West Clare

With iconic cliffs at its edge, music at its heart and history all around, has west Clare cracked the formula for holiday heaven?

Wedge tomb, The Burren, Couty Clare
Wedge tomb, The Burren, Couty Clare

We’ll start big: the Cliffs of Moher.

Standing 214 metres high like a scene straight out of a Hans Christian Andersen tale, the cliffs are west Clare’s iconic image. Hollywood has taken note: blockbusters Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince and the Princess Bride made the cliffs celluloid stars.

On a clear day, views from the cliff tops include the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and the Twelve Bens mountain range. Nature enthusiasts take note: the cliffs are a Special Protected Area due to the myriad species of sea birds that call the cliff face home, AND they form part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark.

Burren beauty – a unique experience

Further north, the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark adds a splash of natural wonder into the mix as an array of rare and beautiful plant life thrives amongst its limestone fissures.

Going underground

Beneath the surface of the lunar like stone, lies an underground world: the Aillwee Caves are a labyrinthine cave system with underground lakes, bridged chasms and underground waterfalls. They’re also one of the few cave systems on the island you can explore without special equipment.

Got to surf

The Atlantic adds a burst of coastal coolness to west Clare, and rightly deserves its “gotta surf” motto. It attracts droves of wave lovers thanks in no small part to Aileen’s Wave. Clocking in between 25-50ft, Aileen’s is not built for beginners but does attract the biggest names from the surfing world.

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History, with a twist

A good antidote to all that activity is a bit of history. West Clare is an archaeological hotspot, and the Burren is home to 70 wedge tombs – some older than the pyramids – including the famous Poulnabrone.

Going a little gruesome, check out the 15th-century Leamanagh Castle, the one-time home of Red Mary, who had a fatalistic approach to getting rid of her husband.

Bunratty Castle brings medieval feasts to modern day. Think succulent legs of lamb with the sounds of violins and harps serenading you.

Musical traditions

Often copied but never equalled, the traditional Irish music session rounds off most west Clare days. Never a night goes by without a lively session kicking off in the pubs, such as Monks Bar in Ballyvaughan, Vaughan’s in Kilfenora and Tubridy’s Bar in Cooraclare. They’re just the tip of the pub iceberg here, too!

So, take beautiful scenery, mix with Atlantic activities, add a dash of history and intrigue and serve with vibrant traditional Irish music. Holiday heaven achieved.

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