Kilkee lies right on the west coast of Clare with nothing much between it and America. With the full force of the Atlantic rolling in, it can be very weather-dependent. However if you do get out the water is usually extremely clear and the underwater topography makes for many great dives. There is diving for ocean divers, and plenty for sports divers. The diving is close (five or ten minutes by boat), non-tidal, and very good; the perfect ingredients for a relaxed trip! The club has yet to visit many of the sites in this spot.
Shane Purtill did all the research for this guide but then could not make his own trip unfortunately. Beth took over the organisation and Mark has filled in some of the dive descriptions with his own memories. Amanda may well have organised a side-show here through the dive centre one bank holiday weekend.
Trevor Woods organised a trip to Kilkee, in 2009 for the June bank holiday. We used the boats from Oceanlife dive centre, who were very accommodating and took us to a number of different sites.
There is a slip just outside the dive centre. It’s usable at all stages of the tide (though I’m not 100% sure about right at low tide – maybe ring the dive centre to confirm).
There are no public moorings. There are some private moorings in the bay but we asked at the dive centre and they could not give us any contact names to see about renting one.
There is a small pier you can tie up to, but it isn’t really a spot for leaving the boat for more than ten minutes. We just anchored the boats over lunch but be careful not to beach the boats on a low tide; it gets quite shallow in places.
At night, the boats will need to come out. There is a big public car park beside the slip, and we didn’t seem to be the only people leaving RIBs. No need to strap them down, its only twenty metres to the car park from the slip, and you will be re-launching them the next day anyway.
FYI: There is a marina in Kilrush, but it is MILES too far away. You cut across land in the car, in the boats you would need to go all the way around Loop Head.
The scale of the only available chart was useless, so the club does not have a copy.
The dive sites do not seem to be tidal. The boats from the dive centre run in and out constantly all day.
We have not dived in Kilkee all that much and we haven’t a great deal of dive descriptions logged. Your best bet for descriptions of the local dive sites would be the Dive Ireland guide or else Galway Sub-Aqua Club. The club dived Middle Rock, Georges Head and Bishop’s Rock in June 2005. Middle Rock was excellent, Bishop’s Rock superb and Georges Head is a bit hit and miss. When we dived Bishop’s Rock we dropped in about twenty to thirty yards out from the right of the rock into about twenty five metres of water. Following a wall out to sea we came across walls, cliffs gullies and ravines. Middle Rock is supposed to be the best dive in the area and there’s certainly a few dives to be had here. Again, walls, nice rock formations and boulders at the bottom.
The following are some descriptions from the trip in June 2009 – superb diving was the overall verdict, although we were blessed with perfect weather!
Newfie: Used as a checkout dive by the dive centre. A shallow reef, max depth 10m, still inside the main bay. More a pile of rocks than a reef really, flat sandy bottom extends away from the rocks. If you miss and end up on top of the reef, prepare to be swimming around in 3m of kelp. Not a patch on the other sites so I wouldn’t bother with this one.
Very short trip out from the slip, just at the mouth of the bay. Beautiful dive, a steep wall with lots of cracks and overhangs going down to 35m. Tons of fish – wrasse, pollack, dogfish, also covered in dahlia anemones.
Spectacular underwater canyon with sheer walls, lots of nooks and crannies full of life. Lobsters everywhere, spider crabs, more fish. Got down to about 30m. The area where we came up was affected by the waves surging over the rocks so this is something to be careful of when ascending.
Oilean na Beatha
Out of the harbour and go north along the coast- approx 10-15 mins. There’s a part of the cliff which juts out into the sea, with a cave underneath. Just beside this is a rock wall which breaks the surface running North – South. We dropped in at the mouth of the cave and followed the wall south. The wall goes down to approx 20m and is full of cracks and life, – beautiful anemones of all colours of the rainbow. There is a boulder field at the bottom of the wall, so you can go a bit deeper here and poke around. We got to max 26m.
A cavern dive. It’s north of the harbour again, about 5-10 mins further on than Oilean na Beatha. There’s a small headland that juts out, the entrance is on the North side. Dropped in and down to 14m – where you find he entrance to the cave. There was a small gully at the entrance full of massive spider crabs. Keeping the wall of the cave on our right, we swam through – it gets quite dark at about 18m, continues down and opens out again at about 24m, on the other side of the headland. You can finish the dive looking around this wall and surface more or less where you dropped in. The cavern only took a few mins to swim through, and is very wide, plenty of room to swim side by side. Visibility was great – the bottom is sandy rather than silty. We saw an enormous lobster in the cave, and several others around the place as well.
This site is an outcrop of rock, which breaks the surface just to the west of Oilean na Beatha. It runs N-S. We dropped in at the North end, landward side. It’s a sheer wall with plenty of cracks and tons of life at all depths. There are also boulders at the bottom of the wall. We stayed at 20-25m because it was so interesting, but you could get a good bit deeper. The amount of fish on this dive was incredible – considerable time was spent just hanging in the water watching them all! Big shoals of pollack, wrasse everywhere – following us, asleep on rocks, chasing each other. Tompot blennies too. A quote from back on the boat – “I think I saw a million fish”.
You need the usual boat safety equipment: O2, 1st Aid Kit, flares, VHF, GPS. Also make note of the following:
- Shannon Coastguard
- VHF Channels 28, 16, 67, DSC 70
- Marine rescue centre
- Emergency services
- 112 (or 999) on land
- Closest hospital
- Recompression chamber
- Galway, 091 524222
- Dublin (private)
- Weather Dial 1550 123 855
- RTE Radio1 (88-89fm) at 0602, 1253, 1655, 2355
- VHF 0103, 0403, 0703, 1003, 1303, 1603, 1903, 2203
- Warnings on VHF (channel 16) 0033, 0633, 1233, 1833
We ran the compressor down by the slip.
The dive centre, marked on the also has a compressor.OceanLife Dive Centre Kilkee
Phone: (353) 65-9056707
We stayed in two lovely dormer bungalows in the Atlantean Cottages about five minutes walk from the slip and beach. The contact no. is 086 8295309. Each dormer slept 6 (1 double room, 2 twin rooms). The cost was around 280 per house for a bank holiday weekend.
There was plenty parking at the cottages for cars and trailer, but not for the boats, which we left clamped in the car park beside the dive centre. This seemed to be the norm.
The cottages were up on the hill behind the dive centre.
Kilkee is a big tourist hotspot, a favourite getaway for people from Limerick, and therefore there are loads of shops on the main street e.g MACE etc, but they are typically small places, so if you want odd foods bring them. There are plenty of restaurants too, if you don’t fancy cooking. We went to Scott’s for food though it took rather too long for the hungry diver and some of us abandoned it for the chipper across the road.
There is a Bank of Ireland on the main street (left hand side as you drive towards the sea) with an ATM at the side of it. There is a petrol station as you come into town.
There is a great, old-man style, pub mid-way down Kilkee main street, that does good pints of Guinness. Scotts is a popular hotspot, bang in the middle of the main street again, and there are a couple of clubs as well down the far end of town (other side to dive centre).
If you are blown-out, (it has been known to happen), there are lovely walks along the cliffs in both directions. The Pollack Holes are good fun to swim though you need calm water (and low tide, I think).
You can get more information about the area from the following sources:
There are 2 main routes, either follow the AA route finder one – down the Galway road to Loughrea, then to Gort, Enis, Kilrush, kilkee (this is the shortest but probably has more traffic problems on a bank holiday). Or else take the N7 into limerick, itself, then head for Ennis. As above. The second route is longer but towers might prefer better roads and less bends.