By Briana Seftel
Situated on Ireland's picturesque west coast, County Clare is an inviting combination of rugged coastline, charming towns and villages and emerald green countryside. Discover the county's highlights with this helpful guide.
What to Know
Known as the Banner County, County Clare is as “Irish” as it gets. On one hand, the county is home some of Ireland's most star studded attractions: the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle and Poulnabrone dolmen. On the other, Clare boasts fishing villages and lively market towns that ring with the joyful hum of traditional music. Allow at least three to five days to truly experience the county on Ireland's wonderful west.
When to Go
Like the rest of Ireland, the summer months of June, July and August are peak travel months in County Clare. To avoid the crowds, plan a visit in April, May, September or October. You’ll still enjoy warm, sunny days but without a hundred tourists all vying for the same Cliffs of Moher photo. Any season in Ireland is rainy season, so be sure to pack and umbrella, light raincoat and waterproof shoes.
How to Get Around
Driving is the best way to experience the vast landscapes of County Clare. While you can easily walk through its small towns, in order to get around from one place to another, you’ll need a car. Keep in mind Ireland drives on the left side, so take precaution especially on those tiny country roads!
Where to Eat
With fresh seafood caught in the Atlantic and delicious dairy treats, there’s no shortage of good food and drink in County Clare. While you may not find hyper modern restaurants found in Dublin and Cork, the traditional dining scene in Clare is a true delight. Below are some of our top picks for eating and drinking in Clare.
- Barrtrá Seafood Restaurant Barrtrá, Carrowgar, Lahinch, Co. Clare Phone: +353 65 708 1280
- Egan's 14 Main St, Liscannor, Co. Clare Phone: +353 86 102 5425
- Durty Nelly's Bunratty West, Bunratty, Co. Clare Phone: +353 61 364 861
- Doolin Cafe Toomullin, Doolin, Co. Clare Phone: +353 65 707 4795
- Linnalla Ice Cream Unnamed Rd Co. Irland, Rine, Co. Clare Phone: +353 87 785 7569
- Town Hall Bistro O'Connell Street, Clonroad Beg, Ennis Phone: +353 65 682 8127
- Cullinan’s Guesthouse Teergonean, Doolin, Co. Clare Phone: +353 65 707 4183
- Wild Honey Inn Kincora Rd, Rathbaun, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare Phone: +353 65 707 4300
The county town of Clare, Ennis is a historic market town with a big heart. Dating back to the 11th century, Ennis’ rich heritage can be seen from its quaint streets to its lively pubs. Walk in the footsteps of Franciscan monks at the 13th century Ennis Abbey, get a history lesson at Clare Museum, or simply find a pub and listen to the sweet sounds of trad music.
Known as the traditional music capital of Ireland, Doolin boasts an exceptional musical history as well as a prime seaside location. With easy access to the Cliffs of Moher, many visitors just pass through Doolin, but it’s worth spending a few hours here. Take in a trad session with a pint or two of Guinness, stroll the colorful harbor and visit Doonagore Castle, a round 16th-century tower house with a small walled enclosure. Another popular activity in Doolin is the 5-mile coastal cliff walk to the Cliffs of Moher.
Another picturesque coastal village, Ballyvaughan is the northernmost town in County Clare bordering County Galway. Home to a harbor built in the 19th century for fishing, the town has become a popular jumping off point to explore the Burren and the Aran Islands, which are just a short boat ride away.
Designated a heritage town, Kilrush boasts a rich maritime tradition in an ideal setting. Take a peaceful stroll around Vandeleur Walled Garden, a hidden gem just 1.4 miles from Kilrush center. History buffs won’t want to miss Scattery Island Cathedral and monastery, an early Christian place of pilgrimage located at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary.
Cliffs of Moher
Spanning five miles down the rugged western coast and soaring to 702 feet, the Cliffs of Moher are arguably the most iconic sight in all of Ireland. Facing the mighty Atlantic ocean, the cliffs are an unforgettable natural wonder to see in person. Carefully walk along the edge of the cliffs and see if you can spot the Aran Islands in the misty distance. We suggest allowing a minimum of two hours for a visit.
Travel tip: Book online to save on rates and guarantee your entrance.
Take a step back into Ireland’s past with a visit to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. The most complete and authentic medieval castle in Ireland, Bunratty was built in 1425 and restored in 1954 to its former medieval glory. Set on 26 acres, the folk park is a living reconstruction of village life in 19th century Ireland. Visitors can also explore the beautiful walled garden and feast on a sumptuous four-course dinner at the medieval banquet in the castle. Bunratty is sure to be fun for the whole family.
Nestled in the middle of the Wild Atlantic Way, The Burren is anything but barren. A 50-square-mile limestone plateau in northwest Clare, the Burren supports the greatest diversity of plant species in Ireland. April and May are peak months for spotting the unique wildflowers that make up this moonlike landscape. Also worth exploring is Aillwee Cave and Poulnabrone dolmen, an ancient portal tomb.
A highlight along the Wild Atlantic Way, Loop Head is a headland bound by the Shannon Estuary on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Many visitors choose to drive the scenic 50-mile Loop Head, taking in Kilrush, Carrigaholt, Kilbaha, Loop Head, Cross, Kilkee and returning to Kilrush. Star Wars fans may recognize Loop Head from Star Wars: Episode VIII, which filmed here.
Tips and Tricks
Looking for love? The month-long Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival is a yearly gathering of Europe’s most eligible singles.
Bring your board or rent one to surf the stellar waves of Lahinch, a seaside town known as the surfing capital of Ireland.
Plan a trip in the summer months to catch a glimpse of the famous bottlenose dolphins that call the Shannon Estuary home.