Ease yourself in gently with one of Ireland’s most westerly and stunning trails on one of the country’s most dramatic headlands. The 2km trek from Loop Head carpark takes you round the moors and along the cliffs. Keep to the west of the impressive Loop Head Lighthouse, pass the World War II lookout posts and on towards the water before an energetic climb rewards you with stunning views.
The longer Kilbaha Loop Walk is a bit more challenging, taking four to five hours to hike its 15km trail. But it’s totally worth the effort. From the lighthouse you’ll trek along the peninsula’s breathtaking southern coastline to Kilbaha before returning along the sea cliffs with views of Kilbaha Bay. Along the way you will pass countless natural wonders and historic treasures from Diarmuid and Gráinne’s Rock, to the World War II E-I-R-E sign.
From Loop Head a scenic 40 minute coastal drive takes you to Doonbeg, reputedly the longest village in Ireland with its famous Whitestrand beach, which is ideal for surfing, swimming and fishing. The well-marked Doonbeg Loop starts not too far from Doonbeg Castle and is an easy 8km hike on minor roadways and bog tracks with views of Doughmore Bay and Mutton Island.
Take the coast road from Lahinch through Liscannor and Doolin to reach Fanore and the trailhead of the Caher Valley Looped Walk. This 14km moderate walk takes three and a half hours from the carpark at the beautiful sandy beach in the village of Fanore. Amble along the Caher River, one of the only rivers in the Burren, and climb onto the shoulder of Slieve Elva before a 3km descent with wonderful views of the ocean and the Aran Islands in the distance.
Experienced walkers won’t easily forget the views and natural wonders on the Black Head Looped Walk, a more challenging hike from Fanore Beach. You’ll need seven hours to complete the 26km trek along an impressive mix of Burren hill and coast, laneways, tracks and mountain paths.
Along the way, you’ll explore the incomparable Burren landscape through the Caher Valley and parts of Gleninagh Mountain. Discover the ruins of the Cathair Aird Rois ring fort and enjoy lovely vistas of Galway Bay and the Aran Islands.
After you arrive back to Fanore Beach, it’s 20-minutes to Ballyvaughan along the coast road fringed by drystone walls and views of the sea. The Ballyvaughan Wood Loop starts at the seafront and takes you on a journey through country roads and farmland.
For a pitstop with a difference, visit the famous Aillwee Caves, the best known of thousands of caves under the Burren. Take your time and watch out for rough terrain in places and you should be back in Ballyvaughan in two and a half hours.
Heading inland from Ballyvaughan you’ll reach the start of the Templecronan Loop Walk in 20-minutes. This relatively easy 5km walk starts at Cassidy’s pub in the village (there’s a longer 9km Carran Loop from here too but you’d be best to take a map for that one).
This part of County Clare offers wonderful views of the Burren’s lunar landscape and one of the largest seasonal lakes (or turlough) in Ireland. You’ll pass the ruins of the 12th century Templecronan Church with its carved stone heads, before returning towards the turlough and the trail head at Carran an hour and a half later.
Just 25-minutes on from Carran towards Ennis you’ll reach the Dromore Woodland Nature Reserve which boasts an abundance of diverse flora and fauna. Follow the signpost in the village of Ruan, 2km to the carpark and you’ll find the trailhead for the Dromore Wood Loop, a moderate two hour 6km circular trail marked with purple arrows. Watch out for views of Dromore Lake, Lough Garr and the 17th century O’Brien Castle as you ramble through the beautiful forest before arriving back near the visitor centre.
The Dromore Wood Loop is just one of seven trails of varying lengths marked out in the woods including the easy Rabbit Island loop which only takes 30-minutes.