Lahinch or Lehinch (Irish: An Leacht or Leacht Uí Chonchubhair, meaning "The Memorial cairn of O'Connor") is a small town on Liscannor Bay, on the northwest coast of County Clare, Ireland. It lies on the N67 national secondary road, between Milltown Malbay and Ennistymon, roughly 75 kilometres (47 mi) by road southwest of Galway and 68 kilometres (42 mi) northwest of Limerick. The town is a seaside resort and is home to the Lahinch Golf Club. It has become a popular surfing location.
Lahinch is the anglicised form of Leath Inse, meaning peninsula. This is not related to Leacht Uí Chonchubhair, which means "O'Connor's Grave", referring to the memorial cairn (Leacht) marking the burial place of one of the O’Connor chieftains, who were the ruling clan of the district of Corco Modhruadh Iartharach.
The town was recorded by the Annals of the Four Masters as Leith Innse, which is a variant of the Irish word for a peninsula leithinis ("half island"), which describes the village's location between the Inagh River and the sea. The town today is mostly spelled "Lahinch", but some road signs in the area use the spelling "Lehinch".
Several earth forts in the area indicate that the area was inhabited in ancient times, the most prominent of which is on the northern side of the hill above the village along the road to Ennistymon. The fort is believed to have been built by the Danish Vikings and lies on a hill which later became known as "Doctor's Hill" after a doctor was murdered there.
In the Middle Ages, the O'Brien clan dominated the coastline; Liscannor Castle and Dough Castle are now ruins. The tower of Dough Castle stands on the golf course, and O'Brien's Bridge across the Inagh River is in the vicinity. As late as the 18th century, Lahinch was still a small hamlet with only a few fisherman's huts. It grew in the 19th century to over 1000 people by 1835, but it was not until later in the century that the infrastructure of the town developed and it became a seaside resort following the opening of the West Clare Railway in 1887. In 1883, the town was struck by a severe storm which destroyed the sea wall and promenade and damaged many buildings. Local governor William Edward Ellis overlooked the repair work which followed and the construction of a new sea wall and promenade were inaugurated by the wife of the Viceroy, Lady Aberdeen, in July 1893.
A book "Holiday Haunts of the West Coast of Clare" (1891) stated that Lahinch's "strand for length, width and evenness is not to be excelled in Ireland", noting that the "accommodation is excellent, neat and respectable". The following year, the establishment of Lahinch Golf Club further contributed to the growth of the town. In 1900, Gertrude Crowe of "Times Weekly" wrote: "Lahinch, a restful picturesque spot on the west coast of Clare, retains much of its primitive old world charm. In the good times, it is celebrated for the assemblage of rank and beauty and fashion who resorted thither for bathing. An 1822 Guide mentions that the neighbouring gentry was in the habit of having warmly contested races on the strand." Historically the people of the town celebrated Garland Sunday on the last Sunday of July, attracting people from across the county. Stalls lined the main street with numerous other attractions for the visitors.
On 22 and 23 September 1920, British RIC troops avenged the Rineen Ambush, in which they lost six men, by scorching some 26 buildings, including Lahinch Town Hall and the local dance club on the Promenade. Aideen Carrol describes the RIC as running "amok in Lahinch and Miltown Malbay in an orgy of burning and beating". Dan Lehane's house at Cragg near Lahinch was raided and he was interrogated at gunpoint, but to no avail.
The West Clare Railway closed in 1961, but the town has retained its popularity and in recent times has become a renowned surfing location. Today the town contains several small cafes and restaurants, a church, a pub, the Lahinch and Shamrock Hotels, a bookstore and a surfing school. Just outside the town is Moy House, a country house set in 15 acres of woodland on the River Moy, voted Country House of the Year by Georgina Campbell's Ireland in 2003. In the summer of 1996, Lahinch Seaworld and Leisure Centre with an aquarium, a 25metre indoor swimming pool, children's pool, sauna, jacuzzi, and other facilities opened. In 2002 G. A. Finn published Lazy Days at Lahinch, a light-hearted collection of short stories about local golfers.
Lahinch is home to the 36-hole Lahinch Golf Club, founded in 1892. The original links was laid out by Old Tom Morris. Alister MacKenzie, who co-designed Augusta National Golf Club, redesigned and extended the links in 1927 for a fee of £2,000. Lahinch Golf Club is home to the South of Ireland Championship, an amateur golf tournament which began in 1895.
Lahinch has become one of the foremost surfing locations in Ireland, and is home to a surfing school. On May 14, 2006, 44 surfers managed to ride one small wave, setting a new world record. Lahinch is also a location for other watersports including kitesurfing and windsurfing. Lahinch Sea Rescue, an independent lifeboat service, provides protection for water-users.
Sporting Ennistymon FC is the local soccer club. The club has underage teams from U8s up to U16s who play in the Clare Schoolboy/Girls Soccer League. Sportings Youths and Junior A and B teams play in the Clare District Soccer League. The A team play in the Premier Division in the Clare District Soccer League and the B team play in the Third Division. The underage teams and only one of the Junior teams play in Lahinch Sportsfield, whilst the Youths team and Junior B team play their home games in Mullagh. Ennistymon GAA is the local Gaelic Athletic Association club. The club caters for underage and adult teams in both football and hurling. The Liscannor Ladies GAA is the local club for girls and ladies.
Other activities in the area include fishing, cycling, hiking, and pony trekking.
Bus Éireann route 350 links Lahinch to several locations: Ennis, Ennistymon, Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, Lisdoonvarna and Galway. There are a number of journeys each way daily. Onward rail and bus connections are available at Ennis and Galway.
Lahinch was formerly served by the narrow gauge West Clare Railway, which linked Kilrush, Kilkee and Milltown Malbay with Ennis. The railway station opened on 2 July 1887; the entire line (including Lahinch station) closed on 1 February 1961. Nowadays Ennis railway station is the nearest and Bus Éireann route 350 stops outside it.
Lahinch is the birthplace of Robert Dermot O'Flanagan (1901-1972) who was Bishop of Juneau from 1951 to 1968 and professional golfer Paddy Skerritt (1927-2001).