A narrow finger of County Clare pointing out into the Atlantic Ocean, Loop Head is brimming with drama, history and rugged coastal scenery that will take your breath away
Bound on one side by the Shannon Estuary and on the other by the awesome power of the Atlantic Ocean, Loop Head has always been defined by its relationship with the water. As you drive south from Kilkee and embark on the famous Loop Head Drive, you’ll be wowed by the dramatic cliffs, turbulent seascapes and historic sites you’ll encounter.
Dive right in
The waters around Loop Head are ideal for everything from sea angling and kayaking to coasteering (an exhilarating combination of climbing, swimming, jumping and scrambling along rock pools, cliffs and caves). And if you’re a scuba diver, you’ll want to know that Jacques Cousteau himself declared this the best diving spot in Europe. Local experts such as Nevsail Watersports and the Kilkee Diving and Watersports Centre can help you take on these aquatic challenges.
If you prefer to stay on dry land, there’s plenty to see there, too. The Bridges of Ross were a trio of sea arches on the north shore of the peninsula. Only one remains standing but the name has endured. This lone survivor is internationally renowned as one of Europe’s top bird-watching sites, where you might even spot a rare Sabine’s gull among the kittiwakes, cormorants and wintering geese.
Room with a view
Drive to the very tip of the peninsula and you’ll come to the imposing Loop Head Lighthouse. There’s been a lighthouse on this site for well over 300 years but this one dates from 1854 and is open to the public. Take the guided tour and you’ll find yourself on the balcony, 23 metres (75 feet) above the ground, braced against the Atlantic winds as you marvel at the views. On a clear day, you can see the mountains of Connemara to the north and the Blasket Islands to the south. You can even stay in the lightkeepers’ accommodation, courtesy of the Irish Landmark Trust.
Land of legend
When you’ve got your feet on solid ground again, we suggest you go exploring. Just a short walk from the lighthouse, at a spot known as Lovers’ Leap, is a stunning natural wonder that’s shrouded in legend; a majestic seastack known as Diarmuid and Gráinne’s Rock. It’s said that the mythical lovers leapt onto this rock to escape the pursuing armies of jealous exes.
Written in stone
Nearby, you might notice the E-I-R-E marked on the grassy clifftop in large white letters. This is a relic from WWII, when the writing was used to alert pilots that they were entering neutral air space. You’ll find similar sights all along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Meet the locals
Of course you won’t want to leave the Loop Head Peninsula before meeting some of the locals. And if you take the Dolphinwatch boat trip from Carrigaholt to the mouth of the Shannon, you’ll have the chance to meet some of the 160 or so bottlenose dolphins that live in this EU Special Area of Conservation.
So now that you’ve thoroughly explored the highlights, history and secrets of the Loop Head Peninsula, you’re ready to get back into your Wild Atlantic Way adventure.
Geographical coordinates: Latitude 52.560901; longitude -9.9304605 (note, if you use your car’s GPS to go directly to this point, you may not always remain on the Wild Atlantic Way route.)