If you like driving down lonely country roads, striding through wide open spaces and feasting your eyes upon dramatic scenery, you need to make the journey down to Clare.
I took a MINI Countryman down to the midwestern region recently to see as much of the county as I could in just one day — and I was left seriously impressed by the place.
My first stop was in Ennis, where I popped into the charming little Suas Coffee House to fuel up for the day ahead.
The first thing that strikes you about the place is a large and colourful map of South America upon the walls, showing customers where the café's coffee beans originate. Suas' extensive menu leaves you spoiled for choice, but luckily the amiable owner is more than happy to recommend a dish. He recommended the chorizo & duck egg, which did not disappointed, and I washed it down with strong cup of 3FE coffee.
Hearty and delicious, this is exactly what you want before a big day of exploration.
Fuelled and ready for action, I decided that from here I wanted to take the MINI Countryman straight to the day's main event —the Cliffs of Moher.
As I pulled into the carpark beside the attraction on a Friday afternoon, it became immediately apparent that I wasn't the only one who had the same idea today. This natural wonder pulls in more than one million visitors a year and it looked like most of them decided to come on the same day as me — and it's easy to see why.
It was a clear day, with the view of the eight-kilometre stretch of cliffs being utterly unobscured. Visitors can walk the length of the precipice or find a good viewing spot and simply bask in the awesomeness of the view.
It's one of those places that many Irish people simply take for granted and so never actually plan a visit to. But, believe me, it's well worth the trek.
If you've never made the journey to the area, you might not be aware just how close the cliffs are to the wonderful Lahinch.
The picturesque little resort town is home to a beach two kilometres in length and the chill vibes that come with a favourite destination for holidaymakers.
Positively buzzing with surfers and other water sport enthusiasts, active types will feel right at home round these parts.
All that adventuring will put a fierce hunger on a man, so I decided I'd finish off my day with a bite to eat in Pot Duggan's.
The Ennistymon pub comes from the folks at Bodytonic, who also masterminded the likes of Eatyard, Big Grill Festival and Beatyard in Dublin.
From the outside, it looks like old-fashioned kind of spot and the inside isn't much different. Kitted out in antique furniture and historical memroabilia, Pot Duggan's feels like a homey, cosy environment to pleasantly while away a few hours.
The atmosphere is made even more inviting by the pub's friendly staff and its regulars eager to have the craic with out-of-towners.
While I was here I ordered myself a big old bowl of gubbeen chorizo & chickpea stew, which was exactly the kind of home-cooked meal that I was hoping for.
While I sorely tempted to stick around for the evening — Pot Duggan's is known for throwing some epic hoolies in its spacious beer garden come nightfall — the road was calling and it was a long drive home.
It was a day well spent down in Clare, but a weekend would've been even better to ferret out its hidden gems at a gentler pace. Plan a road trip to this corner of the country this summer — you won't regret it.
MINI Countryman is an adventurer that knows it takes a little extra torque to go the extra mile. It has a pioneering spirit. Its palette is earthy, its performance is robust, and although it wouldn't wander completely off the map it's notably rugged around the edges.
Equipped with a versatile, go — anywhere attitude, it transforms from undercover urbanite to intrepid explorer in an instant. It may know its way around a city, but its heart is beyond city limits.