I knew that the drive from Ballyferriter to Clare wasn’t a long distance, mileage speaking. Around a hundred kilometres to get on to the Wild Atlantic Way in that county, and to find our way to Kilkee.
I’ve never been to Kilkee before, and in honesty I don’t think I ever heard of it. The hotel we booked, The Stella Maris (Star of the Sea I think that means) was pet friendly, and just managed to slot us in … I only booked it after breakfast the same morning we left Ballyferriter, so a big thank you to them.
First impressions of Clare after the postcard scenery of Kerry are somewhat bleak. It’s the kind of landscape you need to come straight into, and not compare with others. It has an empty windswept cast to it, and most of it seems devoid of trees. Sea-gales, and lashing winter storms shape it.
Approaching Kilkee, the landscape is dominated by bungalows, small housing estates and mobile homes. There’s a sort of nothing feel to the place. The Stella Maris was a slightly tired, but not weary, hotel from an age gone by. Music from the thirties and forties crooned from small speakers, and people sat about having afternoon tea in that mish-mash of tee-shirt, cardigans-and-towel combinations, only ever found at the seaside.
The strand of Kilkee was unusual in that the eastern end of the beach was arced by large ghat like steps that served multi-functionally as storm walls, viewing points, changing areas, and a climbing area. The western end of the beach is overlooked by what must be the old part of the village: an attractive series of detached Georgian houses, that took you out to a nice cafe and a great cliff walk.
Kilkee I imagine is where the good people of nearby Limerick come to holiday. Gaggles of skimpily-clad teenage girls meandered about watchful for boys of their own age, or over-vigilant parents. Similarly aged boys moped here and there in wet-suits, or egged each other to jump from heights on the cliffs into the sea. Adults were scarce in comparison. It could have been any year of my life between 1980 and now … the subtleties of swimwear or wet-suit designs were perhaps the only indicator of the present.
Food in Kilkee was regrettably unimaginative, and we only ate one main meal at the hotel outside of the breakfasts. It was forgettable, and I have indeed forgotten what it was. It’s a sort of pizza-chips, burger-chips, steak-chips, or seafood options kind of place. Not great for us, and we were both a bit chipped out after Kerry.
We had a beautiful cliff walk though, to the western side of the inlet, and found the remnant markings of an organised run which we went back later to do. Saw a few choughs along the cliffs when we walked, and came across some Pollock Holes, which neither of us had ever heard of. They’re large holes in the limestone that fill up with water and are used by bathers wanting a gentler experience than the ocean might be offering on a given day.
Moved on towards Lisdoonvarna.
Stopped along the way to take in Lahinch and Spanish Point before continuing on to walk the now overridden paths up to the Cliffs of Moher.
Still a beautiful sight, despite the people traffic. I remember sitting up here some years back with a friend and picnicking with a spliff and a bottle of wine. Not a soul did we see, and we must have been there for three hours. Hard to imagine now. Streams of people seemed intent on walking from one end to the other of the walk without really taking time out. There were also a number of ‘dogs forbidden’ signs, which Zak ignored, and it got us talking with a few others we encountered about the difficulties of tootling about in Ireland with dogs. The pubs don’t allow them. Most of the hotels don’t allow them. The beaches don’t allow them. The walks don’t allow them. The fields don’t allow them. When did this absurd nonsense arise? I grew up in Ireland, and took our dogs everywhere, and back then I don’t think I ever owned a lead. Today we all have leads, and the dogs are less feral generally. The country needs to wake up a bit and look at it as an opportunity. People today like their pets and don’t just see them as beasts in the yard to help them go kill some game when the season comes. One hotel suggested that I might use a shed they had (windowless, three feet by three feet, concrete floor, formerly used for coal).
As we’d gone on from the nineteenth century, I declined to stay there. Family pets just aren’t housed that way any more.
I’ve been to Lisdoonvarna several times. This time, it looks old hat. Living off a match-making festival and a couple of traditional music festivals can trap a place into a time period and prevent it moving along and evolving naturally. We stayed at Elements B&B just outside, as we couldn’t arrange a pet-friendly hotel. Some say they are, but need to be contacted in advance. They didn’t answer the phone or reply to emails, so we stayed with a lovely Brummie couple instead. I got potato cakes with breakfast (okay, he called them bubble and squeak but there was no squeak so I’ll call them potato cakes)! Lovely couple, and although they’ve stopped taking pets (they have two dogs) they honoured the booking and were smashing.
I introduced Gaelic Football to Storm on a walkabout, and whilst not greeted with the same enthusiasm she shows for hurling, she preferred the look of it to footie and could see the appeal. Sometimes they’ll say anything to keep you happy or just shut you up.
We were on our way to visit some friends, which was why we came up to Clare, so decided to go spend a day in The Burren first. I think it was Patrick Kavanagh who said The Burren was where the bones of the earth had been uncovered, or came out to get some air. Mists rolled in from the sea and drifted about in different directions. The mood there is always one of mystery; you sort of expect a fur-clad woman with long red hair and a leashed wolf-hound to appear on the hilltop shouting instructions into the wind before disappearing with the mist; and if you can get away far enough from other people, it also has a bizarre lunar feel to it. @Stormfreshphoto took some nice flora shots which I was hoping for, but they’ve probably been sent out elsewhere. I’ll have to try get them again.
We went down to Quilty beach (Choill Quilty I think) to see the recently revealed fossilised trees on the beach. Several people mentioned a legendary storm of 2014, or was it 2013? They were unusual though, but I’m not sure if the photos could do them justice, but the sky was amazing and went on forever.