Ardmore Cliff Walk: Scenic Seaside Hike in Ireland

Ardmore Cliff Walk is one of the best seaside hike’s in Ireland.

If you’re planning to go on a hike in Ireland, Ardmore Cliff Walk near Waterford and Cork offers access to breathtaking ocean views, wildlife, and ancient ruins.

Ardmore Cliff Walk

The 4km walk begins at the luxurious Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore and ends with a stroll through the quaint Irish town.

Ardmore’s Cliff Walk takes approximately an hour to complete without photo stops. So if it’s a leisurely Irish stroll you’re after plan for 1.5-2 hours.

The trail is not particularly steep so is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. If it has recently rained we suggest wearing hiking boots. The majority of the route is along a sand and gravel path, which can quickly get muddy when damp.

From the village, skip past the Cliff House Hotel and go around Ardmore Head and Ram Head. The walk brings you to cliff-top trails and the laneways of the early Christian St Declan’s Well.

If you’re embarking on a self-guided stroll, watch for the yellow arrows on brown background signs to lead the way.

Ardmore Cliff Walk is one of the best seaside hikes in Ireland.
Ardmore Cliff Walk is one of the best seaside hikes in Ireland.

A Guided History Tour with Tommy Mooney

Tommy Mooney, a local who loves to hike in Ireland, has been offering guided tours of Ardmore Cliff Walk for almost two years.

Mooney mentions, “I was born and reared in Ardmore and have been walking those cliffs and other areas of the parish for the past 70 odd years.” Mooney will be celebrating his 80th birthday next year!

Mooney adds, “I never tire of the place, funny enough, in my case familiarity only breeds appreciation! I can say that without exception, all the Cliff House Ardmore guests that I have toured around have told me how much they enjoyed the scenic beauty of the place. They constantly tell me how lucky I am to belong here.”

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Ardmore Cliff Walk begins at the ruins of St. Declan's Well and Church.
Ardmore Cliff Walk begins at the ruins of St. Declan’s Well and Church.

Ardmore Cliff Walk Attractions

You can easily embark on a self-guided Ardmore Cliff Walk but joining a guided historical tour offers fascinating insights.

Mooney exclaims, “I give guests the history of the various locations of special interest that we encounter and share the general history of Ardmore as we walk between each stop along the route.”

Mooney usually begins his Ardmore Cliff Walk tour with a brief dissertation on Saint Declan, the patron saint of the village and the entire county of Waterford. In previous generations the name was given to numerous young boy babies, either as a first or second name.

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There are plenty of spots to relax and enjoy the ocean view.
There are plenty of spots to relax and enjoy the ocean view.

St. Declan’s Well and Church

Ardmore Cliff Walk’s famous ecclesiastical ruins are the principal items of discussion while hiking along the seaside. Mooney explains, “I tell guests about the various rituals that accompanied pilgrims who visited Ardmore due to the association with Declan – the miracle worker.”

He adds, “According to some accounts Ardmore became a very important place of pilgrimage, which peaked in the 19th century. Cures of all kinds of ailments were claimed in those years but since then there has been a gradual decline in the numbers coming here.”

Great curative properties were attributed to the waters specially in the case of eye ailments. A number of instances have been recorded that claim improvements or cures, after using the water. Look out for the crosses hand-scored into the stones of the building. For hundreds of years, on July 24th each year, the well has been a place of pilgrimage.

Samson Crane Ship

The Samson Crane ship is a good talking point with the farcical attempt to claim salvage on it by a local man in 1987.

In December 1987, Samson left Liverpool bound for Valletta, Malta. Though the barge was initially towed by a tugboat, the towline parted in gale force conditions off the Welsh coast. The two men aboard the barge were rescued after attempting to reconnect the tow line failed.

The now famous barge ran aground at Rams Head in Ardmore. The wreckage was not salvaged and remains in situ. It seems to eerily teeter on the low-lying shore, offering one of the best photo opportunities along the Ardmore Cliff Walk.

Bird lovers remember to bring your binoculars!
Bird lovers remember to bring your binoculars!

The Lookout Post

“The 1939 Lookout Post on Ram Head gives me plenty of history of the 20th century to discuss, our neutrality, the “illegal” assistance given to the allies by our government and the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the young men who manned it.” says Mooney.

He adds, “I knew them all well and remember them later on as old guys. The tamed pet Jackdaw was named Joubert after the famed South African General of the Boer Wars. My dad was the Corporal in charge of the hut, known as LOP 20. We used to visit him, with my mother, regularly when he was on duty.”

Mooney continues, “We have a good laugh and chat about the Napoleonic era watch tower beside the hut and how, if Napoleon had actually invaded, via Ardmore, defended by the fishermen, farmers and shopkeepers, I would probably be speaking to my guests in French!”

Fr. Odonnell’s Well

Fr. O’Donnell’s well is the little rocky structure in the dell before you turn back towards the village. Mooney explains, “It’s story gives much opportunity for discussion as it can be difficult at times to persuade people that the water is very drinkable!”

Mooney adds, “There was a story of a pilgrim, with failing eyesight who originally fenced in the well and built the rocky structure over it. It seems that he used to meet with a Fr.O’Donnell on summer mornings, and that he asked the priest to bless the water. He claimed to have had his full eyesight restored and then built the grotto-like structure in thanksgiving. The cattle, the original users of the well, were not forgotten either. He had a trough placed at the outside of the wall to accommodate them too!”

Enjoy a sip of ancient water at Fr. Odonnell's Well.
Enjoy a sip of ancient water at Fr. Odonnell’s Well.

The Castle

Perhaps you won’t be entirely surprised that even a quaint hike in Ireland features a crumbling castle.

Mooney explains the significance of the castle you’ll encounter on Ardmore Cliff Walk, “As the tour group ascends the hill, I point out the distant turret, all that remains of McKenna’s Castle and how Marechal McMahon, President of the 3rd French Republic came to inherit it.”

Ardmore Round Tower

The 12th century Round Tower is the icon of Ardmore. Mooney explains, “there are no organizations, nor ever were any in the village that do not use it on their notepaper as a main feature of their logo.”

He continues “It is 97 ft high and has a foundation of stones that are no more than two to three feet deep. But it stands! Held up mainly by the accuracy of its build and its own settling weight on the ground beneath. An excavation, back in the 1930s discovered graves under the tower walls and not solid rock.”

Ardmore’s historic Round Tower was built on the model of those from the 8th and 9th centuries, when raiders from Norway and Wales visited regularly to plunder and take slaves. It was never attacked by such plunderers but, perhaps by worse.

In the years of the English Civil War it was part of a complex of buildings that included a nearby castle, which were besieged by a Cromwellian army. They had no artillery but there are marks on the tower wall of small cannon balls, perhaps from a light boat gun. The castle was eventually taken and the entire garrison of men were hanged some 117 in all.

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Finish your Ardmore Cliff Walk at the Round Tower and Cemetery.
Finish your Ardmore Cliff Walk at the Round Tower and Cemetery.

Town of Ardmore

The Ardmore Cliff Walk finishes with a wee tour of the town. Mooney mentions, “We pass by the “new” Protestant Church, a typically beautiful little building such as can be seen in many small villages in Ireland. The old schoolhouse for that community is next to it on old Glebe land.”

Passing through Ardmore’s main street Mooney generally meets a local or two who are happy to stop and chat awhile. He adds, “Near the seawall, the earliest section which was built by my ancestors, we see the old Lifeboat House. Then we visit the site of the old school, which I attended in the 40s and 50s.”

He continues, “We then come to St. Declan’s Stone. A glacial boulder left behind by the ice and, obviously, because of its strangeness to the rocks round about, an object of great curiosity. This curiosity probably led to it becoming an object of Pagan Worship with a ritual of crawling under it in search of a cure for backache , and other spinal conditions. The legend of course is that Declan made it float from Wales, where he was on a visit, bearing his forgotten bell and leading him here to Ardmore, where he founded his monastery.”

Mooney’s Ardmore Cliff Walk tours end at the town’s little harbour. The now much depleted fishing fleet abides but Mooney chirps, “we sometimes meet one or two fishermen who are more than willing to discuss the benefits of EU membership for Ireland’s fishing industry.”

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