Loop Head Peninsula – great sites sans crowds
If there is poor relative of the Cliffs of Moher, it’s the Loop Head Peninsula. Just slightly further south along the Wild Atlantic Way, the Loop Head Peninsula has its own soaring sea cliffs, coastal walks, fascinating geology, beautiful lighthouse, historic battle towers, a blue flag beach…and less crowds.
So whether it was lack of PR or maybe the luck of the draw, it’s nowhere near as well-known as its big brother…but that can work to your advantage. No big buses with dozens disembarking at every photo opportunity. It also means you can go in to the corner deli, grab a great sub sandwich and only wait in line with the locals. Priceless.
As I drove down N67 from Doolin, just after passing the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel entrance with the three flags, I took a right turn on the next road with the Wild Atlantic Way sign pointing to Doughmore Bay. You parallel the Creegh River as it flows to the sea and end up right at the main Trump facility – the beautiful Doughmore House (without using their driveway or valets). There’s a small public parking lot there where you can leave your vehicle and set out to explore the mouth of the river and the beautiful beach.
It’s interesting to see how the river goes from a lush green wrapped body of water inland to a rocky place as it filters into the Atlantic. The beach to its right seems to go on forever and people were kayaking and surfing the day I was there.
Just past the Doughmore Bay area is the City of Kilkee with its blue flag beach. The beach gained popularity in the 19th century and is now encircled with both old and new, colorful residences. This kilometer long beach is protected by Duggerna Reef some distance offshore, making it one of the most safe in County Clare. I debated making a quick change in my Bunk Camper and going surfing, but I opted to keep pressing on. (It may have had something to do with not having a surf board…or not knowing how to surf. Hmmm. )
Being the biggest town on Loop’s Head, Kilkee is a perfect place to grab a bite to eat, and I’d recommend Nolan’s Deli at 49 O’Curry Street. It’s carryout only, but for eating in the camper or to save until you get to the lighthouse, they’ve got an extensive list of made-to-order sandwiches and salads.
With sandwich in hand, I was off to Kilbaha – overlooking the mouth of the Shannon River. With some of the most fascinating rock and vegetation formations, the shores were layer after layer of color as the ground wound its way down to the river.
One thing I missed while in Kilbaha was the “Little Ark,” a moveable church on wheels that used to be hauled down to the beach at low tide, back in the days when the landowners wouldn’t allow the Roman Catholic Church to purchase property. It’s a fascinating story you can read here.
End of the road if you will, is the Loop Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse you’ll see was built in 1854, but there’s been a lighthouse here since 1670. Back then, a fire was built on the roof of a single-story cottage (which is part of the display on the lighthouse grounds.)
Open generally from April through August (and sometimes in September) you can tour the lighthouse and climb to a lookout platform for great views of the Shannon on one side and the Atlantic on the other. The tower is 23 meters tall and was automated in 1991 and can be seen for up to 23 miles. Admission is charged to enter the grounds.
Outside the walled Lighthouse, the parking opens onto a spacious grass filled area where people were picnicking, frisbeeing and enjoying the wild flowers in the field. A short walk to the north and you’ll be peering down at sea cliffs to rival those at Moher. No guard rails here folks, so get as close as you dare.
Constantly swooping and diving, there are dozens of seabirds that make this their home. Find the right vantage points along the cliffs and you’ll discover little secret beaches that can only be reached from the sea. A large seal seemed to be enjoying one the day I was there.
The cliffs are a great place to spread out a blanket and enjoy that Nolan’s Deli sandwich. Just make sure the birds don’t fly off with it.
Heading back, you might want to make a detour off the main road to check out Carrigaholt Castle. Its not open to the public but it’s very photogenic.
If you are continuing down the Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll want to then head to Killmer on your way back, where you’ll catch the Shannon Ferry from Killmer to Tarbert. It’s just a short trip, but it was time enough for me to grab a cold one in my Bunk Camper and download the photos from earlier in the day.
From the ferry, we are headed to Tralee and then on to the Ring of Kerry. Follow along in our next article.