The Burren region
The heritage town of Ennis, with its winding medieval streets, is known as the friendliest town in Ireland, so it’s a good place to start your visit to Clare. Dating back to the 11th century, the quaint town is the capital of the county and is bursting with character. Find your bearings on one of its four Heritage Trails, which take you on a treasure hunt around the best bits.
From Ennis you can travel on a circular touring route, exploring the Burren, before joining the coast to travel south — all the way to the magical Loop Head and back.
We’ve all heard of the Burren and its world-renowned lunar landscape, but not everyone has been - and you really need to experience this special place for yourself. It’s a region of incredible significance for its unique plant life and megalithic tombs which are older than Egypt’s pyramids. Start your visit at the Burren Centre in the historic village of Kilfenora before travelling to the Burren National Park to explore one of its five marked walking trails.
It’s just a short drive to the village of Carron where you can pop into the Burren Perfumery to discover handmade scents inspired by the landscape.
Take a trip to the coast
On the road to Doolin, you might like to stop at Sheedy’s in Lisdoonvarna, where the locally sourced menu is nearly as famous as the towns’ reputation for matchmaking!
Doolin is just a ten minute spin down the road and is a great base to discover the area by bike with four great circular routes as part of the Doolin Cycle Hub. Hire a bike from Doolin Rent a Bike and test your legs while taking in the views.
The Doolin Cave and Visitor Centre may not be as well-known as Clare’s famous Aillwee Caves, but you should visit just to marvel at the 7.3-metre Great Stalactite formed from a single drop of water thousands of years ago.
Afterwards, feast on good food in McDermott’s traditional Irish pub where you might catch an impromptu music session – and there’ll always be plenty more jamming in the nearby pubs.
The Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk
Many of us remember the incredible Cliffs of Moher but haven’t been back since that trip in primary school. Take a cruise to The Cliffs of Moher from Doolin Pier, or go for a short walk from the visitor centre to see the jaw-dropping beauty of this natural wonder up close.
This area is a great place for walkers of all levels to spend a few days, with well-marked routes like The Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk stretching 20km from Doolin to Liscannor. The 5km Cliff Walk to Hag’s Head is good for beginners, or you can hike the 8km from Fisher Street in Doolin to the Cliffs.
If you take the road from Doolin south along the coast, you’ll pass through pretty villages until you reach the seaside town of Kilkee. Known for its Blue Flag Beach and the spectacular Kilkee Cliff Walk, it’s well worth taking two to three hours to complete this breathtaking, circular route. Follow the trail from Kilkee along with The Pollock Holes - natural swimming pools – and past many more natural wonders. It’s a top spot for dolphin watching too so keep an eye out to the sea as you go.
But if you don’t happen to spot a bottlenose on your walk, you can take an unforgettable trip on the Dolphinwatch from nearby Carrigaholt to visit Shannon Estuary’s famous residents.
The views at Loop Head are literally cinematic - Star Wars The Last Jedi was filmed here. Fans can spot the locations on The Loop Head Heritage Trail which you can access on foot, bike or car. Take in the Bridges of Ross, a natural sea arch, and uncover all the amazing scenery on the hike up to Loop Head Lighthouse.
There are plenty more scenic gems and unexplored places in Clare and the uninhabited Scattery Island, just off the coast in Kilrush is one of them. Bursting with historic sites – there are five churches, a cathedral, a round tower, a Napoleonic battery and a working lighthouse – the island is a haven for wildlife too. Take the guided walking tour to delve into the island’s history and enjoy a picnic or a swim. The trip across to the island is an experience in itself.
Once you’re back on the mainland, travel back to Ennis or linger a little longer around Limerick and beyond.
If you still have time in Clare…
Continue your trip by crossing the Shannon on the Tarbert Ferry in Killimer to join part of The Shannon Estuary Way, back to Limerick. The full loop is a 207km touring route taking in some highlights in Clare and parts of Kerry so keep that in mind for another day.
Before you begin your visit to the Banner County, see our Clare destination page and find more of Clare’s hidden gems and much-loved treasures.