Our Biodiversity

Kilrush Tidy Towns is proud of its role in helping to promote awareness of our natural heritage and resources and the conservation of habitats and species, particularly those that may be under threat or vulnerable. It is also our mission to promote the sustainable and wise use of our natural resources to ensure that they are passed on in a healthy condition to future generations.

The rich diversity of our natural heritage in Kilrush is a tremendous asset that gives a distinct character to the town. Situated close to the mouth of the Shannon Estuary it possesses a coastal shoreline, extensive woodlands, a river, farmland, park and recreational land. Together they provide an extensive range of habitats for an array of wildlife, which enhances and enriches the quality of life to be found in the town.

There are two European Sites, designated under the Habitats Directive (Special Areas of Conservation) and the Birds Directive (Special Protection Areas) for the protection of rare or threatened habitats and species, which are partly within, and directly adjacent to the Kilrush town area – the Lower River Shannon SAC and the River Shannon and River Fergus Estuaries SPA. These recognise the international importance of the resident bottlenose dolphins, otters and a number of fish species in the Shannon estuary and the existence of priority habitats, such as coastal lagoons and salt marshes, for wintering waders, wildfowl and waterfowl.

The topography of Kilrush is relatively flat, while the geology, like much of west Clare features extensive Numurian Sandstone Shales from the Carboniferous period, with little soil cover in places.

Coastal Habitats

The estuary shoreline is primarily gravel and shingle. Small areas of salt marsh are to be found within the creek and in sheltered locations west of the entrance to Creek, where Sea Plantain and Sea Rush plants grow.  Also along the shore, to the west of the creek, are two small lagoons, enclosed bodies of standing brackish water. This area can be accessed, on foot or bicycle, via the rear of the Old Shanakyle Graveyard, heading back eastwards towards the Marina entrance, along what was the route of the old West Clare Railway.

Sea and water birds such as Black Guillemot, Common Tern, Redshank, Shelduck, Grey Heron, Curlew, Little Egret, Shag, Rock Pipits, Turnstone and Dunlin can be regularly seen along this stretch of coastline. Winter visitors that are regularly seen include Great Crested Grebe, Oystercatcher and the Pale-bellied Brent Goose. The Kestrel is the most common bird of prey to be found at Cappagh, although Sparrowhawks also hunt along its hedges and fields. Other sea mammals to be seen here throughout the year, other than Bottlenose Dolphins, include Grey and Common Seals and Otter which are also regularly seen in Kilrush Creek Marina. Hogg Island, just off Cappa, is an important roost for many birds species, which can be seen flying out at dusk calling over the estuary.

Vandeleur Walled Garden

Beautiful old stone walls enclose this sheltered Walled Garden (2.158 acres) which was formerly part of the Vandeleur Family Demesne. The garden has been restored around the old path system with a horizontal maze, unusual water-features and a free-standing Victorian-style working glasshouse. The garden has several seating area including Summer House to sit and appreciate the garden. All areas are wheelchair accessible.

The garden specializes in many unusual and tender plants that thrive in the area’s uniquely western latitude micro-climate. Besides having a profusion of plants the garden also has a number of other features including several water features, a collection of trees (arboretum), a heritage kitchen garden and bedding plant displays.

Children’s activities include a log pile habitat, a local wildlife (flora and fauna) information display, a native butterfly trail, a native plant trail, a horizontal and a vertical maze, a living willow tunnel structure.

Caring for the planet by being ecologically sensitive is also a priority in the garden. Fertiliser and chemical use is kept to a bare minimum in the garden area. Eight to ten tonnes of compost are generated annually from the collected green waste of the garden and re-used in the nursery and in the garden as well. Another sustainable feature is the watering of plants carried out by using water pumped from the garden’s own well.

Wood River

From its source at Knockerra Lough and supplemented by four tributaries that join it along its 7.8km route the Wood River completes it journey flowing into the Kilrush Creek. After passing through mainly grazing agricultural land and planted forestry the river enters Kilrush Woods and then travels along the southern edge of the town.

The abundance of aquatic insects in the river provides a good foraging habitat for birds and bats. Soprano Pipistrelle bats have been recorded in the woodland area. There are walking trails through the woodland park close to river and it is also hoped to create a river bank walk from the woods to the creek in the near future.

In October 2016, Kilrush Tidy Towns and local schools participated in the StreamScapes Aquatic Biodiversity Project in the Wood River. On testing the river in the woods had a Biological Water Quality rating of Q4 (Good (WFD Status), Unpolluted (Pollution Status)) based on the indicator species which included the presence Mayfly nymphs, Pond skater, Leeches, Freshwater snails and Freshwater shrimp.


Within the Kilrush town boundary is 420 acres of mixed woodland, formerly the Vandeleur Demesne. Now largely a Coillte owned and managed commercial plantation with an area, containing the Vandeleur Walled Garden, owned by Clare County Council. The demesne dates back to the 18th century under the auspices of Crofton Vandeleur.

The older deciduous woodland area, which is concentrated around the Vandeleur Walled Garden, is abundant with beech, sycamore, oak, lime, ash, alder, birch, elm and hazel. In the spring this area is a wonderful place to see Bluebells. The working woodland is conifer plantation, primarily Sitka Spruce, with some Norway Spruce, Larch and Lawson Cypress.

The woods provide an excellent habitat for birds such as the Wren, Jays, Chiff Chaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and the elusive Tree-creeper. Bats forage amongst the vegetation and roost in the buildings and trees.

A butterfly and moth survey, carried out in Kilrush Wood by lepidopterist Ken Bond from UCC, identified 13 butterfly species and 54 moth species. One butterfly species, identified in Kilrush Wood, the Large White (Pieris brassicae) has been noted as being in strong decline by the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and the Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), also present in Kilrush Wood, are classed as being in moderate decline. Whilst the Cryptic Wood White (Leptidea juvernica) is a species whose only sighting in west Clare has been in Kilrush Wood.

This is a popular amenity area for walkers with extensive trails. It is currently the venue for a weekly Park Run.

There are several small areas of scrub (with Bramble, Whitethorn and Blackthorn) in and around the town that also provide habitat for wildlife. There are also many mature and young trees in Kilrush Town, which add wildlife value to the urban area.

Kilrush Marina Park

This 6 acres of grassland has been under the stewardship of Kilrush Tidy Town since 2015 with the intention of creating a natural wildflower meadow, to promote biodiversity oasis in the heart of the town. To enable this to happen a light intervention management plan is in operation, which consists of a twice-yearly cut to encourage growth.  A network of paths are mown through the park to facilitate access for visitors to enjoy this environment.

An edible hedgerow has also been included in this biodiverse oasis and a rose garden is planned. This Marina Park project aims to promote  interaction between humans and nature in its most basic forms such as touch, feel, smell, sight and taste.

Kilrush Creek Marina

As result of the water flow in and out of the Creek being controlled by lock gates it is constantly maintained at high tide. This has created a brackish water lake, which is a relatively rare habitat type in Ireland and Europe. Gulls roost inside the marina, Cormorants, Oystercatchers, Redshank and Greenshank hunt along its edge and Otters feed on crabs in the more shallow areas.