If you’re in North Clare or South Galway and looking for an idyllic place to spend a leisurely afternoon or morning strolling around then head for the Flaggy Shore. The area is in the Burren is between New Quay (named after new quay built there in 1837) and Finavarra Point in Co. Clare. This is a loop walk too, if you like loops, or you can come back the way that you came to get different perspective along the shore.
Here the green fields strip away to reveal their gray limestone soul as it gently gives way to the Atlantic Ocean. Most people start the walk in New Quay and park off-road there (see the sign at the Russell Gallery). During the summer this part of the Flaggy Shore is a popular picnic and swimming spot, it has a small beach area when the tide is out and is safe for all ages.
Our great poet Seamus Heaney was so taken by the Flaggy Shore that he dedicated one of his finest poems, Postscript, to it. “And some time make the time to drive out west / Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore / In September or October, when the wind / And the light are working off each other . . . ”
The area has other poetic connections too, Finavarra was the site of the 15th-century bardic school of the Ó Dálaigh poets.
Follow the narrow road as it hugs the shoreline. The route is popular with walkers and dog lovers as the few cars on it do tend drive slowly on the narrow open road.
Some 350 million years before the continents as we know them were formed this south-side of Galway bay was but a muddy expanse somewhere south of the Equator. The bright white coral fossils etched into the limestone all along this curious shoreline tells this ancient story from those aeons ago.
This is a walking space to amble through, enjoy and look all around in. Go down onto the stony shore by the road when the tide is out and explore or just stare out into the distant sea or across at the small drumlin cliffs of Aughinish Island on the other side. Pure Flaggy Shore mindfulness…
After a kilometer or so you will see the small freshwater lake, Loch Murree sitting mere metres from the sea shore, with no river to form an inlet and no outlet to the sea. This is a great place to see swans and other wading birds. The magical
The magical Curlews can be still heard in the area. In May/early June, the Flaggy Shore is visited by the Curlew’s smaller cousins, the Whimbrels, who take time out here on their long journey from Africa to the Arctic.
There is a well-preserved Napoleonic Martello Tower at Finvarra Point, just take the road to the right off the loop (there is also one on Aughinish). I do not recommend climbing up into it, but if you must please make sure that you are with somebody as there is a steep drop inside and out, so be very careful.
The road then loops around back to New Quay with wonderful views of the Burren’s unique limestone-bare hills in the distance.
The Flaggy Shore is also somewhat of a hot-spot for a small winkle that prefers to live on land, hence the name ‘land winkle’ or ‘Pomatias elegans’ in scientific nomenclature ‘. It has a pink to reddish brown shell and is about 11-15mm in length. It’s worth having a look for in the areas above the tideline but don’t remove or damage it as it’s on the endangered list!
Places to eat and Drink…
Well one of my favorite places to have lunch or supper in North Clare is Linnanes Bar on New Quay pier. You can’t miss the signs for it, a red Lobster with his claw around a pint of Guinness. For me, it’s nearly reason alone to come to the Flaggy Shore, (me bad). It’s the perfect treat post or pre Flaggy Shore walk or swim. Linnanes is famous for its local shellfish, and I love the crab there. During the summer months, especially on Sundays, it is often very busy and the staff can be a tad ‘spacy’ but if you can wait for a seat it is well worth it. They also pull a good pint, and stock some good craft beers, it is a pub after all. See http://linnanesbar.com for opening times.
The Russell Gallery up the road mixes fine art, pottery and crafts with quality teas and coffees along with some delicious sweet things in a lovely 18th-century building. The gallery displays the works of numerous Irish artists see http://www.russellgallery.net/index.html for more details.
Another local café worth a visit, especially on a summer’s day is Café Linnala – you will see signs for it on the walk. Bríd Fahy and Roger Fahy make their own Linnala ice-cream from their mainly Shorthorn dairy herd (their milk is creamier Bríd tells us) on site and sell in their café on the farm.
See http://www.linnallaicecream.ie for more information.
How to get there…
The Flaggy Shore is about one km off the Kinvara–Ballyvaughan road (N67) and is reached by turning off at Ballyvelaghan Lough three km north of Bell Harbour.