This is a special place. The Loop Head peninsula is uniquely located between the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean and the estuary of Ireland's longest river, the Shannon. As a consequence the narrow stretch of land features a wide variety of habitats which are home to a surprising multitude of plants and animals.
The Shannon estuary, which borders the peninsula to the south, has shaped the coast into a sequence of sheltered bays, inlets and lagoons which are the perfect home for wintering as well as resident wildfowl and waders. The estuary itself is home to Ireland's only resident group of Bottlenose Dolphins, locally known as the Shannon Dolphins. Over 100 individuals are living in the estuary at any given time, taking advantage of the strong tidal currents that bring in rich food supplies. Seals are also a common sight sunbathing on the rocks at the Mouth of the Shannon, herds of Feral Goats roam the cliffs and Gannets that breed further south visit the rich waters around Loop Head to fish.
The rugged north of the peninsula is a completely different affair. The rocky shores and cliffs that dominate here are exposed to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean and have been sculpted into a twisting and turning coastline, rock arches, sea stacks and islands. In summer the cliffs host colonies of Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots and Razorbills that join resident birds like Chough, Raven and Rock Dove. Some relatively sheltered inlets feature colourful rock pools that host a wide variety of plants and animals like sea anemones, starfish, sponges, shells and crabs. In spring and summer the cliff tops explode in a myriad of colours when the wildflowers of Loop Head burst into bloom while Basking Sharks slowly cruise in the waters of the Atlantic below.
The flat interior that lies between the river and the sea has been shaped by centuries of farming. It is a patchwork of small fields and pastures separated by hedgerows and overgrown stone walls. These often underrated but important habitats support a wide variety of shrubs, wildflowers, ferns, insects, birds and other animals like the Irish Hare, the Fox and Ireland's only native reptile, the Viviparous Lizard.
Where the peninsula is connected to the mainland, along an imaginary line between Moore Bay at the Atlantic coast and Poulnasherry Bay at the Shannon estuary, sits an area of peatland. It consists mainly of Atlantic blanket bog but also features a small area of raised bog, the most westerly in Ireland. While the area has been used for domestic peat harvesting for centuries, pockets of intact bog have survived to this day and feature carnivorous plants like sundews and bladderworts, colourful mosses and seas of heather and cotton grass.
While Loop Head is a haven for many rare and endangered plants and animals, it feels the impact of climate change and other men-made environmental problems. The numbers of breeding seabirds are declining year on year, wildflowers are disappearing and with them insects and birds.
It is the aim of this website to showcase, educate and raise awareness of the natural heritage Loop Head has to offer and by doing so creating the will to preserve what we still have and maybe even bring back some of what was lost.
Wild Loop Head emerged out of the LOOP HEAD TOGETHER initiative, a project that aims to create a sustainable future for the peninsula and its people, stop population decline and protect the natural and built heritage of the area.