The Loop Head peninsula on the west coast of County Clare juts into the Atlantic Ocean like a gnarled finger pointing westward. It is bounded on the north and west side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the south by the River Shannon estuary with barely one mile of land saving it from island status meaning it has one of the highest ratios of coastline to land surface in Ireland.
The Loophead lighthouse is like a sentinel overlooking the whole area. The peninsula is bounded to the east by European designated conservation areas. Within this small triangle lies the entire range of coastal ecosystems found on the Atlantic coast of Europe. As such the Ocean provides us with our raison d’être, it feeds us, entertains us and provides us with employment opportunities. The area is sparsely populated with Kilkee being the only centre of population. The attractive villages encompassed in the peninsula, Cross, Carrigaholt and Kilbaha are relatively small and untouched by development. The peninsula is extensively farmed, mainly with beef cattle and dairy herds.
Every year the European Union awards European Destination of ExcelleNce (EDEN) to little known areas off the tourist beaten track. In 2010 Loop Head was awarded the European Destination of Excellence for Aquatic Tourism. The key feature of the selected destination is its commitment to social, cultural and environmental sustainability. The destination has to show that economically viable tourism is being developed based on natural resources, historical heritage, traditional celebrations and local gastronomy. The developement of tourism on the peninsula is lead by Loop Head Tourism which has very strong community ties leading to a truly unique experience for visitors.
Information on all the EDEN destinations in Ireland is available here irelandseden.ie and the other European destinations and the method by which they are selected is available on www.ec.europa.eu/eden anad the Loop Head Tourism website is here at http://www.loophead.ie/