My second weekend in Ireland, a group of American students, including myself, set off for Kilkee. I honestly had no idea why we were going or what of interest we were supposed to find there, but with a name like “Kilkee,” the town had potential from the get-go. Five hours of bus later, we arrived in the emptiest town I have ever seen. It was a Friday evening, and the streets and buildings were dark and desolate. We dropped our bags at the adorable bed and breakfast and walked down to the beach, listening to but not seeing the waves crash on the bay.
In the morning, we went over our plans for the day at breakfast. I have fallen in love with breakfast in Ireland, where cheese, soda bread, scrambled eggs, and smoked salmon have been the norm in many places I’ve visited. Once we were all very full, we set out to the cliffs.
Kilkee is shaped a bit like a horseshoe, with ocean in the middle and cliffs branching off on either side. Every set of cliffs we approached, we stopped to take pictures; each set was more grand than the last. Torrential rain and biting wind whipped around us, and we grasped the handrail to avoid being blown over the edge. The steep drop-offs were slate grey and shear, with dark turquoise waves beating against their bases as if to tear them down. Our group was spread thin across the cliffs, everyone pausing in their own time to take in the enormity of what lay before them.
By the end, I felt very very small. I knew that moments like these were what people were talking about when they say studying abroad is a life-changing experience.
We walked down the middle of a country road back into town, running into no one and gazing upon rows and rows of stone walls and grass so green it looked fake. My walking partner and I decided Kilkee was an entirely different planet on its own.
Back in town, we found a spa that did seaweed therapy, a popular type of treatment in Kilkee. I would’ve never thought a seaweed bath would be so refreshing. We returned to the B&B afterward, sat by the fireplace, and rested and talked. Dinner was fish and chips and seafood chowder and lamb stew (which seem to be on the menu nearly everywhere), and drinks were at the Greyhound, one of very few pubs open during the winter in Kilkee. The locals there told us about 900 people lived there, meaning our small group of 10 increased the town’s population by about 1% for the time of our visit. They further shared that the summers in Kilkee are crazy busy, with about 20,000 tourists coming to swim and gaze upon the cliffs and go to the seaweed spas. They were excited to hear that we were American (another common theme I’ve found in Ireland), and welcomed us eagerly to their lovely town.
Another day of cliffs and hearty food and soul searching followed, along with another five hours of bus back to Cork. Kilkee is a place I will absolutely visit again in my life, during the frigid winter, with its whistling winds and weird seaweed baths and lonely beaches and friendly people.