The Best Scenic Drive in County Clare
Find out why County Clare has one of the best scenic drives in Ireland
Explore Clare’s picturesque villages, devour mouthwatering seafood and discover one of the best scenic drives in Ireland. I did this trip last spring and looking back on the photos, I count myself so lucky to live in such a beautiful country! The route includes well-known sights such as the wild natural beauty of the Cliffs of Moher and the great molten swathes of the Burren’s limestone landscape. Along with some hit-the-brakes-beautiful scenery, hidden gems and mouthwatering local fare.
I’ve teamed up with chill.ie to share this beautiful scenic road trip in Ireland.
Time / Distance: 270km, approx 5 1/2 hour of driving time. Ideally, split into 2 days, it can be done in one day if you don’t make too many stops for pictures…
So grab your camera and your taste buds and lets hit the road!
9am Stop 1. The Burren
“it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury them.”
Journey into the barren and ethereal surroundings of one of the finest examples of a Glacio-Kart landscape in the world. But first learn about the unique geology, flora and fauna at The Burren National Park Visitor Information Point, in Corofin. Understanding how this remarkable area came to be and why it’s so special will help you appreciate your drive through it even more.
Once you’ve got your fill of information, jump back into the car and make your way through this unique landscape. It’s only a 30-minute drive to your next stop but give yourself lots of extra time for all the stops for pictures. You could also include a walk, the visitor information point will give you lots of suggestions.
11am Stop 2. The Burren Perfumery
Stop off at The Burren Perfumery for a morning coffee in their charming stone and moss café. Walk through the colourful gardens then watch the flowers and herbs being distilled, blended, and bottled. I dare you not to buy what will be your favourite souvenirs of the trip: armfuls of divine-smelling lotions and dropper-dispensed potions!
12.30 pm Stop 3. Ailwee Caves
Continue on from The Burren Perfumery for about half an hour. Don’t forget to make a quick pit stop to see the Poulnabrone Dolmen – a portal tomb that dates from 3600 bc! At the Ailwee Caves explore the dramatic underworld of The Burren. A 35 minute guided walk will bring you through beautiful caverns, under weird formations, over bridged chasms and alongside the thunderous waterfall which sometimes gently sprays the unsuspecting visitor.
If you have the time check out the Birds of Prey centre (extra cost). You can watch flying displays and learn all about Irelands Bird of Prey. Before you try some of the award winning Burren Gold Cheese in the farm shop.
1.30 pm Stop 4. Lunchtime
A short drive away is the beautiful little village of Ballyvaughan. Enjoy local seafood and Irish cuisine while overlooking stunning vistas of Galway Bay at Monks Seafood Restaurant and Bar. Renowned for fresh, local produce, great service and a traditional Irish atmosphere. Try the chowder – you won’t be disappointed.
3.30pm Stop 5. Fanore Beach
Leave the Burren behind and prepare yourself for some of the most breathtaking views of the Atlantic as you head along the shoreline up to Blackhead and down to Fanore Beach.
Walk off your lunch along this extensive sandy beach and if your brave you could even go for a swim.
5.00pm Stop 6. Cliffs of Moher
One of Ireland’s greatest natural wonders, these 700-ft cliffs never cease to amaze. During the summer (May – September) they are open till 9pm and the crowds start to decrease from 4pm. You’ll be awestruck at the grass-topped cliffs and seabirds, whose caws blend with the sound of waves crashing into the base of the basalt gorge.
If the weather is right, try and time your visit for near sunset, the cliffs are lit by the sun going down in the west. Creating a spectacular view as the golden light spills across the headlands.
Remember the sun sets late in Ireland during the summer.
8.00pm Stop 7. Lisdoonvarna
Head to Lisdoonvarna for your last stop and dinner at the Wild Honey Inn, Irelands first Michelin starred pub.
After dinner, stop off in Doolin for a pint of the black stuff and find out why it is the traditional music capital of Ireland.
Have a lie in then head out to do one of the best scenic drives in Ireland, the Loop Head peninsula. Drive for about an hour, passing the beautiful Spanish point till you reach Kilkee.
12pm Stop 1. Kilkee
Kilkee is situated on a beautiful horse-shoe shaped bay, the entrance of which is protected by a stunning reef known as Duggerna Rocks. If you are feeling a bit adventurous you could pop in for a swim. It’s regarded as one of the best and safest bathing place on the western coast.
Pop into The Pantry Kilkee for a late breakfast or early lunch. Even better, if the weather is good you could pick up some of their delicious sandwichs and cakes for a picnic on the beach.
2pm Stop 2. Loop Head
For a view that spans for miles, travel to Loop Head, where parts of the drive feel like you have reached the end of the world and are about to disappear into the sea. It takes just over an hour to reach the Loop Head lighthouse. Take a guided tour up the lighthouse tower and onto the balcony. Weather permitting, you’ll enjoy fantastic views south as far as the Blasket Islands and north to the Twelve Pins in Connemara. Then learn about the fascinating history of Loop Head lighthouse with interactive exhibits in the Lightkeeper’s Cottage
4pm Stop 3. Carrigaholt
Drive the other side of the Peninsula, for about 20 minutes to the small fishing village of Carrigholt, located at the mouth of the Shannon river. Make sure to keep an eye out for whales and dolphins. The area is home to Europe’s largest group of bottlenose dolphins, with approximately 200 individuals. If you want to have a closer experience, the family-run Dolphinwatch will bring you out on their boat and show you these magnificent animals. Their dolphin encounter rate is one of the best in the world.
Finish up the trip with some homemade ice cream from The Long Dock Pub and Restaurant
Then it’s a straight drive back to Dublin or wherever your next stop is.
I hope this gives you some inspiration. Even though I’ve lived in Ireland for 30 odd years, there is so much I still need to explore!