The woman in the museum showed me how each of the different types of lace is done, I did not realise that there were so many different types of lace. Bobbin lace, needle lace, tatting, crochet to name a few. The Poor Clare sisters brought lace to Kenmare in the 19th century, some of their lace is on display because they were so careful with it, it has survived. the woman in the video on this website is the one who showed me how to make lace.

In between Killarney and Kenmare is Ladies’ View. This is one of the most photographed places around the Ring of Kerry. Named in honour of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting when she visited in 1861, this spot is visually stunning. From the view we could see the Lakes of Killarney really beautiful

We spent a lovely afternoon on a cruise along the north shore of the Kenmare Bay.

Kenmare and Surrounds

The Burrens

Kinsale near Cork was one of our favourite towns, we did the walking tour, so interesting and funny in places. Kinsale was where the Lusitania was torpedoed so the inquest was held here. The town is on a beautiful bay and was once the centre of trade with the English fighting the Spanish here. Lots of interesting history. Our tour guide has made a great video of Kinsale if you are interested. 

You may need to copy the link.

His partner has also wrote the history of Kinsale which I have added at the end of this page

William Dampier sailed out of Kinsale it was a very important and strategic port. It is also said that the original Robinson Crusoe was from here, Defoe heard his story in Kinsale and wrote the book.

The golf course on Old Head is one of the most expensive in Ireland.

This is also the town for fish, we had some marvellous meals


By Don Herlihy,

founder of Don & Barry’s Kinsale Historic Stroll, a daily walking tour of Kinsale, Cork, Ireland



In the 17th century Kinsale was at the height of its strategic importance when sailing ships of England, Spain, France and Holland were at war on the high seas for the treasures of the New World.  Kinsale’s status as the most important harbour in the region then was noted in cartography and comment alike; ‘one of the noblest harbours in Europe’ said the Earl of Orrery; ‘laying in the road of the Chieftest trade in all the Worlde’ noted another; and even to the eye of King Charles II himself, ‘a place of great Resort for His Majesties ships of war’.

Although King Charles could take comfort in Kinsale he knew that he also should take care. For him it sparked warm feelings because it was in the church of St Multose there his cousin Rupert had first proclaimed him King when Cromwell’s axe had severed his father’s neck in London. But with England outnumbered four to one by France, Charles knew that in an enemy’s hands the mention of this perfect harbour, windward and to his rear, could send a shiver through his island kingdom. Memories were still fresh of the Battle of Kinsale, in 1601, when the landing there of the last Spanish Armada had triggered reactions in England not unlike the Cuban missile crisis in another place and time.

For the Irish too the harbour of Kinsale held great importance since their best hope of breaking England’s yoke rested upon the safe and surprise arrival of arms and aid from abroad. So much so, in the 17th century it was in this harbour that twice  Irish hopes were raised, twice was battle fought and twice the same sad outcome followed with the defeat and exile of their leaders, the Flight of the Earls after 1601 followed by the Wild Geese in 1690.


First signs of an end to Kinsale’s outpost location on the edge of Europe arrived as ripples in the wake of the voyages of Diaz, Columbus and De Gama.  Within about a hundred years of the New World discoveries, these ripples had already swollen to waves bearing the last Spanish Armada into the harbour in 1601, sucking Kinsale into battle and occasionally front stage in the storm of 17th century naval conflict between England, Spain, Holland and France for the indescribable plunder of the ‘Indies’ east and west.

This new importance for Kinsale was the remarkable outcome of two great discoveries, only four years apart, which had transformed the landscape of the world. Bartholomeu Diaz’s discovery of an end to Africa in 1488 was acclaimed by Christian Europeans as ‘Good Hope’, at last, of a way by sea to the spice treasure of the ‘Indies’, the land approaches to which had hitherto been blocked by the world of Islam. Four years later the Spanish Catholic Monarchs enabled Columbus, seeking the same treasure by a different route, to discover another ‘Indies’ to the west.



These discoveries were quickly followed by a dispute over spoils between Spain and Portugal, a resolution of which was attempted by Pope Alexander VI in a Papal Decree which simply divided the world between them. A Line of Demarcation was drawn on a chart of the world to mark the bestowment upon Portugal of the new world to its east and upon Spain of all to its west. But this boundary was in practice an invisible line far out to sea and arguably adjoined a tiny group of islands where the greatest riches lay. Quarrels continued as both sides wanted these islands to be on their side of the line.

These were the fabled Spice Islands, volcanic tips peaking out of the sea like green dunces caps, scented long before they were seen and source of unimaginable riches. In an age without fridges pepper, clove and ginger were saviours of food while nutmeg and cinnamon were the perceived source of a host of exotic properties: from irresistible aphrodisiac to antidote for plague, the Black Death, grim reaper of the age.

Here in these islands lay the fulfilment of Good Hope as the laden ships of De Gama and Magellan, followed by Dutch and English East Indiamen, reaped profits measured in thousands of percent as they side-stepped the multiple mark-ups of the many middlemen along the ancient land routes to the west.  Inevitably, such a seismic economic shift would later lead to war.

After a protracted dispute for control of the spice trade Charles V finally elected to sell Spain’s interest to Portugal for 350,000 ducats to pay for his wedding. But Portugal’s ace in the east was soon after ironically trumped when the fruit of the wedding, Phillip II, asserted a claim to the Portuguese throne itself and thus became head of an empire upon which the sun never set, from the Americas to the Philippines, aptly named for him.



The expansion of Spain’s Catholic empire, however, was envied. Although the growing Ottoman threat from the east had been checked by a Papal Alliance at the Battle of Lepanto, a new one had opened at Spain’s rear, and at sea, from a split in Christendom itself. Following her father’s split with Rome, the new Queen of Protestant England, Elizabeth I, was not bound by Papal Decrees declaring who owned the world or upon what oceans English ships might sail.  She invested heavily in the exploits of Francis Drake, whose seizure  first of ‘Spanish’ gold at Panama and discovery later of the sources of spice itself, warned Phillip that his twin arteries of treasure had become dangerously exposed.

When Elizabeth intercepted a ship laden with gold destined to pay Philip’s troops in the Spanish Netherlands, then sent English forces to the aid of Protestant rebels there and ordered the beheading of her Catholic cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, Philip decided it was time for action to restore world order, re-establish the true faith in England and reassert his monopolies. His strategy for attaining all three objectives was his ‘Enterprise of England’, the launch of the great Spanish Armada with a mission to depose the heretic Queen. After intense negotiation, Rome pledged one million ducats to the ‘Enterprise’, but payable only when a Spanish foot stepped upon English soil: no foal no fee.

The plan was for the Armada to first provide a naval screen for an invasion of England by infantry already in the Spanish Netherlands.   But when it arrived on station these forces were not ready and the Armada was compelled to drop anchor and thus become a stationary target at Calais for the pursuing English fleet. The English sent fire ships among the Spanish whose almost only hope of escape was to cut their anchor cables. Now scattered, some anchorless and most in disarray, the surviving ships were driven about the northern coast of Scotland in a desperate effort to escape home to Spain. Many were tragically lost as storms buffeted them onto the jagged coastlines of Scotland and Ireland.

But even the defeat of Philip’s Armada, with the loss of so many ships and men, would not deter him from his crusade against Elizabeth. He gave orders that the fleet be rebuilt and, belatedly recognising the superior design and gunnery of English ships, commissioned the design and construction of twelve great ships which were to be named for the twelve Apostles. As Phillip neared the end of his life, he launched two more Armadas at England which were to be little remembered as they were aborted by storms at sea.



In this period, the Irish clans of O’Neill and O’Donnell had been leading a successful alliance in a guerrilla campaign against English forces in Ulster culminating in their victory at the Battle of Yellow Ford. Their pleas to Philip II for support of their common cause against Elizabeth were answered with a shipload of weapons. Upon Philip’s death, an early act of his son Philip III was to honour his father’s commitment to the clans by dispatching the last Spanish Armada to Ireland in 1601. This Armada sailed into the harbour of Kinsale, the only one ever to reach its objective and land forces ashore.

What followed was the Battle of Kinsale where, on Christmas Eve of 1601, the combined forces of the Irish and Spanish were defeated by the English: a defeat which was to have long lasting consequences in Irish history as it was followed by the final decline of the old Gaelic Order, the Flight of the Earls and the Plantation of Ulster.

In England, even though they were victorious at the battle, the events at Kinsale were greeted with shock. Elizabethan churchgoers, who in a decade of Armadas had been exhorted to pray for protective wind from the East, the ‘Protestant Wind’, now faced the reality that a Spanish Armada had made it ashore on their western, windward flank. In the mood of alarm, the name Kinsale, hitherto unheard, now rang with a peal of clear and present danger.




Against this historical backdrop, the Star forts at Kinsale understandably occupy prime position.  They reflect the English response to Spanish landings on their doorstep and a century of Stuart vigilance against the repeat of such a threat. Completed in the reign of Charles II and linked by a chain across the narrow strait between them, these two forts established Kinsale as one of the most fortified sea passages in the world, never again to be taken by assault from the sea.

Named for the brother Kings of England, James II and Charles II, the Old Fort was actually built in the reign of their grandfather, James I after the battle of Kinsale in 1601.Charles Fort, the larger of the two, was built later in the century when the distant Armada threats from Hapsburg Spain had waned, only to be replaced by an even greater, closer, naval threat from Bourbon France. Today these forts remind of the swings in fortune that hung on 17th century sea power and the Stuart determination to protect England’s windward flank from all.



After such investment in Kinsale, Charles II might have turned in his grave to learn that actions of his younger brother James II almost handed it to France. James, who came to the throne because Charles had no legitimate heirs, signalled his intention to restore Catholicism in England and provoked a crisis when a male child of his second marriage was baptised Catholic and proclaimed his heir. A ‘Peaceful’ or ‘Glorious’ Revolution followed in England whereby James was deposed and succeeded by his Protestant daughter Mary, married to William of Orange, the joint monarchy of William and Mary. 

James fled to France where the Catholic King Louis XIV, an enemy of William, pledged his support and urged him to land forces in Ireland so as to regain his English throne through a backdoor alliance with the Catholic Irish. James landed at Kinsale and proceeded northwards where William countered the move by landing his own forces at Carrigfergus. Eventually the two armies faced off across the river Boyne where on July 12th victory in battle went to William as James fled the field.

What neither James or William knew as they joined battle at the Boyne was that on the previous day, July 11th, a major sea battle had been fought off the southern English coastline at which 75 French ships of the line had engaged and routed the combined English and Dutch fleets of William, the Battle of Beachy Head.

For Queen Mary and her Privy Council this was a grim development and their assessment was that although the land victory had gone to William the lost sea battle was far more ominous. Domination of the seas around Ireland was now held by the French, effectively isolating William and exposing him to the threat of overwhelming French forces which might be landed there by Louis. Their conclusion was not whether, but where and when French forces would land in Ireland.

Kinsale sprang to mind because of the earlier Spanish landings there, the century long investment in its defences by England and the arrival of news that its harbour and forts were now in the hands of supporters of James who had fallen back from the Boyne. As the most senior military figure remaining in England, John Churchill was commissioned to lead an expeditionary force from Portsmouth to capture the harbours of Cork and Kinsale in the belief that if they could be denied to the French the landings could be prevented.

Aware of Kinsale’s formidable defences against approach from the sea, Churchill determined to first tackle Cork and follow with a land assault on Kinsale from the rear.  He offloaded all guns from his ships and, having taken Cork, hauled this artillery overland to Kinsale. As the arrival of the siege train was awaited a first successful assault was made upon James Fort which fell after one day’s battle. This was followed by a month long siege of Charles Fort which ended in surrender with quarter which allowed the Irish to march out into exile with Patrick Sarsfield and the Wild Geese.  

As the 17th century began with Irish and Spanish joined in battle at Kinsale, followed by the Flight of the Earls, so it was to sadly end there too with the loss of renewed hope from France and the exile of the Wild Geese.  It was another hundred years before a final attempt was made to land an Armada on this coastline when in 1796 a French force sailed into Bantry Bay. Though many of the ships dropped anchor so close that the Irish patriot Wolfe Tone remarked they could ‘throw a biscuit upon the shore’, it ended in disaster as they were swept out to sea by an offshore storm. The attempt had been made at Bantry because the haven of Kinsale could not be forced from the sea, its two Star Forts firmly gripping the windpipe of Ireland.  

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This is all my own work, any mistakes are mine please let me know if you think I should change anything or if I have added a photo of you that you would like removed. My apologise if I offend anyone. Please send me a message using the box above and I will action immediately.

Writer             : Clare Lyon

Editor             : Ross Lyon

Photography : Clare and Ross Lyon

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