I was wide awake well before the alarm clock had a chance to let me know it’s 5 am yet the gleaming morning light was already peaking through one side of the curtains, spreading flickering shadows on the wall. The house was soundless; everyone was still asleep and off in the distance, I could hear an aeroplane rumbling in the sky.
My heart was on fire as I focused on today’s drive ahead, there is a certain magic when it comes to exploring Ireland’s West coast, something we desired to guzzle after a few months of slow hibernation.
Ever since travelling to Galway 10 years ago and hearing about the Cliffs of Moher, I have dreamed of going back to the untamed cliffs on the way re-visiting lovely Doolin Village and Burren National Park as well.
Last summer, just shortly before the Midsummer festival, we finally packed our bags, surfboards and made our way towards Doolin. We couldn’t have picked a better time to visit County Clare, if only you could see how colourful Ireland is once the summer arrives.
Pinkish shades of cherry blossoms are replaced by bright yellow flaxseed fields, lilacs and wild daisies, After a very long and dreary winter, it was nice to finally see pops of colour everywhere. Days are much longer and brighter, the weather is warmer, making it a perfect time for a road trip.
Ireland travel guide: 8 memorable things to do in beautiful County Clare
Thanks to many things to do and see, your trip to County Clare deserves a little planning ahead. Whether you are looking to visit Aran Islands, go hiking along the coast or immerse yourself in traditional Irish music, researching about it can make your trip more enjoyable.
From the iconic Cliffs of Moher to the atmospheric Aran Islands, there are many fun things to do in Clare, Ireland. The area also boasts some of the most scenic drives in Ireland, including The Burren Loop, Lough Derg and Loop Head.
So are the best things to see on a County Clare trip.
#1. Stop at the colourful Doolin Village
Home of Traditional Irish music, Doolin is a beautiful coastal village that can be easily used as a base for exploring County Clare. It’s the closest village to the Cliffs of Moher with lots of lively pubs and plenty of accommodation options, and despite its small size, you’ll be surprised by the number of things you can do and see there.
Allow yourself at least a couple of days to see the sights in Doolin, talk to friendly locals about the way of life on Ireland’s West Coast, you’ll get a great history lesson as well as learn about a few hidden gems, such as
Here, you can visit Doolin Cave and see the biggest free-hanging stalactite in Europe, take a boat to one of the Aran Islands and go for an invigorating hike along the coast – which is very impressive if you do it on a good day – to the Visitor’s Centre the top of the Cliffs.
Our Crossing tip* As it happens with many other beautiful places around Ireland’s west coast, Doolin gets very busy, especially during the summer month and Bank Holidays weekends. That’s why, to avoid disappointment, always book your tours and accommodation well in advance.
#2. Visit Poulnabrone Dolmen
The short and easy walk vowing through the spectacular landscape to the geologically and archaeologically unique structure – said to be older than the Egyptian Pyramids – makes for a great photo stop while crossing The Burren National Park.
The site, where the man-made Poulnabrone Dolmen is located, is free of charge, easily accessible, comes with its own car park and takes only 5 minutes to reach on foot. Along the way to a burial site like no other we’ve ever seen, you’ll find information boards detailing its impressive history.
The well-kept example of the portal tomb is a rather small monument, yet it’s fascinating to find yourself in front of something that was constructed nearly 5 thousand years ago.
#3. Marvel at the sheer size of Cliffs of Moher
Even though we knew what we were going to see, I was still intrigued by yet another chance to see the legendary Cliffs of Moher. The immense expanse of wind-blasted and a completely isolated stretch of coast struck us yet again as we impatiently rushed to the edge where we could see the ferocious cliffs rising 700 feet upward from the depth of the turbulent ocean.
Often regarded as Ireland’s top sight, Cliffs of Moher attracts millions of foreign and domestic visitors every year. The attendance at this spot is overwhelming but definitely worth it, mostly because you’ll find plenty of quiet corners to enjoy the natural wonder.
No matter how many times we have seen it, every time we come back, this place strikes like on the first time. The natural reds, greens and browns complement each other perfectly.
#4. Enjoy amazing food and beverages
County Clare has plenty of amazing and award-winning cafes and restaurants where travellers can fuel up for the day ahead. You can stop at an old fashioned pub usually kitted out with historical memorabilia with a cosy environment and hearty foods on the menu, or you can settle in a café with healthy food such as Little Fox in Ennistymon.
Beyond exploring the beautiful sights that County Clare is famous for, don’t leave without trying some of the traditional foods – it’s one of the best ways to learn more about Irish culture. Make sure you try soda bread, Irish stew and Irish potato pancakes Boxty.
• Hazel Mountain Chocolates | Visit Hazel Mountain Chocolates to create delicious memories and sample creamy milk chocolate created using Irish milk from grass-fed cows. You can join the tour and learn about the history and origins of chocolate or simply stop by to try out gluten-free tarts and cakes.
• Burren Smokehouse | It’s worth adding Burren Smokehouse into your itinerary as a stopping point to discover and taste freshly smoked organic salmon. Burren Smokehouse is a family business set up in 1989 located just 15 minutes from the Cliffs of Moher.
• Burren Food Trail |You can also set aside time for a self-guided driving tour which includes a variety of stops and activities along the way. Taste of the Ocean Trail offers fresh seafood, cooking demos and foraging walks. Nature’s Child Trail is a family-friendly route that offers ice cream stops and a Farm to Fork Trail showcases fruit orchards and farmers markets.
#5. Explore Burren National Park
Give yourself a few hours to explore Burren National Park where granite formations and chunks of limestone are scattered through a landscape so many holds to be sacred.
The Burren comes with its own 300 million-year-old geology history worth looking up as well with the fact that nearly 75 % of Ireland’s native plant species can be found here.
To explore the park, you can go for a hike – choose the red trail – where the route rolls over limestone scattered hills before rewarding hikers with a fantastic view over incredible landscape.
Follow the path that weaves through the bluebell scattered forest and arrives at the lake, taking in the sights and smells.
#6. Go surfing in Lahinch
Following the drive along the coastal road, where gigantic rock formations tower out of the ocean, our journey took us past stunning castles and charming traditional pubs and brought us to a beautiful Lahinch village.
The little town is home to a crescent-shaped beach two kilometres in length is always buzzing with surfers, swimmers and other water enthusiasts.
Located in Liscannor Bay and facing the Atlantic ocean, Lahinch is one of the top destinations in Ireland for surfing. If you fancy catching a wave or two, you’ll find lots of surf schools with qualified surf instructors in town where you can learn to pop up. All the surf lessons are around 2 hours
#7. Go for a ride around Loop Head Peninsula
Do you love rugged coastal scenery and beautiful lighthouses? Then I’m pretty sure that this part of the coast in County Clare is something for you. Loop Head Peninsula makes for a fantastic drive with lovely villages, incredible searches, rocks and dramatic cliffsides welcoming its visitors and offering plenty of hiking, biking and photography adventures.
The roads are much quieter around the peninsula, and to drive the whole loop doesn’t take longer than 45 minutes without any stops. Once you leave Kilkee, a charming seaside town, behind and start to drive toward the tip along the western side of the peninsula, be ready for many incredible views.
There’s a mythical sea stack that’s known as the Lover’s Leap, there’s an incredible lighthouse that offers amazing views of Galway on one and Kerry on the other one from the top of it, and there are many art galleries and pubs, like the Long Dock Pub in Carrighacolt to stop at too.
Our Crossings tip* Always check the weather forecast before you set out to drive the Loop, the lighthouse is usually closed during the stormy weather, and it can be challenging to drive the small roads in bad weather conditions.
#8. Take a ferry to one of the Aran Islands
The Aran Islands, situated only a 45-minute ferry ride from Doolin is one of Ireland’s majestic natural attractions which makes for a memorable day trip from the mainland.
Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer are the three limestone islands often battered by harsh weather conditions where only a small handful of people live very simple lives still making a living through fishing and farming.
Thousands of visitors each year travel to isolated islands, where Gaelic is still the official language, to see some of the oldest archaeological sites – some believed to date from c. 1500B.C, escape the mayhem of the modern world and experience rural West Irelands traditional culture.
The most popular with tourists is Inish Mor island, home to 1000 inhabitants offering a good variety of shops, cafes and accommodation. Once you set your foot on the island, a local man with pony carts happily scoop up arriving tourists to show them around. You can also rent a bike or opt for a minibus tour of the island.
How to get to and around County Clare
If you are travelling from Dublin, then the most common way to access County Clare and Cliffs of Moher is through M6, and the best way to see the coastal stretch around Galway and to visit its attractions is by car.
Shannon Airport, the first airport in the world, outside of the Americas, to offer Full US Preclearance facilities to passengers travelling to the USA, is located only 64 km from Cliffs of Moher and can easily be used as an entry point.
Well-signposted and well-maintained roads are perfect for a self-guided tour, and even if you aren’t too sure about driving on the other side, there’s really is no better way! Travelling by car, you’ll get to choose the overall tempo of the holiday and have the freedom to explore the shifting landscape.
Where to stay in County Clare
The bulk of accommodation is in the main towns and villages of Lahinch, Doolin, Kilrush Ennis, Kilkee and Ennistymon and they include traditional holiday cottages, welcoming B&Bs, budget hostels and plenty of places for motor home overnight parking.
•Hotel Doolin | Located in the heart of the Doolin, Hotel Doolin can be used as a base for exploring Burren National Park and Cliffs of Moher. As a member of The Burren Food Trail, Hotel Doolin offers guests great food that’s made using local produce, and you can also enjoy traditional Irish music.
•Doolin Inn | Another great place to stay in Doolin is a family-run country house with a cosy double and family rooms perfect for relaxing and recharging. Doolin Inn, overlooking Fisher Street, is located just steps away from all the major attractions and there’s also private parking are available onsite.
•Aille River Hostel | Set in an 18th-century cottage right beside the river, Aille River Hostel is a cosy place with a shared kitchen, friendly staff and beautiful riverside terrace. You can choose from the dorm and private rooms, all of which comes at affordable prices and can use the campsite to pitch your tent.
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Now, over to you!
Have you been to County Clare? Let us know in the comments!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to County Clare and have travel-related questions!