Discover the beauty of County Clare located in the heart of the west coast of Ireland and on the Wild Atlantic Way. With breath taking scenery of the Burren landscape, Cliffs of Moher and Loop Head Peninsula, and the bustling towns of Ennis, Kilrush, Lahinch and Lisdoonvarna, there are plenty exciting activities, attractions and festivals to keep you busy. Use this as your ultimate guide to exploring Clare.
1. Catch a Wave in Lahinch.
The west coast of Clare is famous for its surfing. There are plenty of outlets in Lahinch to rent surfboards, and wetsuits and if you are a little bit nervous you can partake in individual or group lessons. Moy House is located just outside Lahinch and is the perfect place to rest after catching the waves. See www.benssurfclinic.com and www.lahinchsurfexperience.com for some more information on rentals and lessons.
2. Take a tour of the region that inspired the Lord of the Rings.
It may be Ireland’s smallest national park, but the distinctive limestone pavements, majestic mountains and peaceful verdant valleys make it one of the most intriguing: both CS Lewis and Tolkien took inspiration from this magical place. Many visitors come to enjoy the Burren on foot or by bike, Gregans Castle Hotel can organise a knowledgeable walking guide for full or half day excursions.
3. Visit Father Ted’s House.
It’s a little-known fact that the Father Ted series was filmed in the Burren. Parochial House, Craggy Island was the house used for the series and is privately owned by Sheryl and Pat McCormack. Their family is delighted to give the public the opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea in their kitchen, complete with delicious home baking and stories of Father Ted.
4. Meet the love of your life at the Lisdoonvarna Match Making Festival.
Matchmaking is an Irish tradition that’s as old as time. It began in Lisdoonvarna when visiting gentry came to ‘take the waters’ at this spa town and looked to match their children with someone suitable from the upper classes. Parents would bring their children together at social gatherings, sporting events and musical evenings – and all being well, courtships would blossom. The festival has come of age in recent years, today offering fun and festivity for everyone from age 18 to 80. The festival takes place every September in Lisdoonvarna.
5. Find your scent at the Burren Perfumery.
Near Carron, in one of the most beautiful parts of the Burren, is Ireland’s oldest perfumery, the Burren Perfumery and Floral Centre. Why not treat all your senses here? Taste some culinary delights in the tea rooms, see the photography exhibition and then treat your purse, as admission is free.
6. Gaze at a Natural Wonder.
At 250m high, some say the Cliffs of Moher are the most dramatic in Europe. The wildlife in the area, including dolphins and even the occasional whale, seem to appreciate it too. You could take in the stunning views towards the Aran Islands and Conemara on a cliff-side walk, visit Atlantic Edge – the visitor centre, or take a one-hour boat trip under the cliffs from Doolin and Liscannor piers with Cliffs of Moher Cruises. If Staying at Gregans Castle, on your way back to the hotel, it’s worth taking the scenic coastal road to Ballyvaughan via Black Head. Moy House, also quite close to the cliffs, is only a 10-minute drive away.
7. Dine in the Best Hotel Restaurant in Ireland.
The Dining Room at Gregans Castle Hotel has been named Best Hotel Restaurant in Ireland in 2017 according to the Irish Restaurant Association. Head chef David Hurley and his team serve creative and modern dishes using fresh, local ingredients like organic Burren lamb and game, and fresh Atlantic fish and shellfish. This also has allowed Gregans Castle to become known both as a luxurious hideaway and gourmet destination.
8. Climb to the top of Loop Head Lighthouse.
Uncover the fascinating history of Loop Head lighthouse with interactive exhibits in the Lightkeeper’s Cottage, or 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, along the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s the perfect place to spot whales, dolphins and seals and the rock ledges and caves of the dramatic cliffs are home to many (noisy) seabirds
Where to Eat and Stay
Gregans Castle Hotel
With breath-taking views across Galway Bay and idyllically situated overlooking the unique Burren landscape, this is the ultimate luxury and gourmet hideaway in the west of Ireland. Antiques, an eclectic art collection, open fires, candles, jugs of flowers and Shelley the cat add to the indulgently relaxing atmosphere.
Located on the Wild Atlantic Way and the Burren Food Trail, Gregans Castle is the ideal base from which to enjoy the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands, walking, cycling, horse-riding, surfing, sea angling, and golf.
The sensitive restoration of this early 19th-century 15-acre estate recreates a contemporary and elegant ambience for today's traveller in search of natural and warm hospitality.
Each of the nine comfortable bedrooms is individually crafted with a mixture of classic and contemporary functionalism. The wonderful Romance Junior Suite or Signature Suite "The Well Room" brings a new level of luxury to Moy House with soft lighting, open fireplaces, elegant furnishings all capturing the ever-changing views of the ocean.
For more information on Co. Clare, please see www.clare.ie
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