Spatial and temporal changes in saltwater wedges in coastal karst aquifers are still poorly understood, largely due to complex mixing processes in these heterogeneous environments, but also due to anthropogenic forcing such as pumping, which commonly affect natural variations in wedges. The purpose of this study was first to characterize the hydrodynamic functioning of a karst aquifer in an oceanic temperate climate with little anthropogenic pressure but strongly influenced by a high tidal range and second, to evaluate the extent and movements of a saltwater wedge influenced by both the tide and the natural recharge of the aquifer. Variations in specific conductivity combined with water chemistry results from six boreholes and two lakes located in the Bell Harbour catchment (western Ireland) enabled us to assess the extent of the intrusion of the saltwater wedge into the aquifer as a function of both karst recharge and tidal movements at high/low and neap/spring tidal cycles. The marked spatial disparity of the saltwater wedge was analysed as a function of both the hydrodynamic and the structural properties of the karst aquifer. Results showed that the extent of the saltwater wedge depended not only on the intrinsic properties of the aquifer but also on the relative influence of the recharge and the tide on groundwater levels, which have opposite effects. Recharge in the Burren area throughout the year is large enough to prevent saltwater intruding more than about one kilometre from the shore. A strong tidal amplitude seems to be the motor of sudden saltwater intrusion observed in the aquifer near the shore while the position of the groundwater level seems to influence the intensity of the salinity increase. Competition between recharge and the tide thus controls the seawater inputs, hence explaining temporal and spatial changes in the saltwater wedge in this coastal karst aquifer. (C) Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.