West of Ennis
Kilmaley & Connolly (Co. Clare / West)
Kilmaley (Cill Mhaile) is a small village on the Kilmaley River. The surroundings comprise mixed bogland and forestry.
The Culleen Lodge is a friendly family-run B&B / restaurant.
Connolly (Fioch Rua) is a village on the Mid-Clare Way walking route.
Lough Naminna is a 45-acre lake surrounded by a Natural Heritage Area of bogs that shelter a variety of interesting plants and birdlife. Boats can be hired to fish for small native brown trout. Part of the shoreline is occupied by a major wind farm. (This lake should not be confused with Lough Namina in County Donegal). (Photo – www.culleenlodge.com)
The Hand, a significant five-fingered crossroads, is a good spot from which to ascend West Clare’s highest summit.
Mount / Slieve Callan
Mount / Slieve Callan (423m) is a low but inposing presence over much of the West Clare landscape. (Photo by Eddylandzaat)
The summit commands wonderful views of the Atlantic coast from Mount Brandon in County Kerry northwards to the Aran Islands and the Connemara Hills.
Leacht Chonáin, a prominent cairn on the southeastern slope of the mountain, has a medieval flagstone bearing a pseudo-Ogham inscription that scandalised Victorian antiquaries, appearing to claim that this is the tomb of Conan, a comical anti-hero in the legends of the Fianna. With him, according to folklore, is buried the golden key to the church of the enchanted island of Killstephen / Kilstapheen / Kilstuitheen, which sank beneath the waves at Clahane near Liscannor.
A part of the hillside is currently undergoing development as a large wind farm.
Mount Callan is also the name of a delicious farmhouse cheddar cheese made near Ennistymon.
The Slieve Callan is also the name of the old West Clare Railway‘s steam locomotive engine Nº 5, now restored and on display at Moyasta Junction between Kilrush and Kilkee.
Knocknalassa is the location of an impressive wedge-shaped gallery grave, hidden from the road by a hummock. Like many such sites all over Ireland, it is romantically known as “Diarmuid & Gráinne’s Bed”, yet another supposed place of refuge resorted to by the two mythical lovers as they fled from the wrath of Fionn Mac Cumhaill.
Doo Lough / Doolough Lake is a 220-acre expanse of fresh water at the top of the Annagearagh River, which flows into the Atlantic near Quilty. It is popular with anglers fishing for small native brown trout. (Photo – www.woodlandleague.org)
Kilmihil (Co. Clare / West)
Kilmihil (Cill Mhichíl – “church of St Michael“) is said to derive its name from a church founded by Saint Senan c.530AD, now vanished. For centuries a place of pilgrimage, a Holy Well is nowadays enclosed within a shrine topped by a statue of the archangel.
The village also has a Roman Catholic church, five pubs, three shops (including a bookshop), a library, a garage, a fast food joint, a community centre, sports pitches and several schools.
A Memorial Cross commemorates John Breen, a local 22-year-old IRA Volunteer shot dead in April 1920 during an attack on a Sunday RIC patrol.
Kilmihil is the setting of Niall Williams and Christine Breen‘s 1987 memoir of the Irish-American couple’s move from New York back to the cottage of their forebears, O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare (and subsequent books When Summer’s in the Meadow and The Luck of the Irish), and is also featured in popular novelist Nora Roberts’ series (Born in Fire, Born in Ice, Born in Shame), published in the 1990s.
Kilmihil’s annual Festival of Fun draws large crowds to the village every August Bank Holiday weekend. It includes a street parade, a vintage rally, a raft race on Knockalough Lake followed by a barbeque, a donkey race, bonamh racing, a fireworks display and various other activities.
Forestry plantation on blanket bog, Cahermurphy, Kilmihil (2004). (Photo – www.woodlandleague.org)
Creagh (Co. Clare / West)
Creagh is not far from Quilty on ByRoute 1.