Places to visit in Loop Head Peninsula,
The Loop Head Peninsula on the West Coast of Clare has a rich heritage. Much of the history of the area has been recorded in various publications. Here we give you a taste of the history which has made the Loop Head Peninsula West Clare the place it is today.
Loop Head Lighthouse
Loop head Lighthouse is a huge tourist attraction in the area. The Lighthouse was opened to the public June 2011 and had over 19,000 people visit during Summer 2013. Visitors can take a guided tour up the tower and go out onto the balcony. The Loop Head Lighthouse is a fantastic place to visit!
Loophead Lighthouse was open to the public from 10a.m. to 7.30p.m. until the End of August and for weekends only in September. It is closed now until April 2014.
Visitors have the opportunity to be guided to the top of the lighthouse and take in the magnificent views from the balcony. An informative, interactive exhibition also provides a history of the Lighthouse and allows the visitor to learn how the operation of this Lighthouse has progressed through the years.
Admission: €5 per person with under 12’s free.
Loop Head Lighthouse is at the end of the Peninsula, the last landmark between Clare and America.
The Little Ark in the church at Moneen
In the 1850’s the celebration of Mass was prohibited in the Loop Head Peninsula West Clare. This situation had developed as the result of the attempts of the local land agent, Marcus Keane, to enforce the conversion of the local populace to Protestantism.
Three schools were built on the Loop Head Peninsula in West Clare where the Protestant faith was taught. Food was provided for those who attended these schools and, in these days following the famine, this encouraged children to attend.
At the same time a Protestant church was built at the entrance to Dun Dalhin (Marcus Keane’s house) overlooking the bay at Kilbaha.
The Parish Priest at this time was Father Michael Meehan. Fr. Meehan came to Loop Head as Parish Priest in 1849. He was familiar with the area, having spent a good deal of time with his aunt who lived in Cross and later Moneen and therefore he recognised the need to build schools in the area, as at this time there were none. In 1850 he opened the first of the six schools which he established in the Loop Head Peninsula.
With the establishment of the landlord sponsored schools, increasing pressure was put on tenants to denounce their Catholic Faith and send their children to these schools,under threat of eviction.
Obviously, these circumstances led to conflict between Marcus Keane and Father Meehan. During this time Fr.Meehan was also trying to obtain a site to build a church in Kilbaha. His attempts were unsuccessful. At one stage he did manage to acquire two adjoining houses in Kilbaha. He knocked the two houses into one and used the building for Mass. He was evicted from the premises after one month.
Father Meehan then contructed a tarpaulin shelter on poles which he attempted to use for Mass and then he used the covered shafts of a cart as a shelter but both proved to be unsuitable.
It was against this backdrop of persecution that Father Meehan came up with the idea of The Little Ark.He believed that if a suitable structure could be built it could be brought to the shore in Kilbaha and placed between high and low tide,in no-man’s land. He thought that this would be an end to the problems he and his parishioners faced. Owen Collins, a carpenter in Carrigaholt, was commissioned to build a portable box on wheels.
In 1852, when completed, the box was drawn in triumphal procession from Carrigaholt to Kilbaha. Father Meehan then used the box, or The Little Ark, as it became known, to say Mass in for the next four years. Father Meehan’s congregation would gather on the fore-shore at Kilbaha every Sunday, kneeling in prayer around the Ark.
This practice continued for over four years and the sight of some three hundred people, praying in all weathers, attracted much publicity.
Eventually, a site was given for a church in 1857.
The foundation stone for the church, ‘Our Lady, Star of the Sea’,was laid on12th July 1857. The church was dedicated on 10th October 1858.
The Little Ark was placed inside the church and remains there to this day, housed in a specially built annexe.
Eire Sign – Loophead
Built during the Second World War, the Look Out Post and ‘EIRE’ sign on Loop Head were part of a network of 83 similar posts and signs along the Irish coast. The Look Out Posts were manned by local soldiers of the Coast Watching Service. They were the Defence Forces’ ‘early warning system’ against invasion. The ‘EIRE’ signs were daytime navigation aids visible to passing aircraft, alerting pilots that they were over neutral Ireland. The Battle of the Atlantic, the longest campaign of the war, took place off Ireland’s coast, often in sight of the Look Out Post network. The soldiers manning Loop Head Look Out Post reported military operations off the coast to G2, the intelligence branch of the Defence Forces, from where the information was sent to senior Irish political and military figures. Loop Head Look Out Post is of further strategic importance because it also sighted the transatlantic aircraft and flying boats operating from Shannon and Foynes.
Holy Wells of St. Credaun
St. Credaun lived in the neighbouring parish of Carrigaholt. He was a disciple of St. Senen of Scattery Island, who baptised him.
The ruins of his church still stand in the townland of Kilcredaun. There is a holy well in this locality which was often visited in times past by the local people. St Credaun is reputedly buried in the ruins of his church.
Teampail na Naoi Naomh
Teampail na Naoi Naomh, or ‘The Churchyard of the Nine Saints’, situated in Ross, is one of the oldest churches in the diocese. There are different stories of who built it. St. Brendan from Kerry is the most likely one as there are similar churches along the west coast of Kerry, especially the Dingle area. St. Senan is also mentioned but there is no similarity between the buildings on Scattery Island and the Teampail. It is believed that St. Senan received his education in the monastery at Ross.
In the difficult years before the Church of the Little Ark was built in Moneen, all the local people would visit the Teampail on Good Friday to pray there. After the church was built, before the Stations of the Cross were donated, the older population kept the tradition of visiting the Teampail on Good Friday.
In 1973, Fr. Seamus O’Dea, the parish curate, enlisted the help of some students from Maynooth to clear away the nettles,brambles and stones from the site of the Teampail. He found some fragments of heavy slates, like Liscannor stone. His opinion was that the first roof was thatched and that this was later slated.
He celebrated Mass there on 26th August 1973. It was the first time Mass had been celebrated there in one thousand years. (Below are photos of Mass said there in 2013)
Some time between October 1996 and March 1997, a carved stone head, thought to have been a statue or likeness of Jesus, was taken from the Teampail.
On your way to Kilbaha from Cross, if you veer to the right at the junction at Clahansavane, you will travel through Ross, noted for it’s famous ‘bridges’, which are a natural phenomenon, formed by the action of the Atlantic. The battering of the Atlantic against the rocks has eroded them over the years to form ‘bridges’.
Little by little these collapse and fall into the sea, but the sea continues to batter and other bridges are being formed. So it continues from generation to generation.
The Bridges of Ross are continually there in all their splendour. The book “The Wild Flowers of Loophead” written by Carmel T. Madigan – Artist and Author born in the Bridges of Ross gives some beautiful images of the flora to be found there.