The Kilkee Cliffs Ireland’s hidden secret
Ireland is a country of dramatic vistas, stunning seascapes and glorious swathes of green. Many will know of the Cliffs of Moher, the Giants Causeway, the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. One of Ireland’s best kept secrets though lies in the Wild Atlantic Way on the Loop Head Peninsula and it is the Kilkee Cliffs.
The Cliffs of Kilkee are an incredibly dramatic landscape that is rarely trespassed by tourists. This is one of the most dramatic and pristine locations on earth and a hidden secret that contains a small population and it is a protected environment so there is no development to spoil the views.
Where can I find the Cliffs of Kilkee?
Kilkee lies along a stretch of the County Clare coastline where the crashing of waves from the Atlantic tear at these magnificent cliffs. A remote part of Ireland the Kilkee Cliff Walk follows a path covering an 8km looped walk.
How to get to the Kilkee Cliffs
You can get to Kilkee village from Dublin via train or bus but really your best bet is to rent a car and then you can either drive the Loop Head Peninsula Route and head to the Kilkee Cliffs parking lot and do the walk from there.
Loop Head Heritage Trail
The Loop Head Heritage Trail is signposted and has an audio guide. From the tip of Loop Head to Ross Beach and Bridge, you will be able to see whales and dolphins from the coast, as well as a variety of nesting seabirds.
Loop Head Peninsula in Kilkee is also an absolutely phenomenal drive and hike to places where it seems no tourist has ever been. Puffins are also pretty common around here particularly in the area around 7 miles from the Lighthouse called the Bridges of Ross.
To minimize the impact on the environment there is very little signage on the walk. You can down an app for iPhone and Android that is free and can be downloaded.
Map of the Kilkee Cliffs
Kilkee Cliffs Walk – Aillte Cill Chaoi
Start your Kilkee Cliff walk at the Diamond rocks Café where you can enjoy a hearty full Irish breakfast to fuel your walk. The Café sits at the West End of Kilkee Village and from here you can follow the Cliff path.
The Kilkee Cliff walk is free and virtually free of all tourists and traffic. From the Diamond Rocks Café, the walk is a 3-mile loop from the door around the cliffs and down Dunlickey Road. Here are some highlights of the Kilkee Cliff Walk.
The Pollock Holes
The Pollock Holes are a local secret and a well known local swimming area with some of the best snorkelling in Ireland. Named after the Pollock that hide in the rocks of the Duggerna Reef.
There are three large, natural rock pools which are perfect for sheltered (it is cold though) for swimming. These closest tide pool used to be reserved for women bathers and the farthest one for male bathers. You do have to be aware of the tides in the area as it is possible to get stuck on the outer rocks. A good tip is to keep an eye on the locals and when they leave you do as well.
For those that simply enjoy checking out the marine life, there is lots to be seen in both the small tidal pools as well as the larger ones. You can plan a visit by checking the weather and tide times.
Intrinsic Bay is named after a ship, the Intrinsic, which sank along with all 14 hands-on board in 1836. The ship was headed to New Orleans with passengers and cargo but was caught in the terrible Atlantic storms and the rocks of the Wild Atlantic Way.
The entrance on the far side of the bay is marked by the first of the many sea stacks that stand proud of the precipices of which they were once a part. Formed by sea erosion, sea stacks are a distinctive feature of the Irish coastline and rise out of the water in a steep vertical column of rock.
Foonagh Point, is where you will find unrivalled views of Bishops Island, a large sea-stack, that stands 180m x 90m and 40m high.
The Bishop’s Island stack was cut off from the mainland over a thousand years ago but it holds the ruins of a Church and some original monastic beehive huts. The corbelled style Church ruins are similar to the Gallarus Oratory in Dingle.
From the Kilkee Cliff Walk, you can move through the Loop Head Trail and these are some of the places and sites you will see on the Trail to the Loop head Lighthouse.
Not that you can see the Castle as it is long gone. Built by the MacMahon family sometime before 1574 the edge of the Cliff was the location of the Tower House. This site is one of the most popular on Loophead for mackerel fishing.
Bridges of Ross
The Bridges of Ross were originally three rock arches that spanned the Atlantic to the mainland. These days though there is only one bridge left as the other two have crumbled into the sea via erosion. The top of the bridge is blanketed with a layer of grass and you can watch the sea wearing away at the remaining bridge.
Loop head Lighthouse
Loop head Lighthouse and the coastal landscape around it is so beautiful that naturally it was used by the film Star Wars The Last Jedi as a filming location.
There has been a lighthouse on this point for over 300 years and the current one dates back to 1854 and it is open to the public. From the balcony, you can see north as far as the Connemara mountains, northeast to the Aran Islands, and south, past the Brandon Mountains, to the Blasket Islands off the Kerry coast. If you want you can even stay in the Lightkeepers cottages.
Near the lighthouse, you can see a chalked E-I-R-E marked on the grassy clifftop in large white letters. This is a relic from World War II when the writing was used to alert pilots that they were entering neutral air space. There is another of these located at St. John’s Point in Donegal and more dotted throughout the WAW.
Diarmuid and Grainne’s Rock
Just north of the Lighthouse headland you can see the majestic seastack named Diarmuid and Gráinne’s Rock, at the point known as Lovers’ Leap. This is a tale as old as Ireland and another one of many locations, including that of Diarmud and Grainne’s cave in Sligo that relates to the love story of this pair.
There is a tiny cairn on the top of the rock that a put there by two intrepid English climbers in 1990. They abseiled down from the headland and climbed up the sea stack to build the cairn.
What to do near the Kilkee Cliffs
Dolphinwatch Carrigaholt is located at the mouth of the Shannon River where it runs into the sea. This area is home to Europe’s largest population of Bottlenose Dolphins. Within this Special Area of Conservation Dolphinwatch was pioneered by the Magee Family in 1992. Today you can take a tour with them to film and photography the native wildlife and sealife.
Traditional Music and Dance
Clare is renowned for its traditional music and dance. You will find music year-round in the local pubs.
Check out Carmody’s pub in Carrigaholt every Friday night. Also, join in to the Ceol Cois Tine (Music by the Fire) in Keane’s pub, Carrigaholt one Sunday in every month. In Kilkee check out O’ Mara’s pub who often host sessions. Set Dancing and trad music is held at Morrissey’s pub, Carrigaholt throughout the year. In Milltown Malbay which is home to the Willie Clancy Summer School the first Sunday of July, you will be treated to the best traditional music this country has to offer all week long in all bars and all free.
Perhaps the best-known local music event is the annual trad festival at Moyasta in August/September. The Nell Galvin Traditional Music Weekend honours the celebrated concertina and fiddle player Ellen (Nell) Galvin, who died in 1961. Musicians and audiences travel from all over Ireland and Britain, as well as from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to be part of it.
Coasteering is a relatively new athletic adventure that involves swimming, climbing, jumping and just generally scrabbling around the intertidal zone of rock pools, cliffs and caves. Naturally, the Loop Head coastline was made for this sport, with its rocky cliffs and coastal geology. Nevsail Watersports in Kilkee offers kayaking/ coasteering packages and snorkelling/ coasteering packages along the shores of Kilkee Bay.
Thalassotherapy or seaweed therapy
Seaweed has been eaten and used for medicinal and health purposes in Ireland for centuries. Nutritionally, sea-vegetables are as good as any land-vegetable and, in some cases, are superior in their vitamin, trace element and protein content.
Dulse, carrageen moss, and various kelps and wracks. Dulse is eaten when dried on both sides of the North Atlantic. Carrageen Moss or Irish Moss has been widely sold dried for cooking and as a remedy for colds and flu.
The area of Clare around Loop head is known for its seaweed. Besides using seaweed in recipes and food you can treat yourself to some Thalassotherapy treatments from facials to seaweed wraps and soaks. One of the best places in the area is the Kilkee Thalassotherapy Centre.
Glamping at Loophead
If you’re looking for even more relaxation and healing then you can go glamping at a yoga retreat at PureCamping. The retreat is completely eco-friendly on a farm surrounded by woodland and even an ancient ring fort. Sleep in a dome tent or cabin, watch for the local wildlife during the day, spend your evenings around a campfire, and of course yoga.
Kilkee is Loop Head’s main town with a population of just over 1,000 people. It is one of those Irish seaside villages that just emanates old-time charm. From 99’s on the beach with a Flaky stuffed in them to glorious seafood dinners bayside this is the beach of your Irish dreams.
A favourite spot of Charlotte Bronte, she even spent her honeymoon here, to a summer base for Richard Harris the hard-drinking and carousing actor who has a statue in town bearing his image. Russel Crowe and Danny De Vito have come here for the Kilkee Cliff walk and the Cuban revolutionary made a stop here on his way back from Russia. Every year Che is celebrated in September with the “Che Do Beatha” festival, when Kilkee turns into Little Havana for the weekend with music and dancing, cigars and rum.
Where to stay near the Kilkee Cliffs
If you want to stay in a traditional Irish cottage here are some Airbnb options for you.
The Blue Stonecutters Cottage
Follow the slate and sedum to The Blue Stonecutters Cottage atop Doonagore, a lovely high point with Atlantic views. The home enchants with original features, including beams, recessed windows, and period furnishings, such as the 100-year-old range. The cottage dates from just after the famine and was lovingly restored a few years ago.
The Red Stonecutters Cottage
The Red Stonecutters Cottage sits atop Doonagore, a spectacular high point that has views to the Atlantic Ocean, the Aran Islands, the Burren, and the music village of Doolin. It is situated on a quiet country road with nothing but gorse and fresh air.
Doonagore is quiet and rural, yet the buzz of the coastal villages of Doolin, Lahinch, and Liscannor are only a few minutes away.
The Old Schoolhouse on the River Shannon
The Old Schoolhouse is a beautifully renovated house that was originally the local national school built-in 1887. All rooms in the house have breathtaking views of the Shannon estuary. The house has wooden floors and ceilings throughout and a balcony where guests can sit and have breakfast overlooking the river. Labasheeda is a peaceful village on the Wild Atlantic way within easy reach of Kilimer Car ferry, Loop Head, Kilkee, the Cliffs of Moher any many more beautiful sights.
The Cliffs of Kilkee and the Loop Head Trail is one of the many hidden places in Ireland that most tourists don’t get a chance to visit so make sure you put it on your bucket list.
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