ByRoute 1.4 Co. Kerry (NW) // Co. Galway (S)
The ShannonFerry Group Ltd. operates a Car Ferry carrying vehicles and foot passengers across the Shannon Estuary between Tarbert (Co. Kerry) and Killimer (Co. Clare); the trip takes 20 minutes.
Killimer (Co. Clare / South)
Killimer is a riverside village noted only as the northern terminal of the ferry across the Shannon Estuary to and from Tarbert on the Co. Kerry shore. Ferries run on the hour in winter, on the half-hour in summer.
Killimer is close to Knock on ByRoute 9.
Moneypoint electricity generating station on the River Shannon Estuary dominates the landscape for miles around It has a very long jetty and imports vast quantities of coal by sea. Its future is uncertain on account of its emissions.
Kilrush (Co. Clare / Southwest)
Kilrush (Cill Rois – Church of the Woods) (pop. 5000) on the River Shannon Estuary is effectively the capital of West Clare. It has good amenities, including no less than ten eateries and 12 pubs.
Crotty’s Pub, Kilrush (Photo by SarniaGirl)
Kilrush has existed since the C16th, but it was not until the Napoleonic Wars led to an improvement in cereal prices that it began to undergo major development as a seaport, exporting agricultural products and hides. By 1831 it was a market town of some consequence, with local textile, nail, salt and soap factories and a tannery, branches of the national and agricultural banks, a constabulary, a small bridewell and a courthouse.
This achievement was partly due to the hard work of James Patterson, a Scottish gunboat lieutenant who became an oats trader and shipping magnate, acknowledged as early as 1808 by Hely Dutton as a ‘very active and intelligent inhabitant, who has been of the utmost benefit to Kilrush, and the adjoining counties’. However, the chief credit is usually ascribed to John Ormsby Vandeleur, who was responsible for the layout of the town; many of the street names in Kilrush honour members of the Vandeleur family, who practically owned the entire district and were the most prominent landlords in West Clare.
Col. Crofton Moore Vandeleur (1808 – 1881) decided to set up a co-operative experiment after his steward was killed in agrarian unrest. In 1831 he employed an Englishman called Edward Thomas Craig to set up the utopian socialist Ralahine Commune. The labourers did not get much better wages than those on other estates, but did get free schooling for their children, stone built houses and some say in the running of the estate. Vandeleur also did very well out of the scheme, but the experiment ended after three years when he lost his money due to gambling debts. The selective folk memory of Kilrush seems to have almost absolved him for his role in subsequent evictions.
The Great Famine brought starvation, fever and cholera to West Clare; combined with shockingly cruel landlord practices in the post famine era (Hector Vandeleur is said to have had over 20,000 tenants evicted), poverty and disease led to mass emigration, reducing the population to such an extent that it has never attained its pre-famine numbers. The Kilrush Union Workhouse witnessed terrible deprivation and deaths.
Kilrush only began to recover as a market town with the arrival of the West Clare Railway towards the end of the C19th, but did not truly prosper until the tourism boom of the late C20th.
Kilrush House (1808) was gutted by fire in 1897 and demolished in 1973. The site is now a car park and picnic area.
The Vandeleur Walled Garden, restored to its former glory, features many tropical plants that thrive in the area’s western latitude climate. A selection of the Heritage exhibition “Kilrush in the Landlord Times” is also on display. (Photo by SarniaGirl)
Kilrush Forest Park is the former Vandeleur Demesne, first planted in 1712. The 175ha / 420 acre demesne, once entirely walled, has an unmistakable late C18th framework of shelter belts, woodland & pasture set out conforming to the lie of the land.
The town square, where a farmers’ market is held on Thursdays, has monument in the centre commemorating the Manchester Martyrs.
Saint Senan’s church (RC), partially sponsored by Col. Crofton Moore Vandeleur and inaugurated in 1840 by the famous Temperance preacher, Fr Matthew, claims that the 1860 erection of its 230ft spire made it the first RC church in Ireland to have such a feature, and is particularly noted for its stained glass windows, designed in 1932 by Harry Clarke Studios. (Photo by Patrick Cusack)
The Eigse Mrs. Crotty is a traditional music festival held every August in honour of a famed concertina player from Kilrush.
The Kilrush Choral Society, resurrecting the tradition of a renowned local mid-C20th Operatic Society, puts on annual Musicals and hopes to stage Grand Opera productions.
The Kilrush Shamrocks GAA Club play Gaelic football at “The Cricket Field”, so called as it was used for that sport during the C19th. Presumably members of this club were responsible for vandalising the local rugby ground in the 1930s by scattering glass on the pitch to prevent the playing of “foreign sports”; the rugby club has since been reborn, and soccer, tennis and other unGaelic activities are now also tolerated.
Kilrush Creek opens onto the Shannon Estuary, very wide at this point, creating more of a coastal than an estuarine feel. Cappagh Pier was, and still is, the most important factor in the development of Kilrush. The oldest section near the shore was built in 1764. The customs house near the quay was erected in 1806.
Kilrush Creek Marina provides 120 berths, protected from the tidal waters by lock gates. (Photo by SarniaGirl)
The Shannon Dolphin And Wildlife Centre (formerly the Scattery Island Centre) identifiable by its striking Dolphin mural, houses a range of interesting displays, and provides information about recent research and conservation of the Shannon Estuary andits dolphins. Admission is free.
Kilrush is a recognised Sea Angling centre, and boats can also be hired for or for reel fishing, diving or visiting estuarine or offshore islands. Sailing is also very popular; the Western Yacht Club claims to be one of the oldest yacht clubs in the world.
Scattery Island is about 15 minutes from Kilrush by boat. Trips are available year round, weather permitting, as are special dolphin viewing excursions.
Kilrush is within easy distance of Kilmihil on ByRoute 10.
Moyasta Junction Station & the West Clare Railway
Moyasta Junction Railway Station was on the West Clare Railway Company‘s narrow gauge line(s) linking Ennis with Kilkee and Kilrush, in operation from 1887 until 1961.
Nowadays visitors can view an audiovisual display and take trips in period carriages along a restored section of the old railway line.
The WCR’s steam locomotive engine Nº 5, the Slieve Callan. (Photo by Herbert Ortner)
The great early C20th popular composer Percy French wrote a satirical parody of the West Clare Railway after missing an engagement in Kilkee; the chorus “Are you right there Michael, are you right? / Do you think that we’ll make it before the night?” is still widely sung. The company sued for libel, but had to abandon the proceedings when all their legal team and witnesses arrived late on the day of the hearing due to delays on the same line.
Poulnasherry Bay (Poll na nOisrí) is a large tidal inlet on the Shannon Estuary, much appreciated by wading birds and local fishermen for its crabs and lugworms.
Querrin Pier is a quiet fishing spot located on the western side of Poulnasherry Bay.
Doonaha (Co. Clare / Southwest)
Doonaha (Dún Átha) is a small village on the Doonaha River close to its mouth on the Shannon Estuary.
Doonaha has a small memorial to its most famous native son, the linguist and scholar Eoghan O Comhraidhe / Eugene O’Curry (1796-1862).
The church of the Holy Spirit (RC) was built in 1808 and is one of the oldest churches in the Kilaloe diocese.
Doonaha National School was built in 1886.
Doonaha Pier is situated about 0.5km to the east of the village.
The Doonaha Battery was built in 1814 as the northern part of the Shannon Estuary Fortifications. Its counterpart was the Corran Point Battery on Carrig Island off the southern banks, of which very little remains. The Doonaha Battery is severely eroded.
Glasheen Beach is a quiet, unspoilt strand on the Shannon Estuary; although not easy to find, it is well worth the search.