See also Burren National Park and and Shannon Region's Underworld Wonders
County Clare is located on Ireland’s western coast. The county plays host to Burren National Park, an extensive limestone plateau with many underground caves. Other geographical features of note are the River Shannon estuary, the scenic Atlantic coastline with its beaches, and Lough Derg.
At 32,000 acres, Lough Derg is one of Ireland’s largest lakes. Activities encompass hiking, boating, cycling, day cruises, watersports, and fishing. The fishing and sailing centre in the town of Mountshannon, an 18th century landlord built village, provides hire boats and trips to Iniscealtra (Holy Island) with its 7th century monastic ruins.
The East Clare Heritage Centre at Tuamgraney near Lough Derg’s western shore, is housed in 10th century Saint Cronan’s, the oldest church in continuous use in Ireland. The folk museum focuses on the everyday activities of the past, crafts, household utensils, farm implements, workshop tools, and the fields. Boat trips also run from Tuamgraney to Holy Island. There are nature and heritage walks in the area.
Killaloe, set on a steep hillside near southern Lough Derg, is linked by a 13 arch bridge with the town of Ballina on the Shannon River. The Brian Boru Heritage Centre on the river banks has a tourist information centre and an exhibition. Born in the town, he was High King of Ireland in medieval times and defeated the Vikings in the Battle of Clontarf. A Brian Boru festival takes place in July.
The town’s old shops and houses are set on narrow streets. There’s a marina and the opportunity for various water sports, including tours on the river Shannon. Killaloe has a number of historic buildings that include the restored 13th century St Flannan’s cathedral and 12th century St Flannan’s oratory beside the cathedral. St Molua’s Oratory beside the Catholic church dates from c1000. North of the town are the remains of a fort, Beal Boru, home of Brian Boru, an 11th century high king. Near the town is a forest recreation area, Balycuggaran.
The Clare Heritage Centre in an old church in the town of Corofin, designated as the gateway to the Burren, has exhibits themed to Ireland in the years 1800-1860. Its main purpose is genealogical research. The Commaun Stone Fort on the edge of an inland valley has three concentric walls.
The Burren Centre at Kilfenora tells about the national park’s flora, fauna, and geology in exhibitions and an AV film theatre. Kilfenora’s cathedral was construct c1190. Of note are the east window, two effigies of bishops, and a high cross. The nave is roofed and used for church services.
Near the town are three 12th century high crosses marking the site of a 6th century monastery. Three miles east of Kilfenora are the ruins of 17th century Leamaneh Castle, a four storey Elizabethan fortified house.
A scenic route skirts the coastline from Ballyvaughan, a village and port on Galway Bay, to the cliffs of Moher. The Burren walking route begins in the village. Ballyvaughan is home to a 16th century restored tower house, Newtown Castle. The Newtown trail shows off 100 species of plants along its length.
Following the Burren scenic route south of Ballyvaughan leads to the Aillwee showcave, a ¾ mile tunnel in which are stalactites, stalagmites, a number of chambers, and a waterfall. A visitor centre explains how the caves were formed.
In a field reached from the Corofin-Ballyvaughan road is a late stone age portal tomb, Poulnabrone. Caherconnell, 1km south of Poulnabrone dolmen, is a stone fort 140-145 feet in external diameter, almost circular in plan. Its walls are 12 feet thick and range from 6-14 feet high. It is thought to have served as a defensive settlement. Although dating from somewhere between AD 400-1200, its entrance was possibly rebuilt in the 15th or 16th century.
The Dysert O'Dea Castle & Archaeology Centre, signposted on the Corofin to Ennis road, is a complex with many archaeological remains. In the 15th century tower house is a small museum. A trail leads to 25 stone forts, high crosses, and other ruins.
The ruins of Corcomroe Cistercian Abbey, north-east of Ballyvaughan and near Bellharbour, date from the end of the 12th century. They include a vaulted choir, transept chapels, an altar finely carved, and carved capitals. On Turlough Hill’s north slope are the ruins of three 12th century churches. Also in the area are a 16th century castle, Gleninagh, and a holy well.
Heading south through the Burren to Ennis leads to Killinaboy, near which is a medieval church and round tower. Historic Ennis, in county Clare’s interior, is the county town and administrative centre. Parts of the town date from the 17th century. There is a walk alongside the River Fergus in the town and a 13th century friary (sculptures, an ornamental screen, a chancel window, and tombs).
Check out Ennis’s narrow twisting streets: Abbey, Parnell and O’Connell. In the town are an 1852 Palladian limestone courthouse, a Roman Catholic cathedral of 1831, and an Irish Music Centre with live performances. The Clare Museum, in the town centre, offers an interactive exhibition and AV program on the county.
Just south of Ennis in the village of Clarecastle is Clare Abbey, founded in 1189 by the Augustinians. The ruins include the nave, a tower, and part of the domestic buildings. A ruined nunnery, Killone, lies three miles from Ennis on the coast road.
Quin, to the south-east of Ennis, is the site of a 15th century abbey. Parts of the Fransciscan friary towers, the south transept, and cloister survive. Close by, restored Anglo-Norman Knappogue castle, with its large central tower, hosts medieval banquets for coach tours. Nearby is the Craggaunowen, a 50 acre Living Past Experience. Prehistoric and early Christian homesteads, artefacts, animals, and 16th century Craggaunowen Castle are included in the exhibition.
Halfway between Ennis and Lough Derg is the fishing centre of Tulla where there are the remains of a medieval parish church. Other ruins include seven megalithic tombs and Lissofin, a towerhouse castle. Irish music is part of the town scene. Nearby are the ruins of Lissofin castle. North-west of the town, the Kiltannon river area has an underground cave system.
The limestone Cliffs of Moher, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, is one of Ireland’s “not to be missed” scenic attractions. Three miles west of Liscannor, the dramatic cliffs extend for five miles and loom 668 feet high. At the site is a visitor information centre, shop, and cafe. O’Brien’s Tower is a good observation point. It’s a favourite sea bird watching site, especially during nesting time.
Two miles south of the cliffs on the main road to Liscannor is the Holy Well of St Brigid. Lahinch, south of the famous cliffs and on the west coast of the Burren, is a seaside and golf resort with a mile long beach. At O’Brien’s bridge are the ruins of 15th century Kilmacreehy church and Dough Castle.
Kilkee is a seaside resort on the attractive Moore Bay in county Clare’s south coastal area. Beaches, swimming, cliff walks, a promenade, and an outdoor amphitheatre provide a mix of activities. Lookout Hill and the Doonlicka Cliffs are scenic viewing sites. At Carrigaholt the ruined five storey castle overlooks the Shannon estuary and village pier.
Southward along the coast, Fanore’s beach and sand dunes are popular for swimming. The village of Doolin is known for its folk music. From here you can take a ferry to Inisheer, an island in the Aran group. Lisdoonvarna is Ireland’s only spa town, reflected in its Victorian pump house. Waters rich in sulphur and iron were the attraction.
Kilrush, sited on the mouth of the Shannon in south-west Clare, is a market town with a pier and marina. Horse fairs are a popular annual event. Kilrush Heritage Centre in the market house has displays on local history. Another attraction in the town is the Vandeleur walled garden.
On the Merchant’s Quay is the Scattery Island Information Centre. Boat trips to the island are available from Cappagh pier. On the island are the remains of a 6th century monastic settlement, round tower, and five churches. Stop in the village of Lissycasey, on the Kilrush to Ennis road, to visit one of Ireland’s oldest pubs.
Near the Shannon International Airport, Ballycastle Craft Centre offers knitwear, pottery, and other Irish crafts for sale. Between the airport and Limerick is Bunratty. Bunratty’s restored 15th century castle is filled with furniture and art, and Irish banquets are held on special evenings. The Castle and Folk Park/Museum is a commercial enterprise within 26 acres of grounds that display 19th century life in the form of a village street, shops, and displays. Irish music performances and dancing are held some nights.
Tel. 0 65 707 7067 for exact opening times
Web: Aillwee Cave
Ballycastle Craft Centre
Near Shannon airport, 2 miles from Bunratty
Tel. 0 61 362 105
Balycuggaran Forest Recreation area
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park/Museum
Tel. 0 61 360 788
Tel. 0 65 708 8030
Web: Burren Centre
Brian Boru Heritage Centre
Killaloe, on river banks
Tel. 0 61 376 866 or 0 61 360 788
Caherconnell Stone Fort and Visitor Centre
Tel. 0 65 708 9999
Web: Caherconnell Stone Fort and Visitor Centre
Cliffs of Moher and O’Brien’s Tower
Three miles west of Liscannor
Tel. 0 61 360788
Web: Cliffs of Moher
Clare Heritage Museumand Genealogical Centre
Church St, Corofin
Tel. 0 65 683 7955
Web: Clare Heritage Centre
Ennis, in town centre
Tel. 0 65 682 3382
Web: Clare Museum
Tel. 0 61 360788 or 061 367178 for details
Western edge of the Burren, near cliffs of Moher
Tel. 0 65 707 5761
Web: Doolin Cave
Ruan, 8km north of Ennis off Ennis-Galway road N18
Tel. 0 65 683 7166
Dysert O'Dea Castle & Archaeology Centre
Tel. 0 65 6837401
East Clare Heritage Centre
Tuamgraney, in Saint Cronans church
Tel. 0 61 921 351 or 0 86 874 9710
Web: East Clare Heritage Centre
Abbey St, Ennis
Tel. 0 65 682 9100
Irish Music Centre
Web: Irish Music Centre
Kilrush Heritage Centre
Market House, Kilrush
Tel. 0 65 905 1577
Knappogue Castle Walled Garden
Tel. 0 61 360 788
Mountshannon Village Boats to Holy Island
Tel. 0 61 921615 or 086 874 9710
Tel. 0 65 707 7200
Tel. 0 61 368103 or 0 61 360 788
Scattery Island Information Centre
Merchant’s Quay, Kilrush
Tel. 0 65 905 2144 or 0 65 905 2139
2 km boat trip from Kilrush marina
Tel. 0 65 6829 100 (Ennis Friary contact no)
Spirit of Killaloe
Tel. 0 86 814 0559 for details
Vandeleur Walled Garden
Tel. 0 65 905 1760
County Clare Tourist Information Centres
Ennis Tourist Office
Arthur's Row, Ennis, Co. Clare
Tel. 0 65 682 8366
Shannon Airport Tourist Office
Arrivals Hall, Co. Clare
Tel. 0 61 471664
Cliffs of Moher Tourist Office
Liscannor, Co. Clare
Tel. 0 65 708 1565
Kilkee Tourist Office
The Square, Kilkee, Co. Clare
Tel. 0 65 905 6112
Killaloe Tourist Office
The Bridge, Ballina/Killaloe, Co. Clare
Tel. 0 61 376 866
Kilrush Tourist Office
Moore St, Kilrush, Co. Clare
Tel, 0 65 905 1577
Photos of Burren National Park, Cliffs of Moher, Caherconnell Stone Fort, Dysert O’dea castle, Quin friary, Bunratty Castle, byre dwelling at Bunratty Folk Park Museum, Killaloe bridge, Holy Island, Mountshannon quay, Killaloe church, Knappogue castle interior, Tuamgraney church © by Barbara Ballard.
Photos of Burren National Park, Doolin Cave, Lough Derg windsurfing, Fanore beach, Aillwee Showcave courtesy Shannon Development.
Photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Kilfenora Burren Centre by A McCarron; Kilfenora high cross by Eirian Evans; Leamanegh castle, Killaloe Brian Boru Heritage Centre, Balycuggaran Forest Recreation area near Killaloe by P L Chadwick; Newton Castle by Roger Diel; Poulnabrone megalithic tomb by Anne Burgess; Corcomroe abbey by A McCarron; Gleninagh castle by Mike Searle; Liscannor Bay beach, Dough Castle by Bob Jones; Ennis Friary by Angella Streluk; Ennis River Fergus, Parnell Street by Francoise Poncelet; O'Connel St by Joseph Mischyshyn; Clare Abbey by C O'Flanagan; Kilkee’s Moore Bay by Graham Horn; Carrigaholt castle by Warren Buckely; Kilrush town hall, Scattery Island Round Tower, Vandeleur Walled Garden at Kilrush by Charles W Glynn; Lissofin castle by Roger Diel
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Our Clare articles:
Dysert O'Dea Castle
Moon Walking in the Burren
Our Shannon Region Articles:
Underworld Wonders of the Shannon
Exploring the Slieve Bloom District
Dolphin Watching off Shannon’s Atlatic Coast
Traditional Irish Music in the Shannon
The Story of the Limerick Verse
Shannon Region Drives
Island Hopping in the Shannon
Flora of the Shannon
Experience 5000 Years of the Shannon
Lough Derg-Ireland’s Pleasure Lake