When you think of Clare you probably think of The Cliffs of Moher looming 700 feet above the crashing Atlantic along 8km of rugged, unspoiled coastline. Whether you tackle one of the coastal walking routes or make a quick pitstop to see the natural masterpiece, a visit should be high on your list.
A short drive from the cliffs, Lahinch Beach’s famed flooding tide makes it ideal for surfing, sea kayaking and kite surfing. Seasoned surfers travel here from all over the world, but beginners can sign up for lessons at one of the many local surf schools.
If you prefer gazing out over Atlantic waves than catching them, book a table at Barrtrá; a whitewashed country cottage overlooking Liscannor Bay that serves up some of the best seafood and steak in the county — try the mussels.
Heading inland, the 1,500 hectares of The Burren is open all year round and free to access, but it’s worth booking a guided walk. Primary school lessons about the iconic limestone pavement and the many rare species of flora and fauna are sure to come flooding back.
Afterwards, head back to the coast towards Fanore Beach. The unspoiled stretch of sand sits alongside broad dunes with the rocky Burren as its backdrop – it doesn’t get much more picturesque than this.
While you’re in the area, check out the Burren Food Trail, a selection of curated gastronomical expeditions with themes like Farm to Fork and Taste the Ocean. Stop at every point, or dip in and out along the way.
World class scenery makes for some pretty spectacular golf. From the stunning natural terrain at Lahinch Golf Club’s ‘Old Course’, to the idyllic crescent beach at Doonbeg Golf Club, with Atlantic views on almost all of its 18 holes; a round on this landscape is always a good idea.
Of course, Clare is also home to two of the country’s most famous caves. The tour at Aillwee Cave (aka The Very Dark Caves from that Father Ted episode) takes you through winding passages and chasms, past fascinating rock formations and even an underground waterfall. Half an hour away in Doolin Cave, you’ll see the biggest stalactite in Europe – do you remember which one is which?
Heading south, a 30-minute boat ride from Kilrush brings you to historic Scattery Island in the Shannon Estuary. Hear all about the Viking raids and battles that took place on the island during your walking tour of the monastic settlement, which boasts the highest round tower in Ireland.
Loop Head Peninsula is easy to spot on the map; it’s the bit of Clare that juts right out into the Atlantic. At the very tip you’ll find Loop Head Lighthouse – climb it for views that stretch from Kerry to the Cliffs of Moher. The only thing between you and the sea is the huge white letters carved out of the grassy headland spelling EIRE – a relic from WWII to let pilots know they were entering neutral airspace.
We hate to see you go, but if you fancy a day trip to the Kingdom, the Shannon Ferry is the most scenic shortcut you’ll ever take. Breathe in Atlantic air and epic sea views, keeping a close eye out for dolphins, as you and your car sail from Killimer near Kilrush, across the Shannon Estuary to Tarbert, in just 20 minutes.