The Architecture of an Irish Seaside Town


A recent trip to Kinsale reminded me of the vast array of architecture the beautiful coastal town has to offer. A town steeped in history  (a Spanish fleet anchored here in 1601 and aided by an Irish army was defeated by the English. Many historians cite this battle as the beginning of the end of Gaelic Ireland). The town eventually evolved into a ship building port and is now a modern day food capital of southern Ireland and a major tourist hot spot. The town contains many fine examples of vernacular Irish architecture with many buildings following a simple form with a limited palette of materials, mostly slate and stone.

There is also a beautiful arrangement of tiny squares & narrow streets over looked by clusters of colourful townhouses many of which host some excellent home grown craft, design & culinary shops .


However the influence of foreign cultures is evident through the more ornate old market house & court house with unique dutch gables unlike many other buildings in the town. This building is most famous for its hosting of the inquest into the sinking of The Lusitania during World War 1 in 1915.


With many of the terraced townhouses lodged into the rocky outcrops overlooking the town the slate facades are striking. The consistency in architectural style of these houses strengthens the identity of the town’s buildings.


In addition to the beautiful traditional architecture of the town, Kinsale is also well known for embracing some fine examples of modern Irish architecture. One of the more famous examples is The O’Flathery House which is set on ‘pilotis’ with a flat concrete roof & strip windows, a very bold design for the era in which it was built in 1963. The house was designed by Robin Walker, for which he received the RIAI’s Triennial Gold Medal & quite rightly is a treasured piece of Ireland’s  architectural heritage.



The Kinsale Arts Festival held each summer in the town normally organises a visit to the famous house in addition to organising a host of exciting architecture & art events. Now in their tenth year we will again be joining them for some of the many interesting architecture & art workshops & always look forward to visiting this interesting Irish town.

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