In the heart of the Clare Lakelands, Corofin is your gateway to the Burren. This spot on the River Fergus between Lough Atedaun and Inchiquin Lough is peppered with turloughs (disappearing lakes) and unique geological features. You can get a true sense of place with Burren Experience Guided Walks. Guide Marie McGauran tailors each tour to highlight the local flora and fauna, trace the area’s farm heritage or connect with your spiritual side depending on your interests.
Explore the village of Kilfenora and uncover the traces of a 6th century monastic settlement in this City of the Crosses. From megalithic tombs to an ancient cathedral, the place echoes with history. You can delve further into the magic of An Bhoireann or 'the stony place' at The Burren Centre. Here you can travel through time to learn about the formation of the landscape and the heritage of its people, then tuck into homemade scones at the Tea Rooms.
To return to the beginnings of Irish sport, visit the Michael Cusack Centre, celebrating the father of the Gaelic Athletic Association. Or get active on an e-bike to discover the area on two wheels with e-whizz, while you pedal effortlessly through amazing scenery.
When you drive into Ennistymon (Ennistimon), listen out for the rushing River Inagh as it cascades through the town creating a small series of rapids. From here, it’s a short trip to St Tola Goat Farm, where slow food and organic farming produce delicious results. Tour the farm and see a cheese making demonstration before tasting your way through a selection of their best. The award winning Ash Log is worth the stop alone.
Colourful Lisdoonvarna may be famous for its Matchmaking Festival, but it’s equally notable for being Ireland’s only remaining active mineral spa. Bathe in restorative waters rich with sulphur and feel the benefits. After a good soak, follow your nose to the Burren Smokehouse where oak smoke fills the air. You’ll find out about how they prepare their fresh organic salmon and see a series of handcrafted mosaics by Irish artist Vincent Browne telling the Salmon of Knowledge’s story.
To satisfy your inner explorer, venture off the beaten track on this part of the Discovery Trail with Burren Mountain Tours. Leave the busier tourist routes behind and head into the heart of the karst landscape on a 90 minute driving tour. You can retrace the ancestral route once used by herdsmen taking cattle to the mountain as you enjoy breathtaking views.
This area is a must for walkers and Gragan’s Wood is a peaceful haven of thick firs and craggy limestone. For a different kind of journey, take a self guided stroll around the 1000 year old Caherconnell Fort to investigate Bronze Age burial mounds. In daily sheepdog demonstrations on site, farmers and their Border Collies join forces in an age old working partnership.
Corkscrew Hill and its nearby areas are perfect for fresh air. For avid cyclists, the hill holds incredible views and an opportunity to get a real workout. In Ballyvaughan you can stretch your legs as you a choose a trail on the 123km Burren Way that begins and ends here. For a sensory treat after your exertions, the family run Burren Perfumery are pioneers at distilling the scents of this epic landscape. Their small batch products provide soothing aromatherapy, with an organic Seaweed & Bergamot cream capturing the Atlantic’s salt and spray.
Get beneath it all and explore the Burren underground at Aillwee Cave & The Birds of Prey Centre. Descend to see caverns filled with elaborate rock formations and the bones of bears long since extinct, before you check out the roaring waterfall. Then return to the surface to watch dramatic flying displays by birds of prey. You’ll get up close to eagles, falcons, hawks and owls.
What’s a car trip without a snack or two? For a little indulgence on your Burren scenic drive, nothing can beat something from Hazel Mountain Chocolate. Pick up an ethically produced confection like their 70% dark chocolate and seaweed bar on the road to Kinvara. Then once in the seaport village, take in the fresh air as you stroll the beautiful beach, or head for local landmark Dunguaire Castle. Here a tour reveals the folklore behind the 16th century tower overlooking Galway Bay.
Stop into the magical Burren Nature Sanctuary in Cloonasee, the Meadow of the Fairies. Roam through acres of untamed nature and see unique landscapes of limestone pavement. Then head for the ancient ash and hazel woodland to breathe in the quiet. Driving on to Ardrahan, pay a visit to Rathbaun Farm, where the land has been worked for over 250 years. Tour with sheep farmer Fintan as he takes you through his routine from feeding to rounding up the herd. Chores done, roll up your sleeves and learn the art of scone making before enjoying the fruits of your labour with a nice cuppa.
The Discovery Trail winds towards Gort, a busy market town tucked between the Slieve Aughty mountains and the Burren. Heading northwest of the town, you’ll find yourself in the neighbourhood of Thoor Ballylee’s Norman tower and cottages that once belonged to WB Yeats (a steal when he bought the property in 1916 for just £35). Today you can climb the tower's winding stair and admire sweeping panoramas through the battlements. You can also cycle from Thoor Ballylee to Gort and back to get lovely views of the countryside.
Navigate to Coole Park Visitor Centre and Gardens with its 400 hectares of forests and wetland perfect for a ramble. The biodiverse haven has underground rivers and the woods of Coole-Garryland as well as a more manicured grounds. In the local tradition of spotting Yeats connections, keep your eyes peeled in the walled garden for a Copper Beech tree where the poet carved his famous literary initials.
About 5km southwest of Gort is Kilmacduagh Cathedral Churches And Round Tower, a 7th century monastic site with a sprinkling of buildings. Check out St John’s Church and Glebe House, the cathedral ruins and 30m leaning round tower. Kilmacduagh was founded thanks to Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin, King of Connacht whose generosity is the stuff of legend.
A 15 minute drive from Kilmacduagh Abbey you'll find the freshwater lake of Lough Bunny. Take a break at the lake’s picnic area to enjoy the view while you have a snack. To the northwest of the lake is the Burren Farm Experience. Take a bespoke tour of this working farm as you hop on a tractor with Cathal, a 5th generation farmer who will give you an insight into his daily life farming within the Burren National Park. Throughout the year you can reconnect with the land and your inner self on one of their personalised wellness retreats.
From here, you can return to Corofin completing the loop and reaching the end of the trail.