Charles Fort is a star shaped Fort at the water’s edge near Kinsale, in County Cork. This fort was built by the British Army in the mid 17th century. At that time, Ireland was (reluctantly) part of the United Kingdom, and was ruled by the British.
In 1601, the Spanish monarchy sent a ship and 4000 men, under Don Juan del Aguila, to Kinsale, to help the Irish forces under O’Neill and O’Donnell, and other Irish chieftains, to try and chase the British out of Ireland. A huge battle ensued, the Spanish and the Irish forces managed to take Kinsale.
On hearing of the Spanish landing, the British sent about 8000 men, who managed to overcome the Spaniards after a huge battle, and the Spaniards who survived sailed back to Spain. You can still see some Spanish influences around Kinsale though, like the Spaniard pub, reputed to have been a meeting place for the Spanish during and after the battle, and a plaque to Don Juan del Aguila outside the Bullman pub, not far from Charles Fort.
After this battle, the British were worried about their foothold in Ireland, which was very necessary to them because of its trade routes with southern Europe and America, so they started work on Charles Fort, and moved a very large battalion of soldiers in to the fort. The British were also worried that their enemies would use southern Ireland as a ‘back door’ to attack England during the several wars that happened over the next two centuries, so several forts were built around Cork harbour, for protection.
Charles Fort was held by the British until the Anglo Irish treaty of 1922. Not everyone in Ireland was in favour of the Treaty, and after the British left the fort, it was taken over by the anti-treaty organisation, who burned it to the ground, and destroyed many of the buildings in the fort.
The fort lay derelict for many years, and during the 50s, 60s, early 70s, it was a great party and camping place for the young people of Cork during the summer months! My sister and I had our first alcoholic drink in the fort a long time ago – ssshhhh don’t tell anyone!
The Fort was declared a National Monument in 1971, and taken over by the National Heritage of Ireland, who have partly restored the fort, and have preserved much of the old ruined buildings which form part of our history.
There are guided tours of the fort, which we took during the week, and we were very interested to see how much work has been done on the old buildings, and to hear the history of this once huge barracks. It is a place that is well worth a visit if you are ever in the town of Kinsale.