From the rocky reaches of The Burren region to the towering heights of the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare is home to some of Ireland’s most striking natural landscapes. And yet the ruggedness of the land is balanced beautifully by the welcoming comforts of the eateries, accommodations, and the locals, making Ireland’s west coast the perfect place to spend a long weekend.
Marvel at the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher (which you might recognize from their on-screen appearances in The Princess Bride or Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) have become a headlining attraction for County Clare and, indeed, all of Ireland. In 2017 the Cliffs were visited by 1.7 million people—making them second only in popularity to the Guinness Brewery, that perennial icon of Irish tourism. Indeed, the Cliffs of Moher make for one of the most spectacular views in Ireland or anywhere else.
There are multiple ways to take in the Cliffs. You can take the land-bound route via the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk, which connects the towns of Doolin and Liscannor. Or, to fully experience the dramatic scale of the Cliffs, you can go by sea via a cruise through a boat tour operator like Doolin 2 Aran Ferries. You might even see some puffins along the way!
If you decide to see the Cliffs of Moher via the water, take a Dramamine. Even if you don’t think you’ll get seasick the waves can be really choppy (they don’t call it the *Wild* Atlantic Way for nothing).
Dine at Wild Honey Inn
Do you like the coziness and familiarity of dining at a pub? Do you also like restaurants that have earned a Michelin star? At Wild Honey Inn you don’t need to choose between the two. The food is based on a classic French style of cooking but incorporates seasonal, local ingredients from the Burren region.
Have a Pint at Durty Nelly’s
For drinks, find your way to Durty Nelly’s in Bunratty. This quintessential pub (established in 1620) is sandwiched between Bunratty Castle and the Ratty River. It’s a popular place to grab a bite and a pint with visitors and locals alike. Durty Nelly’s also features live music most days of the week so you can settle in and enjoy your drink with some musical accompaniment.
Visit Caherconnel Stone Fort
The medieval era stone fort at Caherconnel is notable for how well-preserved it is. Indeed, it’s still the site of excavations where archaeologists work to understand who the residents of the fort were over a century ago. Caherconnel also puts on sheep herding demonstrations which make for a fascinating watch, especially if you’ve ever gotten choked up watching “Babe.”
Have Tea at the Burren Perfumery
You might not think of a perfumery as somewhere to stop for a bite, but the tea room at Burren Perfumery actually makes for a wonderful spot if you’re looking for a simple but delicious lunch in a gorgeous, storybook setting. (The herb garden is seriously like something out of a Beatrix Potter book). Once you’ve had some tea and smoked mackerel (and maybe a little sweet treat) the perfumery is worth browsing as its products (they offer various skincare and home good items in addition to perfume) are scented in order to evoke various Irish settings, making them the perfect, unique souvenir.
Sample Local Beer at the Burren Brewery at The Roadside Tavern
Though The Roadside Tavern has been pouring pints since 1865, it only recently started putting out its own brews. Stop in to sample (or enjoy a full glass!) of the Burren Gold (lager), the Burren Red (a spicy, smoky red ale), or the Burren Black (a stout that holds its own against the iconic “black stuff”). The Roadside Tavern also hosts traditional music sessions so you can enjoy your microbrew alongside local musicians.
Discover Secret Ireland
Now it’s time to dig a little deeper with the help of Secret Ireland. Secret Ireland offers bespoke tours that grant you exclusive access to works of architecture and cultural experiences that span from the Medieval era up to the present day. In between exploring the waterscapes of the River Shannon and Lough Derg you may stop off to view abstract paintings by contemporary Irish artists (and perhaps create a little art of your own) or to take in a performance by a sean-nós dancer. The one thing each stop has in common are the knowledgeable, gregarious hosts. Indeed, it’s quickly evident how the people of Ireland earned their friendly, hospitable reputations.
Gregans Castle Hotel
For dinner, head up to Gregans Castle Hotel. The hotel’s restaurant has received a number awards for its menu of modern fine dining that incorporates local products (fish from the Burren Smokehouse, cheese from St. Tola Goat Cheese farm, etc).
WHERE TO STAY
WHEN TO GO