The Right and Wrong Way to See Loop Head Peninsula
With the arrival of day 8 it finally started to hit us that our time in Ireland was winding down. We still had an adventure in Dingle to look forward to though, and that very much eased that sadness. It wasn’t time for Dingle just yet though, as we had two more stops planned along the way.
The first of these stops was Loop Head Peninsula, located conveniently just outside of the town of Kilkee where we were staying. It’s worth mentioning that, while we didn’t get to explore it at all, Kilkee looks like a fun little beach town with a decent swimming beach and lots of pubs and restaurants in the “downtown” area along the water.
After making a stop by the Kilkee library to reprint some documents and boarding passes that we had left at the hotel in Clifden, it was off to Loop Head Peninsula which has been described as a smaller version of the Cliffs of Moher with far fewer crowds and no restrictions. It has also been named the best attraction in Ireland several years running by the Irish Times.
Unfortunately, we got some bad intel that caused us to miss out on the full experience of the drive which I will attempt to spare you from here. When you do the drive, you want to take the sign-posted route from downtown Kilkee (south heading out of the town) along the north coast of the peninsula. The north coast of the peninsula is where all the dramatic scenery is and you’re much better off just driving that route out and back. We, unfortunately. took the advice of loophead.ie which suggested heading out on Coast Road on the south end of the peninsula. The south coast of the peninsula is very unremarkable and an opportunity loss, as the north coast is some of the most dramatic coastline you’ll ever see. The most notable thing on the south drive was the piles of manure we ended up having to drive through at one point, leaving our tires coated in the smell.
Eventually, the south coast road did meet up with the main Loophead road out near the end of the peninsula. At the end of the peninsula is a lighthouse that you can pay to be admitted to. We passed and instead elected to explore the cliffs. It’s a pretty remarkable sight. Huge grassy plains you can walk through as if you were in the middle of a rural field, and then all of the sudden they just drop off into the ocean. Do tread with care though, as you can see areas where the cliffs collapsed and slid down into the ocean (creating some very cool looking “slides” into the water). While probably not even half the height of the Cliffs of Moher, these cliffs are still plenty high to kill you several times over if you were to fall. The squishy ground near the edge was not reassuring either, but the pay a few meters back from the edge felt safe enough.
Walking west along the cliffs (the direction you drove from) will soon take you to a cool archway where a “door” was carved out by erosion, going straight through the center of a cliff and out the other side.
From here it was time to head back, and finally check out the rest of this dramatic coastline we’d heard so much about (not that the tip of the peninsula itself wasn’t sufficiently dramatic). After the bad south coast advice we ditched what we’d read on loophead.ie altogether and decided to cite an alternate source, the Backroads of Ireland guidebook. Unfortunately this was an even worse decision, as the guidebook gives shockingly bad advice here. It advises that you take the R487 out from Kilkee to the peninsula and back. R487 proper goes straight through the center of the peninsula with absolutely no views it all. The section of the road that you actually want is called “Coast Road” on all the signs, even though it’s technically a part of R487 (and runs parallel to the main R487, but on the coast instead of in the middle of the peninsula).
Eventually, after stopping for lunch and a pint at Keating’s, advertised as the closest pub to New York, we realized the error of our ways and through some arguing made our way over to the north coast of the peninsula on our own. As soon as we got there we were instantaneously met with the shocking coastline we’d heard about. The road meanders along huge cliffs that jut out into the ocean, and there are these tall circular islands dotted right along the coast as you go. There are several parking areas along the way to pull off and explore. We finally saw why this drive came so highly recommended, it was just a shame to have missed half of it, but we had a ferry to catch and we couldn’t go back and do it over again. Still a great experience, nonetheless.