Charles Fort (Ireland)

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Charles Fort
Kinsale harbour, County Cork, Ireland
Relief map showing star layout
Plan of fort showing star layout
Location relative to Kinsale
Coordinates 51°41′47″N 8°29′56″W / 51.6965°N 8.4990°W / 51.6965; -8.4990Coordinates: 51°41′47″N 8°29′56″W / 51.6965°N 8.4990°W / 51.6965; -8.4990
Type Star fort
Site information
Controlled by Office of Public Works
Open to
the public
Site history
Built 1670s (1670s)

Charles Fort (Irish: Dún Chathail) is a star fort located on the water's edge, at the southern end of the village of Summer Cove, on Kinsale harbour, County Cork, Ireland.[1] First completed in 1682, Charles Fort was sometimes historically referred to as the "new fort" - to contrast with James' Fort (the "old fort") which had been built on the other side of Kinsale harbour before 1607.[2] The fort is now operated as a heritage tourism site by the Heritage Ireland arm of the Office of Public Works.[3]

Construction and history[edit]

Charles Fort was built on the site of an earlier stronghold known as Ringcurran Castle. The Ringcurran defences had featured prominently during the Siege of Kinsale in 1601.[4]

The new fort, which is named after Charles II, was designed by the Surveyor-general Sir William Robinson - architect of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.[3] Additional site structures are attributed to engineer Captain Thomas Philips.[5] The fort was built between 1677 and 1682 to a star fortification design;[6] a layout specifically designed to resist attack by cannon. It became known as the "new fort" - to contrast with James' Fort (the "old fort") which had been built on the other side of Kinsale harbour between 1602 and 1607.[2]

With a focus on seaward defence, the landward and inland bastions of the fort are overlooked by higher ground. This weakness was of critical importance when the fort was subject to a 13-day siege in 1690 during the Williamite War in Ireland.[5][7] John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (then 1st Earl) besieged Cork and captured Kinsale and its forts.[7] Repairs were made following the siege.[8]

Seaward bastions and lighthouse of Charles Fort

An early lighthouse was established here in the 17th century by Robert Reading,[9] and additional works (including the development of internal "citadel" defences) were added through the 18th and 19th centuries.[5]

The fort remained in use as a British Army barracks for two hundred years afterwards, before being relinquished by British forces following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. The fort fell out of use after being burned by retreating anti-Treaty forces during the Irish Civil War in 1922.[7]

Tourism development[edit]

The complex remained largely derelict for some time, but was named a National Monument of Ireland in 1971.[8] Over the coming decades several sections of the fort were restored by Dúchas, the Irish heritage service. Restoration and development of the complex was later taken-over by the Office of Public Works (OPW) - including the development of an exhibition space in the former commander's quarters.[10]

Charles Fort is one of the most visited OPW sites in the region,[11] attracting in excess of 86,000 visitors in 2015.[12]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kinsale Tourism Guide - Charles Fort, Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland". Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  2. ^ a b John Sprott Ryan (1836). The Life of William the Third. Grant and Bolton. p. 229. Marlborough despatched a body of troops to summon Kinsale [..] he then retired his troops to two forrts, called the Old and New fort 
  3. ^ a b "South West - Charles Fort". Heritage Ireland (OPW). Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  4. ^ Pádraig Lenihan, ed. (2000). Conquest and Resistance: War in Seventeenth-Century Ireland. Brill. p. 167. ISBN 9789004117433. 
  5. ^ a b c "Charles Fort, County Cork". Buildings of Ireland. National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "Historic Houses and Castles - Charles Fort". Discover Ireland. Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c "Charles Fort, County Cork". IrelandsEye. Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Fallon, Linda (2007). Bradt City Guide Cork. Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 1-84162-196-X. 
  9. ^ "A Brief History of Irish Lights". The Commissioners of Irish Lights. Archived from the original on 3 February 2007. 
  10. ^ "Charles Fort & James Fort". Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  11. ^ "Visitors to Tourist Attractions 2007-2011" (PDF). Failte Ireland. October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2016. 
  12. ^ "Press Release - OPW announces record visitor numbers to OPW Heritage Sites in 2015". Office of Public Works ( 14 March 2016.