Activities in and around Kilrush
As an officially-designated Heritage Town, Kilrush’s historic character is apparent when taking a stroll along its streets. Because the town is a planned one, it rewards the walker with the pleasure of seeing well preserved, cut stone townhouses dating from the 19th century, traditional shop fronts and pubs, the Market House in the main square and the breath and length of its main street, Frances Street. Other buildings of note include the magnificent Roman Catholic St Senan’s Church, on Toler Street, with its Harry Clarke-crafted stained glass, the former Church of Ireland St Senan’s Church in Grace Street, now refurbished as a Teach Cheoil for Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the courthouse on Moore Street and the former Convent of Mercy on Pound Street.
At the top of Frances Street is the Maid of Éireann monument, a memorial to the ‘Manchester Martyrs’ that was erected in 1903.
The area around the marina is also well worth a stroll for its combination of water, boats and green areas. It includes the Millennium Park, a public area with picnic tables and a sculpture and water feature of a dolphin and her new-born calf by sculptor Danny Osbourne. The visitor will find the original stone quaysides of the port now incorporated into the fabric of the marina. For more intrepid walkers or, indeed, for cyclists, the Slí na Sláine, will take them past the traditional village of Cappa, a popular Blue Flag swimming area in summer, and along the Shannon Estuary with its views of Scattery Island’s round tower. On this five-mile circuit they will also pass ‘the Rock’, another popular swimming area, and on to Aylevarro if they so wish, which will allow them to do a circle and take the Killimer Road back to the town. On the way they will pass one of the entrances to Kilrush Woods, which is bounded by the original estate wall of the landlords in the area, the Vandeleurs. A number of separate but hugely enjoyable walks can be had on paths that intersperse these woods that cover some 420 acres.
Vandeleur Walled Garden
The jewel in the crown in Kilrush Woods is the restored Vandeleur Walled Garden comprising the original garden area of the landlord family and now including a café and gift shop in part of the original stables buildings. The garden is a beautiful space to visit and walk around in. Stroll around the old perimeter path, enjoy the exotic plants, take in the maze and the water features and admire the beautiful stone work of the walls and buildings that have survived into the new century. See www.vandeleurwalledgarden.ie for further information.
Kilrush has become synonymous with dolphin watching since the recent discovery that the Shannon Estuary was one of the few areas in the world that was home to a permanent school of bottlenose dolphins. The school of approximately 80 dolphins is now used to being viewed by visitors who can avail of regular boat tours from Kilrush Marina between April and October. Dolphin watching is an unforgettable experience and a boat trip on the calm waters of the Shannon Estuary is a pleasant experience. See www.discoverdolphins.ie
Home to the remains of a 6th century monastic settlement set up by the patron saint of the area - St Senan - this island provides a unique experience to the visitor. As an uninhabited island (the last of the recent residents left in 1979) a mile-and-a-half from Kilrush, it is a tranquil refuge to visitors who, as well as enjoying viewing the remains of six churches and a magnificent round tower, can also walk along the ‘street’ where the homes of the last inhabitants lie clustered together. Some of these houses have now been furbished by the Office of Public Works (OPW) which has one open as a visitors centre. Guided tours are provided by the OPW between June and September. As with dolphin watching, boats to Scattery Island can be booked at Kilrush Marina. The island is also important ecologically for the bird life it attracts and for its range of flora. See www.heritageireland.ie