Kilkee (1891)

"Pleasant sea;
So boundless or so beautiful as thine,
The eagles' vision cannot take it in,
The lightening's wing, too weak to sweep its space,
Sinks half way o'er it like a wearied bird;
It is the mirror of the stars, where all
Their hosts within the concave firmament,
Gay marching to the music of the spheres,
Can see themselves at once."
Campbell.

Anyone appreciating wild natural scenery as well as having a love for wide expanse of ocean, when viewed from the shore, should visit the west coast of Ireland to enjoy it. We have no doubt there are a large number who admire the sea to look at, and bathe in, but who have a decided objection to trust themselves afloat on its surface for any lengthened period. And no wonder such antipathy to a "life on the ocean wave" should exist in some minds, when, being "rocked in the cradle of the deep," is, in their experience, unhappiness and discomfort. However, nearly everyone enjoys a visit to the sea-side-indeed there is a yearning, almost in every breast, we think, when the summer sun warms the earth, and when bud has developed into blossom, and our own hearts being tuned in harmony with the "voice of the waves," to seek repose and enjoyment on the sea-shore. And in no other part of the "Green Isle," in our opinion, is there so much of precipitous cliff, bold headland, and expansive sea-view, as may be seen by those who traverse the coast from Loophead to Blackhead in the County Clare.

Of course anyone having a fancy for umbrageous foliage, sylvan groves, and lovely parterre, must seek elsewhere for such, because trees and shrubs are rare along this coast, except in sheltered glens, or other suitable situations. Those trees and shrubs which venture to show their heads above a wall, or other protection, are cut down just as neatly as if a shears were applied to them, and by the force of the prevailing wind, which being westerly, and owing also to the peculiar atmosphere at the sea coast, are bent so much landward, that the superstitious mind is disposed to attribute the deformity to those fairy elves who are said to gambol on shrub and tree at night under "the light of the moon."

We have no doubt whatever that those who live inland, and who could say in the language of the Poet
Instead of shores where ocean beats,
I hear the ebb and flow of streets;
and who, being satiated with all that is artificial in life, and desiring change of scene, should seek repose from the round of gaiety which is, as a rule, characteristic of Town life, away at the sea-coast. And no tour, in our opinion, is so attractive as that which embraces the western shores where one is not usually trammelled by those rigid rules of etiquette which influence our movements so much at home. Unfortunately, however, the conventionalities of home life are too often carried with us, to our temporary residence by the sea, which often is the cause of much discomfort, and detracts from one's enjoyments considerably. So, dear reader, just imagine by the action of some kind fairy, that we are entering Kilkee, in the County Clare; what a surprise when this natural picture is presented before us! Here, sheltered in a bay, of horse-shoe shape, on the shores of the Atlantic, a sort of recess in the coast, is nestled this delightful watering place, a maritime Town without the shipping, or the manufacturing enterprises, which are such objectionable features in places where one wishes to be free from worry, excitement, and bustle.

Kilkee has its fashionable quarter like other places-its "Esplanade," and "West End;" and for those who like natural curiosities, there are the "Puffing Hole," and a curious rock formation, known as the "Amphitheatre." Caves also of great magnitude, extended very far inland under the cliffs, access to which is obtained from the sea, in those canvas-covered boats called canoes, which are the safer craft in which to venture out in this tempestuous coast. There are also the "Arch Cliff," and other natural objects, for any one who enjoyes such scenery, to gratify one's taste. However, we do not particularize those as an attraction or as an incentive to anyone to visit Kilkee. We take a higher ground, namely, for the sake of those seeking health and recreation, and therefore present the west coast in "Nature's dress" of wide ocean, bold rock, high cliff, with Nature's green carpet laid down, up to the summit of these big elevations, which give such wild grandeur to the locality. The health-giving breeze wafted to these shores is its best recommendation, it is borne across thousands of miles of ocean purified, and charged with the saline properties which give it its pungency, and its vitalising power, and which contact with the sea only can impart to it; and having neither land, house, island, swamp, or any impurities, to taint, or intercept its progress, we have air the purest and most invigorating that it is possible to breathe, and which is just as cooling as it is invigorating in the hot days of summer, fanning one's face when reclining, or walking on those grand old cliffs, which are such remarkable features in Kilkee, as well as in other parts of the coast scenery.

The sea also comes to this western coast tempered by the gulf stream, making it so pleasant for those "shorn lambs" who bathe in its waters. In Kilkee also are attractions such as we value in home life, namely-imposing mansions, well-kept, and extensive hotel establishments, lodgings of every description, to suit "all sorts and conditions of men," public baths not surpassed by any other sea-side resort in Ireland, bathing machines, large and well supplied shops and warehouses, where the best goods are obtainable and, as a result of this co-working of art and nature, we find Peer and Peasant, and, indeed, all classes, from far and near, coming to this pretty sea-side retreat in the season, in their thousands: and when the railway communication is fully developed the influx of the pleasure-seeking population will, no doubt, be considerably increased. The noble sandy beach in Kilkee is a picture to gaze upon with delight, when at ebb tide young and old crowd its smooth strand, to play games, and run races, on foot as well as astride, on those "four"-footed donkeys which are such a feature in holiday life in Kilkee. And when the tide is full in, or flowing, we have on such occasions the sea almost alive with human beings buffeted by the waves, romping and plunging beneath the surface, like so many porpoises. The scene is varied by the cries of alarm from the timid adults, as well as from nervous children, but the joyous shouts and laughter of others, who seem to take to the water like amphibious animals, drown all other discordant cries. Pedestrians have in the neighbourhood inducements to exercise, with "George's" Head on one hand, and Look-out Hill on the other side of the bay, with other cliffs besides, extending right and left to climb. There is everything connected with the scenery acting as an incentive to live as much as possible in the open air, alternately walking and resting on the grass-covered slopes, or in some shady nook, or deep recess of rock, finding solitude and repose while the life-giving breeze inspires one with animation, paints the pale cheek with the colour of the rose, gives vigour to the weak limb, and energy to the mind, which toil, trouble, and worry have impaired.

Numbers who have come to the west coast with "hearts beating funeral marches to the grave," testify that they have returned to their homes after having had these solemn notes changed into songs of rejoicing for restored health: but to realise all the pleasures, and derive all the benefits one is capable for enjoying from a residence at Kilkee, or elsewhere, we must make the best use of time and opportunity, allowing none of the ordinary troubles of life to reach us, and not permitting any-thing more serious to disturb "the even tenor of our ways" than the splash of the wave, or the moaning of the wind, or the laughter of children. It is only when we dissociate ourselves from the worrying cares of business and professional duties, that we are ever able to derive any real advantage from our holiday trips, or sea-side residence. If we carry our troubles into hours set apart for recreation, better remain at home altogether, and drop quietly into an "untimely grave." To regain health, and to build up strength of body for future use and action, change of scene is not sufficient-change of habit also is necessary. There must be relaxation for mind as well as for body: the sun-bath and air-bath are as essential as are the tepid, sponge, or open sea bathing. And giving all due attention to such matters, and associating with suitable companions, who have sympathies in common, and tastes in harmony with one's own-not tastes or habits that are vicious or depraved. We have those natural aids to health, to enjoy which a wise and merciful Providence has provided so lavishly in those health-giving regions.

We are aware that in every gathering at the sea-side there are those who have the "will and the way" to take excursions, and visit distant objects, and places of interest, in a wider area than that which the scenery in the immediate locality affords, and should such follow us on our route along the coast, taking excursions inland occasionally, they shall have, we think, some enjoyable trips to make. We know also that men assemble at the sea-side who have different tastes, and who delight in the study of Botany, Geology or other kindred pursuits, and for such there is ample scope in our western sea-board. The hills and valleys are the habitat of plants, which are rare in other parts of Ireland, and, indeed, we believe, not to be found at all, expect on the slopes of the Alps; we have rocks and stones representing different periods of the world's formation, and sand, gravel, peat, and clays, also which the Geologist may investigate; the followers of Izak Walton have in the fresh water lakes and streams an opportunity to "ply the gentle art," and should others desire to entice the larger fish which are so abundant in the deep sea, the local fishermen all along the sea cost are ever ready to hire their canoes for a few day's fishing in the Atlantic, and to assist one in every way to capture the finny tribe; or sitting on the rocks, with rod and bait, there is enjoyment for those who admire such pastime. However, when the wind is high and the waves strong, caution is necessary, as the waves may at any moments become one's winding sheet. In the pursuit of pleasure, as well as in every-day life, there are risks and danger to life and limb, so that prudence should guide our action at the sea-side as well as everywhere else. And these plants, and flowers of the sea, which are commonly called sea-weed, growing on the rocks, as well as those cast ashore, torn up from the sea-forests, down deep below, which grow so luxuriantly, are interesting studies; and not omitting the "living things" which adhere to the rocks, and are met with, when the tide recedes, in little pools, and tiny lakes on the shore, all of which are curious objects; and much information and a large amount of enjoyment is experienced in watching their movements. The Antiquarian also has in the ancient castles, moats, raths, and mounds, subjects to investigate, and local traditions to enquire into-and, in fact, for everyone, there is something to admire, and be interested in.

An excursion on foot may be made to Dunlicky Castle, on the coast, near Kilkee, and northward to Baltard Castle, and Doonbeg Strand and Castle-all interesting old ruins, each of course with a history and traditions of its own.

Holiday Haunts on the West Coast of Clare by H.B.H
Courtesy of Clare Local Studies Project

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