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Nestled at the head of Liscannor Bay and just south of the Cliffs of Moher, sits the small and lively resort town of Lahinch. Located in County Clare, Ireland, it has an energy and atmosphere compared to no other. The literal translation of Lahinch is ‘Leath Inis’ or the ‘Half Island.’ It boasts a large, crescent-shaped beach with golden sands, attracting visitors from all over the world for its golf course and top quality surfing conditions.
Lahinch became popular at the end of the last century when the Old West Clare railway was in existence, transporting people from Ennis during the summer holidays. It is believed, however, that the area was inhabited long before this as numerous prehistoric earthen forts have been found in the area. These days you can find many delightful shops, restaurants and pubs as well as a variety of visitor accommodations, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels, campsites and caravan parks.
According to The Celtic Times, “Ireland has one-third of the world’s coastal links courses and Lahinch has two of them.” First developed in Scotland, a links golf course refers to seaside links and is the oldest type of course. The term refers to links located in coastal areas with sandy soil amid dunes, and with few trees or water hazards. Links golf has its challenges, which can affect the style a player needs to compete. These courses tend to have uneven fairways, and because of their coastal locations are frequently windy.
Founded in 1892, Lahinch Golf Club is one of the most renowned links courses in the world, hosting every major amateur Irish competition as well as the Home Internationals. Lahinch is actually considered two courses - Lahinch Golf Course and Lahinch Castle Golf Course. Lahinch Golf Course boasts towering sand dunes, rolling greens and its share of blind shots, making it a true links course based on the traditional meaning of the term.
The Old Course, often referred to as the St. Andrews of Ireland, lies between the road and the sea and is reported to be one of the most superior sites in all of golf. The course’s natural terrain is used to its ultimate advantage, with many exceptional golf holes. The Castle course gets its name from the castle ruins at the northern end of the property, near the seventh hole. Dough Castle was built in 1306 by the O’Connor Clan and occupied by the family until the 15th century, when the O’Briens took over. The ruins, however, are a direct result of building on a sand foundation, and not the ravages of war. It is said to have collapsed several times during its existence, yet they continued to build on that unstable, sandy ground. Sadly, it began its collapse in the 19th century and only one wall remains. If you’re an animal lover, you might run into some goats as they roam freely on the dunes. Clare-tour.com tells us “The sandhills are supposed to be the haunt of Donn Dumhach, the Fairy King, and the sandhill Crughaneer near the bridge is also supposed to be haunted.”
Lahinch has water sports enthusiasts visiting its shores, enjoying the likes of sailing, swimming, kite surfing, skin diving, deep sea and fresh water fishing. But its reputation as a top surf center is what really brings the water to life, even though the currents can be dangerous. The resort’s crescent shape creates breakers from the Atlantic Ocean that attracts surfing enthusiasts from around the world. Lahinch Beach has a wide mouth, facing the Atlantic Ocean at the end of Liscannor Bay. These factors allow the ocean swell to reach the area, causing more extreme waves than any other shore in County Clare. The tides can be higher than predicted in this area, depending on wind and wave conditions off the coast.
Lahinch once held the Guinness World Record for number of surfers riding the same wave. In 2006, 250 surfers showed up and the record was broken by two, with 44 surfers on the same wave. The current record is held by Cape Town, South Africa, with 110 people in 2009.
If you prefer to swim, the safest place is the area closest to Lahinch Village, where the direction of the current flows in and out of the bay. With stronger wind and wave conditions, however, this can change dramatically. The further you are away from Lahinch, the stronger the northerly flow, making swimming extremely dangerous.
“Steeped in the strong aromas of ocean salt and seaweed, this old holiday town is one of the centres of Ireland’s hot surfing scene.” ~ Lonelyplanet.com