Famous for the stunning Cliffs of Moher and the limestone-dominated Burren National Park, County Clare has so much to offer visitors, it can be tough to cram everything in over a few days. From stunning scenery and historic sites to music and cultural hotspots, Clare is a county that every Irish man or woman should visit at least once in their lifetime.
With so many picturesque towns just waiting to be explored, there are so many accommodation options to consider when planning a trip to Clare. So whether you’re planning on staying in the main town of Ennis, a coastal town like Kilkee, Lahinch or Doolin, or the popular towns of Bunratty, Killaloe or Shannon, you’ll have plenty to see and do, wherever you stay. Below we provide a 72-hour guide to exploring the ‘banner’ county that is Clare.
72-Hour Guide to County Clare
Day 1 – Exploring the Cliffs, the Coast and Doolin
Head to the west of the county and make your first stop the seaside town of Lahinch. If the weather is good, head along to the beach where you can try your hand at some surfing or kayaking, or try your hand at 18 holes of golf at one of Ireland’s best courses, Lahinch Golf Club. With several shops, cafes and pubs, you can easily spend the day enjoying the joys of Lahinch.
The quaint town of Ennistymon is a short drive from Lahinch and worth paying a visit before heading north along the coast road towards the Cliffs of Moher. The Sunday food and craft market attracts many visitors to the town, as do the pubs and restaurants, while the ‘An Gorta Mór’ Memorial on the road into Ennistymon from Lahinch is a poignant symbol to those who died in the Great Famine of 1845, and is located on the site of an old workhouse.
Drive from Lahinch to Cliffs of Moher
As you depart Lahinch, follow the coast road towards the Cliffs of Moher (it will be well signposted). On your way be sure to visit the Rock Shop in Liscannor where you can marvel at the great collection of fossils, gemstones and collector’s items for all ages. The Rock Shop is also the perfect stop point for a tea or coffee and some treats, with the tea rooms providing the perfect opportunity to relax before visiting the famous cliffs. The Rock Shop has a wealth of information and a must visit when travelling from Lahinch to the Cliffs of Moher.
From Liscannor, continue north until you reach the Cliffs of Moher, and prepare to enjoy the amazing views of one of Ireland’s most-visited tourist destinations. There is plenty of parking available near the Cliffs of Moher, leaving a short walk to cliffs themselves. You can choose to venture left or right when walking along the Cliffs of Moher, with stunning views guaranteed whichever way you go. Discover more about the history of the cliffs by visiting the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, and be sure to get your photo taken at one of the most-photographed landmarks in Clare, O’Brien’s Tower.
At 8km long, the Cliffs of Moher is one of Ireland’s most iconic stretches of land and provides a great coastal walking route for the keen walkers among you. The walk takes you from Liscannor to Doolin (find out more about the Doolin Cliff Walk here), so if you have your car and fancy stretching your legs, this is a wonderful walk to enjoy. You will need to take good walking boots and give yourself a few hours to complete the walk. From the cliffs, make the town of Doolin your next stop.
Onwards to Doolin
Recognised by many as the traditional music capital of Ireland, Doolin is a thriving town with plenty to explore. If you’ve walked to Doolin from the Cliffs of Moher, or if it’s your next stop following a walk along the famous cliffs, you’ll have likely worked up a thirst. Doolin has many popular pubs, with Gus O’Connor’s famous throughout Ireland, and a must visit (Gus O’Connor’s recently made our list of 17 Great Irish Pubs to Celebrate St Patrick’s Day).
While in Doolin be sure to head down to Doolin Pier, and if time is on your side take a boat trip to the Aran Islands or even explore the Cliffs of Moher by boat with Doolin Ferry Co and the O’Brien family (best to book your boat spot in advance, especially during the busy summer season). Marvel at the 16th Century Doonagore Castle before making the short trip to Doolin Cave where you can discover millions of years of history, and the Great Stalactite.
Call it a night and enjoy the hospitality of one of Doolin’s many pubs (just be sure to take it easy as another big day lies ahead of you tomorrow). Check out the latest Doolin hotel deals.
Day 2 – Time to explore the Burren
On your second day exploring Clare, leave Doolin and make your way toward the Burren National Park. Burren National Park is approximately 1,500 hectares in size and dominated by limestone providing an almost lunar-like look and feel to the area. A drive through the park is like nowhere else in Ireland, with plenty of vantage points along the way to get great photos of this impressive area. With a number of walking trails in the park to explore, you can easily spend your whole day exploring Burren National Park.
Discovery Points in The Burren
The Cliffs of Moher and Burren is a UNESCO Geopark with 11 geosites and discovery points waiting to be explored. The aforementioned Burren National Park is one of these discovery points, while other popular ones to try to visit when exploring the Burren area include Flaggy Shore in the north of the county, Fanore Beach, Aillwee Cave and Lisdoonvarna Spa Wells.
If you are interested in some of Clare’s more ancient sites, Poulnabrone Dolmen is the only place to start. Ireland’s oldest megalithic monument, Poulnabrone is the second most-visited tourist attraction in Clare after the Cliffs of Moher and dates back almost 6,000 years.
Enjoy a Burren Trail
The Burren is a stunning landscape that can be explored on foot, on a bike or by car. The area boasts a number of popular trails which can take anything from a few hours to the entire day to explore. You can find out more about the many Burren trails here, but high on the list of many visitors to the county is the Burren Food Trails, of which there are five to enjoy, including the popular Farm to Fork and Taste of the Ocean Trails.
Clare is a popular destination for foodie fans, thanks to regular food and drinks festivals like the Burren Slow Food Festival, Ennis Food Festival and the regular Taste the Burren food events.
From Lisdoonvarna to Father Ted
The Burren area is home to many popular towns, and high on the list of places to visit is Lisdoonvarna. Lisdoonvarna’s famous Spa Wells attract thousands of visitors throughout the year, making it Ireland’s premier spa town. Lisdoonvarna is also home to the famous Burren Smokehouse, and the world-famous Burren Smoked Salmon, so be sure to stop by here to discover the smoking secrets of the team.
As you depart Lisdoonvarna, head east towards the village of Kilnaboy, and onwards to Cloon where you will find Father Ted’s house. So much of the hit TV show was shot in Clare, so fans of the show should check out Teds Tours, and spend the day reminiscing over locations made famous by Father Ted Crilly and the team. The tours of ‘Craggy Island’ can take a half day, and you can find more information by visiting Ted Tours.
Call it a Night in the Heritage Town of Killaloe
Finish another busy day by visiting the heritage town of Killaloe where you can enjoy a walking tour of this historic town. Some of the famous sites in the town include St Flannan’s Cathedral and Béal Ború, the ancient fort of Ireland’s last High King, Brian Ború. Killaloe is twinned with Ballina in Tipperary, and both villages have some popular bars and eateries to relax in after another long day exploring Clare.
Day 3 – Lough Derg and Loop Head Peninsula
In your final day of exploring Clare, there are a number of options available to you. From driving the scenic Lough Derg Drive to visiting the main town of Ennis and discovering more about the history of Clare at the County Museum, there’s still so much to explore in the banner county. No trip to Clare would be complete though without heading south to Loop Head Peninsula, and enjoying one of the most picturesque drives anywhere in Ireland.
From Bunratty Castle to Loop Head Lighthouse
Head south to the town of Bunratty and the impressive 15th Century Bunratty Castle. The castle today doubles as a folk park, providing lots of entertainment and education for the family, with the model 19th-Century Village Street a hit with visitors. The charming walled gardens at Bunratty Castle is also worth exploring. When you finish visiting Bunratty Castle, make your way west towards Loop Head peninsula. On your way be sure to make a stop in Shannon.
Loop Head Peninsula
Voted the best place to holiday in Ireland by the Irish Times readers, Loop Head Peninsula is the perfect place to end any trip to Clare, and you’ll have plenty to see and do in the picturesque peninsula. Birdwatching is popular along Loop Head, but it’s another type of animal that draws in the crowds – dolphins. As the River Shannon opens up to the Atlantic Ocean at Carrigaholt, Europe’s largest collection of bottlenose dolphins call this part of Ireland home. Take the boat from Carrigaholt Pier and head out to see to try and catch a glimpse of these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat. Find out more about dolphin watching at Loop Head.
Before leaving Carrigaholt be sure to visit the 15th-Century Carrigaholt Castle, which overlooks Shannon Estuary before heading to the very tip of Loop Head where you will see the iconic Loop Head Lighthouse. On a good day, you’ll be able to see the Blasket Islands off the coast of Kerry and the Ben Twelves mountain range in Galway. Consider a guided tour of the lighthouse before heading north to explore more of what Loop Head has to offer.
Kilkee Cliff Walk
While the Cliffs of Moher get much of the attention from visitors to Clare, the seaside town of Kilkee has its own range of stunning cliffs just waiting to be explored, with the Kilkee Cliff Walk providing the perfect opportunity to enjoy the stunning landscape. Kilkee is the main town of the Loop Head Peninsula and offers many scenic walking routes for visitors along with some great restaurants and bars to visit.
Kilkee is a great place to call it a night and end your short break to Clare. Kilkee is also one of the most popular scuba diving spots in Ireland with Duggerna Reef considered one of the best places to dive in the whole of Europe. If you’re blessed with the weather, take the time to relax at Kilkee beach, one of Ireland’s best beaches.
Plan Your Holiday in Clare Today
With so much to see and do in Clare you really do need to set aside a few days to get as much from the county as you possibly can. From history, culture and heritage to great food, great music and countless outdoor activities, there is something for all of the family, and plenty to keep you entertained.
Images via Fáilte Ireland