County Clare - Intro
County Clare is one of my favorite Irish counties, right behind Galway. Clare is immediately south of County Galway and a great day trip or overnight trip from Galway City, or a stop on a "southern loop" vacation. Clare has it all: views, quaint villages, and a great music community.
Like my blogs on Galway, County Clare will be a series of blogs. First blog: an overview of the County sights, towns, and transportation options.
County Clare has a wide variety of great sights that range from the Cliffs of Moher to Bunratty Castle to Music pubs, and many scenic views. Here is a short list with a small commentary:
Cliffs of Moher - IMHO this is the third best view in Ireland (after the views at the ring forts on Inishmore), but it is the best view without going to the Aran Islands. The Cliffs have a long and interesting history. The Cliffs of Moher are definitely worth the trip.
Doolin - Doolin is a picturesque village near the Cliffs of Moher that has several quaint and active music pubs. A great place to stay when visiting the Cliffs.
Bunratty Castle - This is a Medieval Castle and Folk Park, and is interesting for both adults and children. In the evening the Medieval Dinner is my favorite and very appropriate for children.
The Burren - This is the name for the geological region in the northern part of County Clare. The Burren is a hiker's dream.
There will be more details about these sights and others in later blogs.
Cities and Towns
Some of the cities and towns in County Clare:
Doolin - Famous for it's music pubs and a gateway to the Cliffs of Moher and ferries to the Aran Islands. On the NorthWest corner of County Clare
Bunratty - Near Shannon airport and Limerick. On the South East corner of County Clare
Kinvara (really in County Galway) - Picturesque village on the way to Doolin from Galway. Also has a famous music pub.
Lisdoonvarna - Located near Doolin with a few music pubs. Location for a famous Matchmaking Festival in the Fall.
Ennis - A scenic town in the center of County Clare. Most importantly it is a transportation hub for the county. A major bus terminal and train station make this a potential stop.
Getting around Clare can be problematic.
The driving in County Clare can be unnerving for many of the places you want to see, even for the seasoned traveler who has experience on the "other side of the road". The roads in County Clare can be NARROW and are populated with many buses. If you insist on driving then be prepared to go slow and watch for oncoming buses. Also, get the smallest car that fits. You will regret having rented a larger car. The driving is best when the roads are less crowded in March, April, May, September, and October.
The bus transport to/through County Clare is extensive for a rural and thinly populated area. From Galway there are three buses a day to Doolin. The Bus Eireann 350 has stops in all of the desirable towns including: Kinvara, Lisdoonvarna, Doolin, Cliffs of Moher, and Ennis. There are additional small villages and towns along the way. The views during the ride are stunning. If you have the 'Open Road' Tourist Travel Pass, you can hop-on and hop-off along the way. When you see a village or town that looks interesting, just hop-off. The 51 or the 343 buses will get you from Ennis to Bunratty, Shannon Airport, or Limerick. The same bus lines will get you from Galway to Ennis, Bunratty, Shannon Airport and Limerick.
Commercial bus tours are available from Galway and Dublin. These are one day tours that travel to the major sights in County Clare and return on the same day.
Taxi transport in County Clare is again extensive for a place that is rural and thinly populated. Taxi service is easily available in Ennis, Bunratty, and even Doolin. There won't be a taxi stand, but you can hale a taxi by phone. It is best to do research in advance and have the numbers handy if you plan to use the taxis. The Doolin Hostel has a great list.
Irish Rail trains service Ennis and Six Mile Bridge in County Clare and Limerick City. The train station is co-located with the bus station. The station is an 8-12 minute walk into town.
In my opinion if you have packed relatively light and have a flexible schedule then the bus is the way to see County Clare. If you are willing to limit your spur of the moment exploring, then the bus can also work for an inflexible schedule.
More on County Clare Later.
See You In The Pub!
Jet Lag Jack