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. Kilkee is world famous for its bathing facilities. It has one of the safest beaches anywhere and has wonderful natural rock pools called the Pollock Holes which are a huge attraction. It is also known for great walks along its cliffs.
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 75 min. There are six M-Sa and three on Sunday.
1 Kilkee bus stop is on Gratten St.
Local Link Bus R337 runs from Ennis to the Shannon Ferry pier at Killimer then continues to Kilrush, with 3 M-Sa and two on Sunday. It doesn't reach Kilkee.
You need wheels - a bike will do, though Loop Head is a long pedal against a stiff breeze.
Local Link Bus 339 runs twice M-F from Kilrush to Kilkee, Querrin, Doonaha, Carrigaholt, Cross, Kilbaha, Loop Head lighthouse and back to Kilkee and Kilrush. That gives you four hours at Loop Head.
A combination of buses 335, 336 and 339 means a connection between Kilkee and Kilrush every hour or two M-Sa, taking 15 min; only four on Sunday.
- 1 Kilkee Cliffs look out over sea stacks and the islet of Illaunonearaun.
- 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-century 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 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.
- Kilkee beach is a wide horseshoe shaped bay. It is widely regarded as one of the safest beaches in Ireland because of its enclosed shape. 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'.
- 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. Famously Jacques Cousteau said Kilkee was one of the top three dive spots in the world is in his opinion. There a vast amount of wonderful rock formations and marine life to be seen.
- There's a good walk north from the bay past Kilkee golf course to Corbally Cliff, Byrne's Cove and George's Head. Byrne's Cove was famous for many years as an all-male bathing spot where men could swim naked, but that has ended.
- Kilkee Waterworld is an indoor pool containing water slides and a lazy river, popular with children.
- Water sports including lessons for children are available at high season provided by Nevsail Watersports.
- There is a cultural centre, called Culturlann Sweeny, which combines an extensive library with an art gallery and theatre where concerts and plays are regularly held.
- Kilkee has several good convenience stores and most things can be bought locally. There are two pharmacies, a hardware, several gift shops as well as a bank and post office.
- Naughtons Bar and Restaurant, O Curry Street
- Pollock and Porter, O Connell Street
- Happy Harbour Chinese Restaurant, O Curry Street
- Diamond Rocks Cafe and Restaurant, West End Kilkee
- Lir Restaurant at Kilkee Golf Club, East End Kilkee
- The Pier Restaurant at Bayview Hotel, O Connell Street
- Restaurant at the Royal Marine Hotel and Apartments
- Kilkee Bay Hotel Restaurant Kilrush Road
- Stella Maris Restaurant O Connell Street Kilkee
- 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.
- The Central Bar, O Curry Street. Very busy all day pub.
- Marrinan's Bar, long established family owned pub popular with locals and visitors alike.
- The Greyhound Bar, a well restored old pub in O Curry Street. Standing room only at busy times
- Murphy's Bar, The Square. small but busy old worlde type pub with nooks and crannies with larger back bar.
- 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.
- Royal Marine Hotel and Apartments, 1 Circular Road Kilkee. Newly refurbished hotel in the very centre of Kilkee with good bar and restaurant facilities.
- 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 century 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.