County Clare (from the Irish, Contae an Chláir) is well-defined by its landscape. The lengthy River Shannon glides through Clare into the Atlantic Ocean. Lough Derg, immensely popular for sailing and fishing, is the second largest lake in the Republic (of the many islands on the lake, the monastic Holy Island burial ground is the one to see).
Both are eclipsed, however, by two stand-out areas in Clare: The Cliffs of Moher, emerging 702 feet out of the Atlantic Ocean (at O’Brien’s Tower historic lookout point), and the Burren, covering 100 square miles of fossilised limestone. Together they form the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, the third of its kind in Ireland.
The Cliffs of Moher, named after Hag’s Head at its southernmost point, are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. From the watchtower at the top, visitors can access a visual panorama that includes the Aran Islands, the Maumturks and Twelve Bens mountain range. The mighty shale and sandstone cliffs themselves are home to around 20 different species of birds, including the Atlantic Puffin, which nestle in its ridges and enclaves. The tiny Goat Island, lodged under the main viewing point for the cliffs, is the most densely colonised in the area.
The Burren (from the Irish, Boireann, meaning “great rock”) is as equally striking as the Cliffs of Moher, but in a different way. One of the largest karst stone landscapes in all of Europe, the portion designated Burren National Park is nevertheless the smallest of Ireland’s six national parks (at only six square miles). Due to a strong climate, it is green virtually all year. In summer, an unusual variety of Arctic, Mediterranean and alpine flowers and plants sprout from the cracks in the limestone, which are known as grikes (the remaining rocks are known as clints). The Burren is a haven for rare species of Irish plants and animals, some of which belong exclusively within this unique environment.
More than 90 well-hidden megalithic tombs, portal dolmens and ring forts can be found within the area. Of these, a triple stone ringfort known as Cahercommaun, which rests on the edge of an inland cliff, as well as Caherconnell Stone Fort and Corcomroe Abbey, are the easiest to find.
Unmissable Attractions County Clare
1. The Cliffs of Moher (Hag’s Head)
2. The Burren
3. The Burren Centre (Opening times vary from month to month, but generally the centre is open Monday to Sunday from 9.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. in summer) Prices: Adults €6.00 / Senior citizens and students €5.00 / Children €4.00 / Family (2 adults and 3 children) €20.00
4. Aillwee Caves (Opening times vary from month to month, but generally the caves are open Monday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. – 6.30 p.m.) Prices: Adults €12.00 / Children €6.00 / Family €29.00-€35.00
6. Holy Island
7. Clare Museum featuring The Riches of Clare (Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday from 9.30 a.m. – 1.00 p.m. and from 2.00 p.m. – 5.30 p.m.)
8. Craggaunowen, The Living Past (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. – 5.00p.m.) Prices: Adults €9.00 / Children €5.50 / Family €21.50 (2 adults and 2 children)
9. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 9.00 a.m. – 5.30 p.m.) Prices: Adults €15.00 / Children €9.00 / Senior citizens €9.45 / Students €10.00 / Family (2 adults and 2 children) €33.60
10. East Clare Heritage (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.) Prices: €2.00 per person
11. Vandeleur Walled Garden (Opening Times: Monday to Friday from 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m. in summer / Monday to Friday from 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. in winter) Prices: Adults €5.00 / Children €2.00 / Family (2 adults and 3 children) €15.00 / Senior citizens and students €3.00
12. Scattery Island (from Kilrush pier)
13. Courthouse Gallery (in Ennistymon) (Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday from 12.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. in summer / Tuesday to Saturday from 12.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m. in winter)
14. Clare Heritage and Genealogical Centre (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 9.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. in summer) Prices: Adults €3.00 / Children €2.00
15. Caherconnell Stone Fort and Visitor Centre (Opening times vary from month to month, but generally the centre is open Monday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. – 6.30 p.m. in summer) Prices: €7.00 per person