Kilkee Beach: A Guide To One Of The Finest Sandy Stretches In The West

kilkee beach
Photo left: autumnlove. Photo right: shutterupeire (Shutterstock)

A day spent chilling on the beautiful Kilkee ‌Beach‌ is one of the more popular things to do in Kilkee when the weather’s fine.

A popular destination with holiday-makers since Victorian times, here you can sun-bathe on good days, take a dip in the Wild Atlantic, explore the nearby countryside and kick back with fish and chips or an ice-cream. 

In the guide below, you’ll find everything you need to know if you plan on visiting Kilkee Beach, from where to park to what to see and do nearby.

Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Kilkee Beach in Clare

kilkee beach
Photo by shutterupeire (shutterstock)

Although a visit to Kilkee Beach in Clare is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

Water safety warning: Understanding water safety is absolutely crucial when visiting beaches in Ireland. Please take a minute to read these water safety tips. Cheers!

1. Location

Well known throughout Ireland, Kilkee is a natural horseshoe-shaped bay in County Clare. To one side are the Pollock Holes, natural swimming pools that are surrounded by a reef, and to the other, Georges Head, a vantage point that looks out over Bishops Island and the Loop Head Peninsula.

2. Parking

If you’re visiting the beach on a day trip, there is plenty of parking nearby. At the west end of the beach there’s a small car park with some benches and another car park along O’Connell Street in the town centre some 100 metres from the beach. A larger car park can be found at the north end.

3. Swimming

It’s safe to swim at Kilkee Beach, once caution is taken. Lifeguards are on duty from July to August from 11:00 to 19:00. For the latest info, see Clare County Councils’ website. Note: Swimming was banned on Kilkee Beach as recently as May 25th, 2021, due to a burst pipe, so check the Council site above in advance of visiting. 

4. Cliff walk

Love a walk with an amazing sea view? You’re spoilt for choice here! Both sides of the bay open out to walks; the Kilkee Cliff walk, or the Georges Head where you can see the coastline in all its magnificent glory. Find out more in this guide.

About Kilkee Beach

 

Kilkee, from the Irish Cill Chaoi, meaning ‘Church of Chaoineadh Ita – lamentation for Ita’) is in the parish of Kilkee, midway between Kilrush and Doonbeg.

It’s a long established beach resort and is still very popular today. The sandy stretch is regarded as one of the best beaches in Ireland, and lifeguards patrol the area in the summer months. 

The beach itself is the main attraction, and the abundant fish life and rock formations make it a popular destination with divers. Canoeists and paddle boarders also flock there for the sport, and you can get lessons in either activity in the summer. 

Whales and dolphins are also also known to frequent the area near Kilkee Beach, at times, making it a must-visit for wildlife fans.

A snappy history of Kilkee Beach

kilkee beach
Photo left: autumnlove. Photo right: shutterupeire (Shutterstock)

Prior to the early 19th century, Kilkee was a small fishing village, but when paddle steamer services from Limerick to Kilrush were launched in the 1820s, the place began to attract visitors.

The demand for holidays homes escalated, leading to a building boom and the erection of hotels to meet the demand. The village experienced another boom in the 1890s when the West Clare Railway started goods transport, improving the commercial prospects and providing easier, faster travel to the area.

Famous visitors to Kilkee include Charlotte Bronte, who honeymooned there, Sir Henry Rider Haggard, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and of course Russell Crowe who unveiled the Kilkee memorial to the actor Richard Harris, a life-size bronze statue of Harris that shows him playing squash.

The actor was an accomplished squash player, who won the Tivoli Cup in Kilkee four years in a row (1948 to 1951) and was also born in nearby Limerick.

Things to see and do at Kilkee Beach

The Kilkee Cliff
Photo via Johannes Rigg on shutterstock.com

There’s plenty of things to see and do at Kilkee Beach, aside from the sand itself, with everything from Pollock Holes to deep sea diving on offer.

Pollock holes and diving boards

The Pollock Holes, also known as Duggerna Reef, are the three natural rock-enclosed pools in Kilkee. The water in them is changed by every tide, which not only brings in fresh water, but it also replenishes the marine life in the rock pools. 

There are also diving boards at New Found Out, where you can dive up to 13 metres into open sea, and every year there is a diving competition held here.

Deep sea diving

If the likes of Jacques Costeau describe somewhere as the best place in Europe for diving, you’ve got to believe he’s right, haven’t you?

The town’s dive centre is a fully equipped SCUBA diving centre where both beginners and experts can find help and resources. Divers can attempt depths of 10 metres and up to 45 metres for amazing views of the marine life and reef formations.

The Strand Races

The Strand Races are horse races that take place every year on Kilkee Strand. Poles are placed on the beach to set up the course, and the race begins when the tide goes out.

The races take place in September, and were once held as an annual celebration for farmers marking the end of the harvest. 

Things to do after you’ve visited Kilkee Beach

One of the beauties of Kilkee Beach is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Clare.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Menlo Castle (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Take a spin out to Loop Head Lighthouse

loop head
Photo by 4kclips (Shutterstock)

There has been a lighthouse at this point – the headland of the Loop Head Peninsula – for hundreds of years. You can see as far as Dingle and Connemara from Loop Head Lighthouse on a clear day, and you’ll find plenty of seabirds, seals and dolphins to stare at in wonder. 

2. Visit the Bridges of Ross

the bridges of ross in clare
Photo by Johannes Rigg (Shutterstock)

The Bridges of Ross is the western side of a natural harbour (Ross Bay) near the village of Kilbaha. In years gone by, the Bridges of Ross referred to three amazing natural sea arches, though two have since fallen away. The view point is reached by taking the footpath a few hundred metres west of the car park.

3. Visit Lahinch

Lahinch village
Photo by shutterupeire (Shutterstock)

Lahinch is another small, warm-hearted and lively holiday resort near to Kilkee. It’s at the head of Liscannor Bay next to the 2km Lahinch Beach, which attracts plenty of surfers thanks to its awesome Atlantic breakers.

There’s plenty of other things to do in Lahinch, too, if you’d prefer to keep your feet dry. Two other towns nearby are Spanish Point and Miltown Malbay. Both are well-worth stopping off in, especially if you fancy a bite to eat.

4. Or take a spin to Ennis

Ennis in Clare
Photo by Madrugada Verde (Shutterstock)

Ennis is County Clare’s county town, and the largest in Clare. There’s plenty of things to do in Ennis and there’s an endless number of great restaurants in Ennis if you’re feeling peckish!

FAQs about Kilkee Beach

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from whether Kilkee Beach is safe to swim on to what to do nearby.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is it safe to swim on Kilkee Beach?

Yes, it’s safe to swim at Kilkee Beach, once caution is taken. Lifeguards are on duty from July to August from 11:00 to 19:00. Note: Kilkee Beach was closed as recently as May of 2021, due to a burst pipe, so check the Clare Council website mentioned above for updates.

Is there parking at the beach in Kilkee?

Yes, there is plenty of parking nearby. You shouldn’t have any hassle getting parking, unless you visit on a hot summers day.

Emma Baird is a lifestyle editor and novelist. She has worked in the communications industry for more than 25 years, and loves animals, the countryside and lingering in a great pub for the food and the craic.

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