A region practically surrounded by bodies of water on all sides, County Clare offers visitors a diverse and rich number of attractions. Historical villages with either a quirky dance festival or the best traditional Irish music, stunning limestone areas and cliffs, beautiful open museums and even islands that take you back in time – County Clare has got something for everybody. Spend a few hours, a day or a weekend – this list of best things to do in County Clare should help you figure out your itinerary and make the most of your visit.
Things you'll find in this article
- 12 Best Things To Do in County Clare
- 1.Dysert O’ Dea Castle
- 2.The Burren, Co. Clare
- 3.Cliffs of Moher
- 4.Lisdoonvarna Town
- 5.Scattery Island
- 6.Aillwee Cave
- 7.Bunratty Folk Village
- 8.Fanore Beach
- 9.Shannon Estuary
- 11.Aran Islands
- 12.Loop Head and Lighthouse
12 Best Things To Do in County Clare
1.Dysert O’ Dea Castle
It is situated at the periphery of the Burren just south of Corrofin and Killinaboy, and one of the best places to see in Co. Clare as it is an ideal location for anyone wishing to visit the many archeological sites in the region. The castle dates back to the 15th Century and is named after the Clan who ruled it – the “O’Dea Clan”.
The five-story-high tower house was built in 1480 by Diarmuid O’Dea, Lord of Cineal Fearmaic and was the home of the O’Dea chiefs up until 1692. Visitors to the authentically restored castle has access to all the floors including the wall walk.
The castle grounds also have the Clare Archaeology Centre that consists of 25 original field monuments, one of which is a beautiful 12th century High Cross. There’s an Archaeology/History Trail to help navigate the 25 sites, all within a few kilometers radius of the castle. This attraction has been at the heart of Irish cultural tourism for as long as it existed.
Open daily – 10.00 – 18.00hrs, 1st May to September 30th.
Other times by appointment.
School and coach tours welcome. Pre-arrangement advised.
Students/Senior Citizens €5.
Groups: €5 each
Family (2 adults and up to 3 children) €20.
Address: Dysert O’Dea Castle & Clare Archaeology Centre Corofin, County Clare, Ireland
2.The Burren, Co. Clare
A UNESCO-recognised geopark, the Burren in Co. Clare is the longest cave system in Ireland, the largest stalactite in Europe and plenty more. Also known as a Karst Landscape, the Burren is world famous because it is one of the very few places on the planet that is natively home to the Arctic, Alpine and Mediterranean plants.
The Burren is one of the top attractions in County Clare and known as a historical, geomorphic, geological and archaeological wonder. Another interesting feature of this barren limestone area is the ancient burial sites with over 70 megalithic tombs scattered throughout. The most famous of these is the Poulnabrone Dolmen which is over 5,000 years old. Some of the remains recently excavated here even dates to 3800 BC. Apart from these, the Burren is also an ideal place to roam, cycle, spot unique flora and fauna on and even follow a food trail over. It is also one of the 6 national parks in Ireland.
3.Cliffs of Moher
Standing at 702 feet above the crashing Atlantic swells, the Cliffs of Moher is one of Ireland’s most visited natural attractions. A trip here is one of the best activities to do in County Clare, with its superb visitor center, an impressive coastal walking route, diverse birdlife and exquisite view in its hefty 8km breadth.
The breathtaking high views of the Cliffs of Moher are as iconic as Ireland itself, but when planning a visit, you must ensure that there is good weather, as even the littlest bit of rain would make it difficult see over the edge due to high altitude mixed with coastal wind.
Child Under 16: FREE
Address: Cliffs of Moher, Liscannor, Co. Clare, Ireland
Phone:+353 65 708 6141
A town steeped in history, love, and tradition, Lisdoonvarna goes back hundreds of years. In the 1800s, it was a spa town with healing mineral waters that was said to cure many diseases. Lisdoonvarna was so famous that people literally go in groups, and due to this influx of visitors mixing with the locals, a new tradition was born. Hundreds of Bachelor farmers would arrive specifically in September after the harvest was complete, and with this yearly occurrence, something unique and fun was started.
Lisdoonvarna is already an interesting town in itself, but the Matchmaking Festival all weekends of September has become such a tourist attraction, too. It is really a dancing festival, done on weekends. The music kicks off early on Friday evening and goes all weekend until the wee hours of Monday morning. The idea behind this Irish festival is that if you do enough dancing you will eventually meet your perfect match. Everyone is there for the fun, the music, the dancing and maybe, to meet the man or woman of their dreams.
Scattery Island is a small monastic settlement a few kilometers from the Kilrush shore, and a genuine must visit in Co. Clare. The island boasts of a still-functioning lighthouse, a sixth-century monastery, a round tower, cathedral, oratory, castle, Elizabethan tower, eighteenth-century batter and one of the highest round towers (120 feet) in the country.
You need to ride a boat to get to Scattery, and a trip here surely takes you back in time. Apart from the monastic settlement, this historic island also has breathtaking views, and plenty of far-fetched legends and tales to tell.
23rd May – 25th September
Daily 10.00 – 18.00 (Recommended visiting times)
Last Admission 45 mins. before closing
Address: Kilrush Marina, Kilrush, Co. Clare
Phone: +353 (87) 995 8427
If you’re up for a more extreme adventure where you get to explore Co. Clare’s famed landscape from the other side, a trek down the Aillwee Cave is a must. One of Ireland’s most popular and famous tourist attractions, Aillwee became open to the public in 1973. A tour of the Aillwee Cave takes you on a stony underworld of winding passages, chasms, strange rock formations, massive stalactites, stalagmites, and frozen waterfalls. This large series of caverns stretch to about a kilometer and takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.
Daily-10:00 am- 5:30pm
Family Ticket 1:€34.00 (2 Adults & 1/2 Children)
Family Ticket 2:€40.00 (2 Adults & 3/4 Children)
Address: Aillwee Cave Ballyvaughan Co. Clare Ireland
7.Bunratty Folk Village
Bunratty folk village is a whole town dedicated to looking the way Ireland appeared during the 19th century. There’s just so much to see and do here, making it one of the best things to do in Co. Clare on weekends. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park dates back to 1423 and is now a tourist attraction where the history of Ireland comes to life, literally. From the everyday working life in Ireland featuring fishermen or pig farmers to great banquets in the castle — your day trip here is guaranteed to be full and satisfying.
Bunratty Folk Park is an open-air museum that has around 30 buildings, including the Ardcroney Church of Ireland church, which was relocated to the park in 1998. In the evening, a must in Bunratty is to attend a once-in-a-lifetime banquet at the Castle. Here you’ll be welcomed by the Earl’s Butler, listen to medieval music, have a glass of wine and honey mead, and enjoy a feast inside a 15th-century castle. It is also one of the must-see castles in Ireland.
Fanore Beach is a great place for a long walk, a picnic or a swim if you’re feeling extra brave, and regarded as one of the best beaches in Clare if not one of the most beautiful along Ireland’s spectacular Wild Atlantic Way. Fanore is also famous for surfing along with the west coast of Ireland that’s considered a worldwide famous destination for surfers. Definitely one of the best places to see in County Clare, Fanore is a hit with walkers, surfers, anglers, families and more. It’s also a small village that has hotels and surfing schools, and home to the brightly painted O’Donohue’s Pub, where you can stop by for a pint or a warm cup of tea.
Since Co. Clare is surrounded by water practically on all sides, a good way to explore it and see the sights is by taking a ferry. A ride takes you across the Shannon Estuary, then into the Atlantic ocean where you can marvel at views all the way to Kerry. Definitely a good way to relax while enjoying a scenic ferry ride, it is one of the best things to do in Co. Clare.
Aside from the stunning scenery, the Shannon Estuary is also home to a large pod of bottle-nosed dolphins, as well as the deserted Scattery Island with its remains of an 8th-century monastery and round tower.
When on your way to or from the Cliffs of Moher or going to the pier to set out to Aran Islands, you’ll most likely pass by Doolin. This long extended street lined with countless B&Bs, guesthouses, and hostels doesn’t sound very inviting at first, but it is one of the best places to visit in Co. Clare if you’re up to a few hours of chilling or relaxing.
Doolin is best known for its three pubs that offer quality traditional Irish music sessions 7 nights a week, 363 days a year. This is not like the singing pubs of Killarney or the rebel ballad singing in Dublin pubs. All three pubs (O’Connor’s, McDermott’s, McGann’s) has fiddles, banjos, flutes, accordions, tin whistles, bodhrans, bagpipes, and spoons. They also serve good food so you can really just eat, sit back, relax and treat your ears to a feast for a change.
Another must visit in Doolin is the tiny Doolin Chocolate Shop close to the pier. Make sure you get their dark chocolate rocky road and buy some edible souvenirs to take home with you. There’s also the Stonecutters Kitchen, a warm and welcoming family-run restaurant that’s located inside a 100-year-old stone cottage. They serve up delicious fish, meat and vegetarian dishes and their desserts are said to be the best in town, especially the banoffee pie.
A visit to the Aran Islands will take you to another Ireland, one obviously ancient and yet most definitely living and thriving in the 21 st century. Located just 10km off the coast from Doolin, Aram is made up of three islands and each has a distinct charm. Inishmore, the largest of the islands contains most of the historical sites of interest and is the most visited. Inisheer is the smallest and closest to Doolin is also popular, while for quietness and solitude, you should visit Inishmaan.
Aran is one of the most interesting things to visit in Co. Clare, as you can enjoy a bike ride or walk past rocky fields, intricately built stone walls that crisscross the wild terrain, cute cafes and lively pubs, friendly donkeys and spectacular cliffs. Here is also where you can encounter and learn a few new words from Irish speaking farmers and fishermen.
12.Loop Head and Lighthouse
For a more unique experience and for a different perspective of the Wild Atlantic Way, one of the best things to do in County Clare is to drive out to the Loop Head Lighthouse. It is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline, with the drive taking you from the picturesque town of Kilkee to the splendid Loop Head Peninsula, right on the very edge of Clare where you’ll find this pristine 350-year old lighthouse.
This magnificent drive lets you enjoy the beautiful flora, the headland teeming with coastal birdlife and views that extends all the way to the stunning Cliffs of Moher. Climb up to the top of the lighthouse to take it all in and watch out for the 160+ dolphins that call these waters home.