Kilkee (Cill Chaoi, "Church of Chaoineadh Ita – lamentation for Ita") is a small town in County Clare in the west of Ireland. It was the sea-side resort of Limerick in Victorian times, when wealthy merchants families retired here for the whole summer season, and built the many substantial summer houses that are now small hotels and guesthouses. The reason to visit is to explore the scenic Loop Head, the wild scenic peninsula where the Shannon meets the Atlantic, and this page covers all that area.
The main road N68 branches off M18 at Ennis and runs west via Kilrush to Kilkee. N67 is the scenic coast road, winding from the north of the county through Lahinch.
Bus Éireann 336 runs from Ennis via Kilrush to Kilkee, taking an hour. There are three M-Th and Saturday, four Friday, and two on Sunday.
1 Kilkee bus stop is on Gratten St.
You need wheels - a bike will do, though Loop Head is a long pedal against a stiff breeze.
West Clare Bus WA1N runs M-F morning and afternoon from Lisseycasey to Quilty, Doonbeg, Kilkee and Kilrush. Times vary with demand, call +353 065 671 9101 for details.
On Wednesday and Friday, West Clare Bus WA1S makes a morning and an afternoon run from Kilrush to Kilkee, Moveen, Carrigaholt, Kilbaha and Loop Head. Thursday it just runs between Kilrush and Kilkee.
- The main reason to visit Kilkee is to explore Loop Head:
- 1 Kilkee Cliffs look out over sea stacks and the islet of Illaunonearaun.
- Querrin is a quiet beach and campsite on the sheltered Shannon coast.
- 2 Carrigaholt (Carraig an Chabhaltaigh, "Rock of the Fleet") on the Shannon coast is where seven ships of the Spanish Armada took shelter in 1588. There's a scenic main street and the ruin of a 15th C castle. Dolphin-watching boat trips sail from the village April-Oct. Long Dock pub has stone walls, a roaring fire and excellent fresh-landed fish. Morrisey's, Carmody's and Keane's are three other good bars.
- 3 Kilbaha (Cill Bheathach, "Church of the Birches") is a tiny village further west. The villagers worked as pilots for ships entering the estuary: in 1873 five drowned when their pilot boat was overwhelmed in high seas. One km east, "The Grave of the Yellow Men" marks another 19th century tragedy at sea, but the historical event is not known. Keating's is the village pub and restaurant; the Lighthouse Inn has closed down.
- 4 Bridges of Ross near Kilbaha on the Atlantic coast is a great natural arch.
- 5 Loop Head has stiff breezes, great views and a lighthouse.
- Attractions east of Kilkee are the West Clare Railway, the village of Kilrush and Scattery Island.
- 6 West Clare Railway is recreated at Moyasta on N67. This notoriously unreliable railway was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge, operating 1887-1961. Built to revive the local economy after the Famine, it meandered from Ennis through the fields to Milltown Malbay and Moyasta junction, where one branch continued to Kilrush pier and another to Kilkee. In 1896 the entertainer Percy French successfully sued it for making him very late for a show. And when he arrived late for the court hearing, that too was because "I took the West Clare Railway here, your Honour". All that remains of the line is 2 km of track at Moyasta junction, worked by original 0-6-2T steam locomotive Slieve Callan; others are under restoration. The railway aims to open Sunday afternoons May-Sept but, upholding the tradition, it's altogether unreliable.
- 7 Kilrush (Cill Rois, "Church of the Woods") is a small village on the Shannon coast. St Senan's RC Church on Toler St has interesting 20th C stained glass. Vandeleur Walled Garden is open daily 10:00-17:00, free; there's a bistro but the mansion Kilrush House is long gone. The 19th C Vandeleurs were ruthless landlords responsible for shocking evictions, helping to spark land reform agitation across Ireland. The village has a large marina with boat trips to Scattery Island and for dolphin-watching: a pod of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) lives in the estuary here.
- 8 Scattery Island (Inis Cathaighis) is uninhabited and has a lighthouse, a ruined monastery, an Irish round tower and the remains of a Napoleonic-era gun battery. St Sennan (488-560) was born in Kilrush, founded churches in Ireland, Brittany and Cornwall (hence Sennan Cove), became bishop, and founded the monastery here. The island is reached by boat trips from Kilrush, usually twice a day in summer but dependent on weather and tides. Nearby Hog Island is just farmland, as are the islands in the Fergus estuary near the airport.
- Northeast of Kilkee the road follows the coast.
- 9 Doonbeg (Dún Beag) means "small fort" - it's just a teetering stump of masonry. The Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven is modern, with stain glass windows that illuminate the altar throughout the day. There's surfing on the beach. Main drag has a lively strip of pubs with food and traditional music.
- Kilkee beach is a wide horseshoe, but blighted by pollution from waste-water overflow, and it was closed for a spell in 2019. To the south, in the flat rocks, are a number of natural swimming pools, refreshed with sea water at high tide, and known locally as 'Pollock Holes' because of the fish that are caught there.
- Scuba diving: snorkel or shore-dive in Kilkee from Duggerna Rocks and Myles Creek west side of the bay, or boat-dive Black Rocks. Oceanlife Dive Centre is north end of the bay.
- There's a good walk north from the bay past Kilkee golf course to Corbally Cliff, Bryne's Cove and George's Head.
- Kilkee Waterworld is a small indoor pool, popular with small children.
- Kilrush has a Tesco on Ennis Rd N68, open M-Sa 08:00-22:00, Su 09:00-21:00. There's also a Supervalu by the marina.
- Kilkee has a Mace convenience store.
- Taste of Punjab, O'Curry St, Kilkee, ☏ . Daily 16:00-23:00. Usually decent Indian food, some diners found it over-oily. O'Curry St in Kilkee is not exactly a Little Mumbai, nor are its namesakes in Limerick and Dublin - they're named after Eugene O'Curry (1794-1862), born near Carrigaholt, who made extensive study of Irish language, law, and music.
- O'Mara's Bar on O'Curry Street sometimes has trad music but is mostly the place for a quiet pint.
- Hickie's Bar is in Bay View Hotel, see Sleep.
- 1 Purecamping, Querrin, ☏ . Eco-campsite open May-Sept, set in woodland with pre-erected bell tents, cabins and tent pitches. There are some camper vans standings but limited hook ups or chemical toilet disposal (none available in 2020). Yoga, eco-workshops, sauna, and extensive play areas. Bell tent €60, cabin €90.
- Collins Caravan Park is east edge of Kilkee village as you approach from Kilrush.
- Kilkee Town House, 2 Erin St, Kilkee, ☏ . 16 rooms in light modern style in a Victorian building, friendly and comfy. B&B double €170.
- Stella Maris, O'Connell St, Kilkee, ☏ . No availability in summer 2020. B&B double €90.
- Bay View Hotel, O'Connell Street, Kilkee, ☏ . Clean and welcoming hotel in village centre. Contains Hickie's Bar and Pier Restaurant. B&B double €130.
- Splurge at 2 Trump Hotel Doonbeg, Doughmore Bay, Doonbeg, ☏ . Plush resort hotel gets great reviews for rooms, service and food. The golf course, 6885 yards par 72, was laid out by Greg Norman in the late 20th C but redesigned in 2014 by Martin Hawtree when Donald Trump acquired the hotel. B&B double from €320.
As of July 2020, you might manage a mobile call with Eir or Three in Kilkee, but not 4G, and there's no signal from Vodafone.
- The obvious tour route is northeast along the coast to Lahinch, the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin and the Burren, and eventually to Galway.
- The Shannon coast east leads to Ennis, with a collection of ruined abbeys, then to the airport and touristy Bunratty.
- For city attractions head to historic Limerick.