Don’t ‘just settle’ for a UK holiday

McKinlay Kidd Founder & Director Heather McKinlay recalls childhood jaunts to Scotland and reflects on the delights of holidaying closer to home.

The mainstream media has been full of coverage for domestic tourism recently, for obvious reasons. I can’t help noticing that all too often articles are accompanied by phrases such as “resign yourself” to UK holidaying or “settle for” a staycation. Forgive me if that jars a little.

I grew up on the outskirts of London, but my Dad hailed originally from the west coast of Scotland. Every year during my childhood we’d make the long – and in those days quite tortuous – journey north for our summer break. I’d usually mark the start of the trip – as well as my white blouse – by throwing up in the back of the car before we’d even reached the start of the M1. Somehow that got it out of my system. The next fortnight would then glide by without repeat incident, despite roads twisting and turning their way past Loch Lomond, over the Rest and Be Thankful Pass into Argyll then down, around and back up the Kintyre peninsula.

The greatest road drama came from humpback bridges, remnants of Victorian days and old drove routes. Dad took delight in accelerating towards and over them so that my stomach somersaulted as all four wheels on our gold Cortina momentarily lost contact with the tarmac. Usually it was a jolly jape, accompanied by my shrieking laughter and chiding from Mum. Once it nearly went badly awry – Dad not taking into account that he had extra passengers onboard, flinging us kids sat-in-the-back-on-adult-laps with a bang and loud yelps into the vinyl roof. Regulations were much more lax back then.

I have vivid and fond memories of long summer days on the beach, building sandcastles, collecting shells and star-jumping the waves in my little red swimsuit, its white overskirt flapping up in the air, as if pulled on invisible strings by my outstretched arms. I usually had to be dragged away in time for high tea and bed, desperate to eke longer from my fun in the sun. I don’t recall rain putting a dampener on things, though I still have images in my mind of waterfalls thundering down hillsides, so I can’t pretend it was always warm and dry.

I’d return to school full of stories: the day out by boat to the Isle of Gigha with its exotic gardens and the most flavoursome strawberries or the expedition to Davaar Island on foot at low-tide to see the mysterious painting of the crucifixion in a cave. That day I learnt that adults don’t always know best – bemused at Mum struggling to clamber along the rocky shoreline in highly inappropriate court shoes.

On occasion Dad felt the need to justify that our trip back to Scotland cost just as much as my school friends’ package holidays to the likes of Majorca. Yet the thought that I was hard-done-by never entered my head.

Sunny Sanda, Kintyre, Scotland

Now we have our own home on the Kintyre peninsula. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt very close to the drama of the coast, and the ever-changing scene. One evening the waves lap gently on the shore, a soothing calm broken only by the flapping wings of ascending cormorants and the shrill cries of terns and oyster-catchers.

By the next, a different wind direction and heavy skies mean crashing waves, foaming at our feet, seaweed ripped out and piled high, gannets and gulls blown inland, struggling not to veer too far from their ocean course.

Stormy Sanda, Kintyre, Scotland

In the 17 years since Robert and I started McKinlay Kidd, we’ve enjoyed experiences “at home” to rival anything on “exotic” foreign trips. We didn’t “resign ourselves to” a hot tub under the stars one chill February evening, nor spotting killer whales from a boat off the shores of the Isle of Mull.

We certainly didn’t “settle for” a rail journey into the wilderness of Rannoch Moor or driving classic cars along twisty single track roads with only sheep and boggy verges to avoid.

Eating lobster fresh from the creel by the seashore and clambering over ruined castles weren’t “fallback options”. Here we’ve gazed in wonder at standing stones as ancient as the pyramids and strolled empty beaches of white sand and turquoise waters rivalling anything the Caribbean has to offer.

Luskentyre Beach, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

A trip around the UK also invites you to delve deeper into history way beyond those long-forgotten classroom talks; to uncover all the varied facets of our culture, the melting-pot legacy of Gaels, Celts, Vikings, Picts, Romans, Normans, Anglo-Saxons brought into the modern era by influences from around the globe –European, Asian, African, Indian, American and more.

Roman legacy of Hadrian’s Wall

Many of our customers at McKinlay Kidd make holidaying in the UK and Ireland their first choice; for others, it is normally a core part of their repertoire alongside long haul journeys and jaunts to the sun.

So instead of pining to travel the earth, let’s pause a while and soak-up the riches of the world on our doorstep, celebrating the UK as our number one destination.

Just remember to slow down for those occasional humpback bridges – a few of them still exist if you only know where to look.

A message from Robert Kidd

20th March 2020

I wanted to share the photo above of the beautiful spot on the West Coast of Scotland where my wife Heather and I wrote our first business plan for what would become McKinlay Kidd. It was Good Friday in April 2003 and gloriously sunny – sometimes Scottish weather can surprise and delight! The beach is about a 15-minute walk from our Kintyre home and requires a bit of clambering to get there – as usual, we had it all to ourselves. We sat on the sand and juggled exciting ideas for a Scotland-focussed, tailor-made travel business, scribbling on a notepad. I wish I could find that notepad now, but it has long-disappeared! The day stretched into a lazy afternoon – we’d brought picnic supplies including wine to see us through. In fact, it was so sunny that I ended up with a mild degree of sunburn!  

We took a walk back there last weekend and I snapped this shot on my iPhone – something that didn’t even exist in 2003. It was a far-less connected world back then – indeed our first promotion of the business was through classified advertising in the back of The Times and The Sunday Times, with the phone number as the call to action. Gradually websites and the internet took over, assisting us with business growth and enabling international, as well as UK, customers to find us. We remained true to our ethos of authentic tailor-made holidays designed with creativity and delivered with the utmost care. We expanded by adding Ireland, England and Wales to the destination mix, partnering as far as possible with locally-owned and community-based businesses like ourselves, whether accommodation, local transport or guides. We built up a dedicated and knowledgeable team to help us – while continuing to be a small and personal family business.  

The world changes quickly – never more so than in the past couple of weeks. This is an extremely challenging time for all of us, and the travel and hospitality industry is at the sharp end of the economic impact. Our team is now adapting to working from home. We have a cloud-based operating system. We are dealing with cancellations rather than new bookings, which has a devastating effect not only on ourselves but on our many business partners, yet of course we fully sympathise with customers who are missing out on long-planned trips or much-needed getaways.  

If you have an upcoming trip booked with us and haven’t heard specifically from us about it yet, please bear with us as we are dealing with changes in departure date order while official advice continues to emerge – we will contact you in due course. And particular thanks to those of you who have sent supportive and understanding messages in the meantime.   

We fully intend to be here on the other side of Covid-19, just none of us know when that will be nor quite what the world will look like. We hope as things improve – and surely they will – that we can once again be of assistance to you in planning your future trip to and around the UK and Ireland. In the meantime, we will continue to take our exercise and clear our minds on regular walks to that beautiful beach where McKinlay Kidd began.   

I sincerely wish you and your loved ones every strength – physical and emotional – to get through the coming weeks. You are in our thoughts, as are all health, emergency, social care and essential service workers whom we rely on to look after us.  

We’ll keep in touch. Stay safe.

Words & Image by Robert @McKinlayKidd

The Magic of the Sleeper

There is something magical about going to sleep in one place and waking up in another – especially if your destination is entirely different to your origin. I have always loved the romance of sleeper train travel, which takes you back to the golden age of travel; when the journey was just as important as the destination. Having experienced memorable overnight trains in Europe, Asia and South America, I was excited to sample the offering closer to home – this time from Glasgow to London via the brand-new Caledonian Sleeper trains introduced in 2019.

The late departure of the Lowlander service meant I was able to enjoy Friday night dinner and drinks with friends in Glasgow’s trendy Finnieston district before a bracing evening walk to the railway cathedral of Central Station. It felt odd to be arriving for a train to London when everyone else was starting to head home after a night on the town! I was greeted on the platform by my friendly Caledonian Sleeper host, who showed me to my Club Cabin. I was immediately struck by how great a job the designers did with such a small space. In each Club Cabin, you not only have your bed, but also luggage storage space and, crucially, an en-suite WC and shower – a game changer as it means you can avoid the awkward scuttle down the corridor to the communal loo in the middle of the night!

The Club Lounge, Caledonian Sleeper
The Club Car onboard the train

As the train slid out of Glasgow Central, I settled onto a bar stool in the Club Car to sample a ‘wee dram’ of Scotch whisky and a selection of Scottish cheeses – what a civilised way to start a journey. The menu offers a varied selection of the best of Scottish produce and is very reasonably priced when compared to other trains in the UK. As we began to chug through the Scottish Lowlands, I decided to retire for the night and sunk into my Glencraft mattress, the gentle ‘clickety-clack’ of the train soothing me to sleep.

I woke up shortly before arrival into London’s Euston Station, making sure I had time to enjoy the slightly odd feeling of showering on a moving train! After getting dressed, I made my way to the Club Car once more, this time for a tremendous breakfast of Eggs Royale with Scottish smoked salmon.  On arrival at Euston, I waved goodbye to my host and decided to take advantage of the early arrival into London. As it was a crisp Saturday morning in winter, the streets were deserted and so I ventured south walking from Euston all the way to Embankment. As I gazed at the London Eye and Houses of Parliament, I reflected on a unique travel experience I’d had – one which offers an efficient, convenient and sustainable way to travel between Scotland and the heart of London. 

Words by Tom @ McKinlay Kidd, Images by Chris @ McKinlay Kidd

If you would like to experience the Caledonian Sleeper for yourself, McKinlay Kidd’s Luxury Skye and Highlands by Sleeper holiday includes a return sleeper journey from London to Rannoch, plus four nights in small four and five-star hotels and private guided tours of Perthshire, Skye & Inverness. For more information – or for a tailor-made holiday proposal – please visit our website.

The Centre of Britain Makes Its Mark

Earlier in the year, on an exceptionally sunny July day, I left the city of Glasgow behind and ventured south across the border to the small English town of Haltwhistle.

Haltwhistle – known as the “Centre of Britain” – is located in Northumberland, a county renowned for its sweeping moorlands, ancient castles, beautiful beaches, friendly pubs and, of course, Hadrian’s Wall. On arrival at my accommodation I was greeted not only by my lovely hosts, but with Eton mess and chilled prosecco! Very welcome treats that only set the tone for my delightful stay.

On the advice of my hosts, I decided to make the most of the afternoon sunshine and explore the local area. Haltwhistle really offers nature lovers a treat! Situated between the North Pennines and Northumberland National Park, the town has over 20 easily accessible country walks. I took myself on a short two-mile walk from my B&B through the town centre. I made a brief pit stop in a local inn and enjoyed a refreshing pint of English cider and a hearty game stew. It would have been rude not to!

Enjoying a refreshing English cider

Later, I ventured onwards to one of Britain’s most famous landmarks – Hadrian’s Wall, the northern frontier of the Holy Roman Empire. The once 80-mile coast to coast structure was erected by 15,000 men in just six years – truly some extraordinary work! Although not so vast nowadays, many large parts of the wall have been beautifully conserved. Milecastle 42 is considered one of the most well-preserved areas and it is an impressive sight to see. The once heavily guarded wall, now an unguarded world heritage site, transports you back two millennia in a matter of moments. I can easily imagine the soldiers and their enemies on the other side, bustling about their days entirely unaware that many years later, their lives would be mused over by tourists from all over the world. I made myself a promise to return again to visit the Roman army fort and the Vindolanda to learn more about this fascinating time in history.

Strolling back through the village later in the evening I was distracted by the smell of deep-fried deliciousness wafting from the local chip shop. It didn’t take much to tempt me inside! There is something wonderfully British and nostalgic about sitting on a bench on a cool summer’s night, a ‘poke’ of fresh chips in hand. A lovely end to an enjoyable day in the “Centre of Britain”.

Some fresh chips in Haltwhistle

McKinlay Kidd offer a variety of holidays to Northumberland, from self-drives across Northern England to dark sky experiences and journeys through beautiful scenery by train. For more information, simply get in touch with our award-winning team, who will be delighted to help.

A Hebridean Odyssey in Photos

Here at McKinlay Kidd, we love receving customer feedback. One of our regular customers, Sandro, was kind enough to share some incredible images from his recent holiday and we knew we wanted to hear more about his experience! Hailing from Switzerland, Sandro has previously embarked on a Scottish island-hopping holiday with us, and his latest trip took him to the breathtaking Outer Hebrides.

Below Sandro has selected a few of his favourite shots from his holiday, and has detailed the memories they invoke for him

Stac Dhòmnuill Chaim, Isle of Lewis

I have always had a penchant for landscape photography. It was a rainy afternoon and I got a little lost, but eventually made my way to the cliff edge. I ran as close as possible to the rocks, being careful not to slip and began to take some pictures. To me, this landscape seems unchanged since prehistoric times.

View of Skye from Lewis with Sheep

I then travelled further south, my holiday already peppered with beautiful memories. But What awaited me in Dunvegan was simply spectacular because of its simplicity and tranquillity. The surroundings were breathtaking – the thundering waves, the brisk wind and the bellowing sheep, not to mention the view of the Isle of Skye in the background … what a place. I miss this view and think about it daily.

Luskentyre Beach, Isle of Harris

What a landscape. I parked near the beach and ran across the dunes, unable to believe what I saw. The wind whistled around my ears, the clouds changed the scene all the time and the sea was bellowing so loud it was difficult to think. I breathed in the salty air and hoped so much that I could capture the mood for myself. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Old Cemetary, Berneray

My holiday continued to Uist and, as always, I looked up my travel documents and read “Roberts Recommendations”. I started to tour around Berneray, and the beach I found there was one of the wildest I have ever seen. Stone formations fought impressively against the wild sea and a multitude of seabirds were flying overhead. When I arrived at the graveyard, the sky was now threatening, much darker in color and contrast. By the time I arrived back at my hotel, I was exhausted, yet overjoyed and peaceful.

Prince’s Beach, Eriskay

I had no plans when I arrived in Eriskay, my car journey decided for me. As I went over a fairly steep hill and down the other side, I wondered if I had arrived on another planet! It was a really sunny day and the sea was a deep blue. I have been to many places around the world, but this was outstanding. The beach, the colors of the sea and the beautiful flowers on the rocks left me speechless. I spent a few hours at the beach, enjoying the view into the distance and the warm sunshine.

Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Isle of Barra

Barra is one of my great loves, and not just because of the world-famous airport. When I arrived and I saw that the weather was radiantly beautiful, I immediately wanted to climb to the famous ‘Our Lady, Star of the Sea’ statue. The walk up was steep but the view uniquely beautiful. I was alone, gazing at the view of Castlebay below. What a magical place of power. Barra is a real gem – full of beautiful beaches, ruins, warm people and fantastic scenery.

Traigh Mhor Beach, Isle of Barra

This picture was taken very spontaneously. On the way from Barra airport to my hotel on a Sunday afternoon I saw shell seekers digging in the mud on Cockle Strand. I went down to the beach with the car and chatted to the people. This little dog was very curious and interested in my equipment. So I knelt down to him and took this picture in the process.

Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow

After a quick flight from Barra I was back in Glasgow, one of my favourite cities – but sad I couldn’t stay longer! After settling in my hotel, I grabbed my camera to visit all the places I had not seen before. Glasgow is a great city and there is so much to discover. I took this photo as it was getting dark, unaware that it was 1.30am as I was enjoying the mild climate.

Now that I’m back home, there are two bottles of Harris Gin in the closet and alongside my pictures, I have countless memories of a wonderful time. The simplicity and peace that I find in my travels in Scotland is unique. It is for this reason that I will continue to come back, as there is still so much to see.

McKinlay Kidd offer a variety of holidays in the Outer Hebrides, including fly-drive, self-drive and public transport options. Get in touch with our team today to arrange your tailor-made proposal.

The Paths of Fort Augustus

Waking up with a different view each morning is one of the best parts of tour guiding – and I like to use the dawn light to find new walks to share with the guests. In Fort Augustus, I borrowed my host’s dog, Bobby, a young black Labrador, who seemed intent on dislocating my shoulder. We set off as the sun rose over Beinn a’Bhacaidh; Loch Ness shimmered in the cool light.

We crossed the bascule bridge over the Caledonian Canal. A staircase of water locks stretched away to our right – boats waited at the top and bottom for the locks to open. Bobby’s ears perked up, his nose started sniffing like a chef sensing the soufflés were singeing. He hurtled along the canal path dragging me with him. 

We ran to the top of the locks where Bobby stopped. Beside us was the morning traffic. Put put pleasure boats jostled with grand tall yachts for pole position. Something was moving on an orange and green Dutch long-boat. Bobby whined as a furry face poked out from the hold. The scruffy terrier panted a couple of times, eyed Bobby, then disappeared below deck. Once the lock man woke up, these boats would travel on to Inverness and then out to the North Sea.

We headed back onto the pavement and walked past the monastery. Bobby span round my legs as a touring motorbike hummed by, then barked when it had turned the corner. An old stone bridge arched over river Tarff in front of us, to our left a path left the pavement. Bobby looked to me for confirmation, then headed down.  

A forest of mature oaks stood over a carpet of bluebells. The sun was up now; it evaporated the forest floor dew, warmed the wild garlic and white flowers. I could hear the baaing of waking sheep. We walked on till a meadow opened out before us – dozens of ewes and lambs lay in the grass. A farmer in his pick-up truck drove around the field checking his flock. Music was playing in the truck, and it floated over the air, slightly too quiet to recognise.

Bobby and I headed back into town. I dropped him off then went to meet the guests. The meadow path had certainly made it onto my recommendations for clients – Bobby had been a good companion. That being said, my shoulder was a bit raw.   

McKinlay Kidd offer a number of small group guided rail tours, including ‘Loch Ness, The Jacobite & Skye’, with departure dates in both 2019 or 2020. Reserve your place today, or call our team on 0141 260 9260 for more information.

Shades of Blue on the Isle of Harris

As the sun breaks through the cloud and hits the Atlantic Ocean, the water lights up in iridescent shades from pale green through to deep, deep blue, with a broad expanse of turquoise in between. The pale shell sand which extends far out from the shore, the clarity of the shallow sea and the reflections of a blue sky combine to create these remarkable colours.

It’s an impressive enough sight at the many beaches strung along the west coast of the Outer Hebrides. But nowhere is more spectacular than the Isle of Harris and particularly the junction of Seilebost and Luskentyre (below).

We parked up by Luskentyre and walked and walked along the shimmering sand, taking photo after photo, entranced by the light, the colours, the specks of other people in the distance, the blending of sea and sky. It’s hard to do justice to such a panorama whether on a camera phone or even a state of the art SLR. I used my little beach shoes in the best attempt to give some indication of scale.

The next day we meandered for miles along a single track road all the way to the wonderfully-named Hushinish beach. The wind certainly whistles but whether that translates into an onomatopoeic name, I’m not so sure. It’s wilder here, and even blustery preparations for a marquee-wedding could not detract from the elemental nature of this outpost. No parking on the beach, though!

We headed off across the machair, the coarse grass, sometimes strewn with wildflowers, usually pockmarked with sheep, for views over to the island of Scarp, made famous by the failed attempts to use mini rockets for mail delivery. In the distance we spied another glorious beach, whorls of sand flowing into the ocean blue.

Somewhere out to the west lay St Kilda. Although the sun shone brightly from a clear sky, the ferocity of the wind left no doubt as to why our intended boat trip there had been unable to take place. That will have to wait for the next visit.

The magical colours and ethereal landscape of Harris leave their mark, from the swirls of the Harris Gin bottle through to inspiration for the eponymous tweed and creativity in many guises. We left with a weighty souvenir by ceramicist Nikolai Globe. Every time I glance into it, I recall those myriad shades of blue and green and understand how easily they draw you back time and again.

Words & Images by Heather @ McKinlay Kidd

McKinlay Kidd offer a variety of holidays throughout the Outer Hebrides, including self-drive, fly-drive and public transport options. For more information – or for a tailor-made holiday proposal – please visit our website.

Close Encounters of the Puffin Kind

“We’ve decided to turn back. The path disappeared into the fog so we decided to stop before we went too far. Have fun though!”

I have to admit, this news was a little disheartening. My colleague Rhona and I had just arrived on Unst – Britain’s most northerly island, accessible via ferry from mainland Shetland. After a successful morning spotting some of archipelago’s extensive birdlife the day before at Sumburgh Head – the southern tip of the mainland – we had decided to head to Unst with one goal in mind: to spot some elusive puffins. With over 50,000 breeding pairs calling Hermaness Nature Reserve (situated in the north-west of Unst) home in the summer months, we thought this could be our perfect opportunity.

Admittedly, it was a little colder and foggier on Unst than we had been used to over the last few days – unsurprising given its geographical location. In spite of the advice of our fellow explorers, we decided to forge ahead and continue along the path, determined to achieve our goal.

The landscape on the Shetland islands was quite unlike any I had experienced before. Centuries of erosion and changing climate has created a complex terrain – peaty bogland melts into heathery hills, and blinding white sandy beaches can appear before your eyes at any moment. Unst certainly fitted into the first of these three, and shortly into our walk, the fog cleared and our vast surroundings were revealed.  

After a leisurely walk, it seemed as if by magic we were at the end of the well-maintained path. A short walk further, and slowly but surely jagged seacliffs unfolded before us. The panorama was staggering –looking out, there was nothing ahead but the vast, endless ocean. Wave battered crags stood in clusters beneath us, and it was clear from a brief look down that there were countless little areas of seclusion – perfect for a variety of birds to build their nests.

Cautious due to the height of the cliffs, we took a few reserved peeks over the side – no sign of puffins. We walked a little further, but still nothing aside from a few gulls. I was slightly dismayed – surely we would see at least one?

Then, as if responding to our wishes, our sought-after little birds began to appear. We spent the next hour observing around a dozen puffins, snapping photo after photo of them continuing on with their daily routine, entirely unbothered by our presence. We saw puffins dipping in and out of their burrows with freshly collected supplies for their nests, swooping off into the unknown to catch their latest meal and, rather sweetly, a young couple tapping beaks on the cliff’s edge.

We eventually managed to tear ourselves away from our front-row seat, heading back along the path and straight to Britain’s most northerly tearoom for some lunch and hot drinks, taking some time to warm up and reflect on our experience. Equally as enjoyable as the wildlife watching was the fact that we had the experience entirely to ourselves – both the path, and the cliffs themselves were entirely devoid of any other people the whole time. It was a truly special day – I am very glad we didn’t turn back!

Words & Images by Emma @ McKinlay Kidd

McKinlay Kidd offer a number of holidays to Shetland, including self-drive and fly-drive options, and the chance to visit Orkney at the same time. For more information, please give our team a call on 0141 260 9260 or visit our website.

Along the North Coast 500 (Part Two)

Driving in either direction (anti-clockwise/clockwise) on Scotland’s acclaimed North Coast touring route brings scenic riches and some of the best driving roads in Europe.

Last time I drove the route, I did so anti-clockwise, setting off from Inverness and heading North towards Caithness. It really pays to take your time, stopping often to seek out some of the terrific sights just off the beaten-track.

Everyone know’s John o’Groats, the UK mainland’s northernmost settlement, but less attention is paid to Dunnet Head, its northernmost point. The day I visited, the weather was blowing a spectacular ‘hooley’ (translation: it was a little wild!) in between bursts of sunshine and I had the place almost to myself; surely the best way to see any lighthouse and sheer cliff, the sea battering the rocks below for all it’s worth.

Tiptoeing along the tiny roads yawing west to Thurso, it’s not far from here to the Fast Breeder Reactor at Dounreay, currently undergoing decades-long decommissioning. Its eerie white sphere can seem to bob on the sea in certain conditions, and it was fun to take to the long, deserted track that heads away from it towards what seems like the edge of the earth.

I really fell in love with the North Coast on this trip, exploring as many as I could of the roads that stream off it, often terminating at hidden harbours and sparsely populated hamlets like Fresgoe, Portskerra, Totegan and Brawl.

Further west took me to the seething metropolis (not really) of Tongue, in the shadow of Ben Loyal. I loved this route so much I drove it twice – once in each direction, and didn’t see a single soul or vehicle, day or night, albeit my trip was outside the main summer season.

Along with the quality of the road surfaces (you won’t believe how good most of them are) and the spectacle of the scenery, that’s one of the best things about this route; no matter how popular you might think it is, it’s still possible to spend long stretches seemingly alone, especially by deviating away a little away from the main circuit. It’s the very antithesis of city life and it’s something I can never get enough of.

Words & images by Chris Hendrie @ McKinlay Kidd.

If you would like to experience the beauty of the Scotland’s North Coast for yourself, McKinlay Kidd offer a number of different holidays covering this famous routes. Browse our website for more information or get in touch and one of our team will be delighted to curate your tailor-made proposal.

The Charming Streets of Kinsale

Nestled on the edge of the south coast of Ireland and surrounded by the natural beauty of the glorious Irish countryside, the picturesque town of Kinsale offers a warm welcome to travellers from all over the globe.

At first glance, one may wonder why this small town attracts so many visitors, but after being lucky enough to spend a few days exploring on my recent trip to Ireland, it was quickly clear to me just what was so appealing about it.

Kinsale is full of colour and characterand every time you turn a corner on the countless skinny, winding roads, you are met with brightly painted houses, charming shops and cafes and, of course, an abundance of traditional pubs. Each locale is packed full of character and provides visitors with the chance to mingle with the friendly locals in front of a roaring fire. From my own experience, this was the perfect way to warm up on a damp windy night – Kinsale is perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, after all!

When in Ireland…it would be rude not to!

The seaside location means there are countless restaurants offering freshly caught seafood, but I found I was also spoiled for choice with other local goodies such as cheese and whisky – there is definitely a reason why Kinsale has the most restaurants per head in Ireland . There is even a Willy Wonka-esque chocolate shop where all sorts of wacky creations are created on site! I was also able to sample culinary delights in the food markets set up along cobbled streets that are not much wider than a car.

My time in Kinsale was brief, but I am already planning a return visit on my next trip to Ireland. As it lies on the famous Wild Atlantic Way driving route, it is an excellent base where drivers can explore the surrounding area of County Cork and follow the twisting winding roads that scale the coastline of this breath-taking part of the country. I can only imagine the other quaint villages and beautiful beaches in this area, and I am itching to discover them.

The delicious food, postcard-perfect buildings, and shops full of quirky trinkets – many of which I happily lost an afternoon browsing through – meant Kinsale ticked all of the boxes on my holiday wish list!

McKinlay Kidd offer a number of holidays along the illustrious Wild Atlantic Way, many of which include a trip to Kinsale. Browse our Ireland holidays on our website, or alternatively give us a call on 0141 260 9260 to arrange a tailor-made Ireland holiday that suits your exact requirements.

Words and images by Rhona @ McKinlay Kidd