A heritage town located on the Shannon Estuary, Kilrush has a rich maritime tradition. The town was once an important Shannon port and a stopping point for much of the boat traffic heading to Limerick. The town is close to the port of Killimer where you can get a ferry to Tarbert in County Kerry, as well as Kilkee and Loophead Peninsula.
There are a number of historical ruins in the town that are worth visiting. The walled garden and visitor centre of Vandeleur is open to the public and commemorates the Vandeleurs, who were one of the founding local landlords of the area. The garden was recently redesigned and contains a range of tropical and local fauna, a maze and the original stables have been turned into a gift shop and café. Indeed the Vandeleurs are credited with designing the town structure over their 200-year reign as landlords and a number of streets in the town still bear the name of these Dutch descendents.
The Market House is at the centre of the town’s small market square and is worth a look. Close to the square is the marina, where you can get a tour out to see the uninhibited Scattery Island. The Christian ruins on the island include a round tower, an icehouse and churches. The ruins date back to the sixth century and pre-date ruins left in Kilrush town itself.
It was only when ships from the Spanish Armada docked in the area in the late 1500s that Kilrush was mentioned in official records. As with many other towns and villages in Ireland, Kilrush saw much uprising and rebellious behaviour – particularly during the time of the Great Famine and subsequent land wars of the 19th century. In the late 19th century, Kilrush and Cappa Pier were linked to the West Clare Railway and so were connected to Ennis, County Clare’s main town, by rail.
Visitors can take a stroll around the streets of Kilrush with its well-preserved 19th century townhouses and traditional shop fronts. When you visit the marina, pop into the adjacent Millennium Park, a public park facility with picnic tables. Walking and cycling enthusiasts can follow the Slí na Sláinte trail – a five mile loop taking in the village of Cappa, a blue flag beach, views of Scattery Island and Kilrush Woods. You can also go dolphin watching from Kilrush and of course enjoy some angling in the Shannon Estuary. There is also a local 18 hole golf course with an excellent club house and restaurant.