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16th Sep 2020

Make a break for County Clare: some wonderful adventures to have here

Brian Dillon

County Clare is an adventure playground for lovers of the outdoors. It is home to the longest cave system in Ireland, the most visited natural attraction in the country and The Burren UNESCO Global Geopark which brims with brilliant things to do.

With its dramatic location along the Wild Atlantic Way the scenery is stunning and the sunsets sensational.

So get packing, get planning and get prepared for a breathtaking break in Co Clare.

Here are nine excellent experiences to enjoy in beautiful Banner County.

Aillwee Cave and Birds of Prey Centre

Get up close and personal with top predators and meet some feathered hunters including eagles, falcons, hawks, owls and vultures. Oh my!

At the Burren Birds of Prey Centre, you can visit the open-fronted aviaries to see the magnificent birds close up before taking your seat for the flying display which provides a rare opportunity to see many of these stunning species in dramatic free flight. Watch in awe as the birds soar overhead as knowledgable staff provide great insight into the amazing world of raptors and educate on conservation and the ancient art of Falconry.

Can’t get enough of your new feathered friends? Take a Hawk Walk with a guide through the wild Burren landscape. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to interact with a Harris Hawk. You’ll learn how to handle one of these social raptors before setting off on a stroll through the woods where your hawk will fly overhead and to and from you! It is a spectacular way to experience the excitement of falconry. You’ll be enthralled by this ancient sport.

Your ticket also includes a guided tour of the dramatic underworld of the unique Burren landscape. Explore the Aillwee cave’s caverns and chasms, marvel at the formations and frozen waterfall and discover the hibernation chambers of the brown bears that once roamed this part of the country.

Cliffs of Moher

Have you ever wanted to visit the vertigo-inducing, but spectacular, ‘Cliffs of Insanity’ from the movie The Princess Bride? Well, you can! They are right here in Ireland!

The Cliffs of Moher was the filming location for the movie. You may also recognise the cliffs from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and from Father Ted.

But the cliffs are just as cinematic in real life as they are on the big screen as the eight sheer headlands roll off into the misty horizon and plunge some 214 metres into the frigid water below.

The soundtrack of the Atlantic crashing into the rugged cliffs just adds to the drama and theatre. It’s no wonder the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s star attractions.

Located in County Clare and forming part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark, the area is home to around 1,100 plant species and during the spring and summer, the cliffs are covered in a colourful carpet of vibrant wildflowers, the fragrant flora perfuming the air.

There is an abundance of wildlife too, so pack your binoculars and try to spot some of the 20 species of nest birds that call the cliffs home. Scan the water too for whales and whale shakes, dolphins and seals.

For even better, uninterrupted views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and, on a clear day, Kerry too, visit the round stone lookout called O’Brien’s Tower. Tickets can be purchased from the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre where you can also learn more about the cliffs and enjoy some great food in the cafe. It is a lovely spot to warm up after a blustery walk around the cliffs.

E Whizz Bikes, Kilfenora

Get off the beaten track and discover the unique landscape of the Burren with an E Whizz Bikes tour. Electric bikes are a great way to get around as you can explore more with less effort.

You can hire the bikes and take off on your own self-guided tour, but a guided tour is well worth it as you’ll visit fascinating pre-historic sites like the Poulnabrone Dolmen and Caherconnell Stone Fort and you’ll also head off to lesser-known locations whilst discovering the flora, fauna and folklore of The Burren as you whizz around. Your efforts will be rewarded with stops at cool cafes and pubs along the way. It’s important to keep refreshed!

Your tour can start from Kilfenora or Doolin. From Kilfenora the tour is 18-25km and from Doolin, it is 30-37km.

Guided or not, you’ll be buzzing after a Burren Electric Bike Tour.

Burren Farm Tours

Climb aboard a tractor-trailer and make yourself comfy on the straw bales as you take a trip around Cathal and Bronagh’s farmyard in the wondrous Burren National Park.

Discover the life of a dry stock beef farmer as you explore the farm with its mix of grassland, woodland, hazel scrub and glaciocarst limestone pavement, which is peppered with pretty plants and wildflowers. Not only will you get to meet the moo-cows but you’ll also pass historical remains and hike through the Burren to Lough Bunny to discover its unique karstic wetland system.

You’ll also get to rest and take in the striking landscape with a rustic picnic made with the finest local ingredients.

The farm is a Geopark Geosite which promotes the people, place and livelihood of the Burren. It is an exciting eco-tourism experience and one that you’ll remember for a long time to come.

Make a break for County Clare: some wonderful adventures to have here

Hazel Mountain Chocolate

For a tasty tour take a trip to Hazel Mountain Chocolate in Oughtmama (an 8-minute drive from Kinvara) and discover the wonders of bean to bar chocolate. Learn all about the stages of chocolate making – roasting, cracking, winnowing, stone-grinding and tempering – and sample the chocolate at the different production stages to get an understanding of the process. At the end of the tour, your tastebuds are in for a treat as you get to sample some of the delicious chocolate.

Craving even more chocolate? Head to the cafe and indulge in some hot chocolate and a slice of cake before stocking up in the shop on more chocolate goodies for the road. Everyone needs top quality road trip snacks.

Burren Mountain Tours

The Burren is a remarkable limestone landscape and vast wildflower meadow. One of the best ways of exploring this UNESCO Global Geopark is with Burren Mountain Tours, which takes you off the beaten track to see some of the lesser-visited areas.

You can book a driving or walking tour both of which take you over a private mountain (Murough Mountain) in the heart of the Burren. The route follows an old Herman’s track high above the Atlantic coast with sensational views of the Clare coastline, the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and the starkly beautiful Burren landscape. You’ll also see plenty of relics of mountain life from thousands of years ago such as forts and stone walls.

For those who get peckish, you can book a picnic tour where you stop and enjoy mouth-watering food at a very picturesque location on top of the mountain.

For an even more dramatic drive, book a sunset tour and watch the sun bow out over Galway Bay and dip into the Atlantic Ocean horizon. It is magical.

Scattery Island Experience

Scattery Island in the Shannon Estuary off Co Clare is home to an ancient monastic site founded by St Senan, who is said to have banished the Cathach, a dragon-like creature, from Ireland.

Scattery Island Tours runs ferries and guided walks. The tours leave from Kilrush marina and you’ll get to experience the marina’s lock gates as you sail into the sheltered waters of the Shannon Estuary. The crossing takes 30 minutes and you’ll pass the picturesque village of Cappa and Hog Island, too.

A visit to the Scattery Island rewards you with peace and tranquillity and a wonderful walking route that takes you past an artillery battery, which was built in 1814, and an ice house, once used by fishermen, which is embedded in the cliff. The island is also home to a wealth of other historic sites including five churches, a cathedral, a round tower and a working lighthouse. One of the pretty cottages has also been turned into a visitor centre where you can learn all about the island’s rich history and heritage.

Pack a picnic and chill out on the lush grass or at the picnic tables. The soundtrack of the water and wildlife makes for a beautiful accompaniment. Children will love looking out for the rabbits and Hen Harriers that are nesting on the island. You can also pack your togs and enjoy a swim in the fresh clean waters from the shoreline or off the pier.

Wild Kitchen with Oonagh O’Dwyer

A wild food walk is a wonderful way to engage with nature. Oonagh will show you how to identify and pick wild food and how to preserve and use it in your kitchen. The walk focuses on seasonal wild plants and weeds, fruit, nuts and seeds as well as seaweed, which you will learn how to turn into delicious starters, salads, sauces, desserts and drinks. All workshops and walks are hands-on and you’ll be well fed too.

The walks take place on land and by the sea and not only will you learn all about the food available at our fingertips but you’ll also enjoy the stunning scenery of Callura, in south Lahinch.

Oonagh runs different workshops and walks depending on the season so check her website for the next events.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

Step back in time at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and see what it was like to live in rural Ireland in the 1800s.

The Living Village brings the past to life with 30 recreated farmhouses, village shops and streets all furnished as they would have been all those years ago. In the village streets, you’ll meet many characters including the Bean an Ti (woman of the house) who you’ll most likely catch baking soda bread, the Royal Irish Constabulary policeman (be on your best behaviour), a school teacher who’ll tell you all about life in an early 19th-century school and local musicians too.

You can then see how the other half lived with a visit to the castle, which is the most complete and authentic castle in Ireland. You’ll learn all about the intriguing history on a castle tour.

On the grounds, there are fairy trails to explore, a beautiful walled garden to admire, a pet farm where you can meet baby lambs, rabbits, ducks, goats, chickens and much more as well as a cafe and shop too. It is a delightful day out for the whole family.

Caherconnell Stone Fort and Sheepdog Trials

Who’s a good doggo? Not only are the dogs at Caherconnell Fort good, but they are very clever too. Just watch in amazement as these dogs – Rose, Lee and Sally – follow commands and individual whistles, and complete tasks to move both cattle and sheep.

Visitors watch the sheepdog demonstrations from the comfort of a covered viewing area which offers protection from the wind and the rain. The skills, intelligence and obedience of these dogs are outstanding and their loyalty to John, the trainer, heartwarming. They’re good dogs, Brent.

Also on site is the Caherconnell Stone Fort which was built over 1,000 years ago and is more than double the size of a regular fort. The walls are 3.6 metres thick and 1.8 to 4.2 metres high and it is a very well-preserved example of the stone forts, or ring forts, found in the west of Ireland. It is a remarkable piece of ancient Ireland in the heart of the Burren.

The family-run site is located 1km south from the famous Poulnabrone Dolmen and there are audiovisual displays and self-guided tours for you to enjoy as well as a craft shop and wonderful Mountain Haven Cafe where you can refresh and revive after a long drive with some hot drinks and snacks.

Make A Break For It

If you want to get wild on the Wild Atlantic Way, Clare is the ideal destination to explore the outdoors with its remarkable landscapes, breathtaking scenery and wonderful wildlife.

The region is a paradise for walkers and nature lovers and a playground for adventure seekers and those who like to get off the beaten track.

This year is the year to explore more of our beautiful island, so, whether you want to see the cliffs, explore the caves, visit a castle, hold a hawk or just savour the scenery, now is the time to make a break for it to Clare.

Limited capacity and procedures may be in place at visitor attractions, sites and restaurants so you are encouraged to book ahead to avoid disappointment.