County Clare lies on the west coast of Ireland and is home to 230 kilometres of the Wild Atlantic Way. This county is packed full of amazing scenery, plenty of places to visit like Bunratty castle, The Aliwee caves, The Cliffs of Moher and The Burren national park to name a few. You may be familiar with the popular tourist trail – The ring of Kerry- well I decided to do my own ring of Clare and take in some of the amazing towns and villages along the coast of this stunning County.
The town of Ennis is situated just off the M8 motorway in Clare and its the gateway town for many of the roads to the west of the County. Ennis is a perfect spot to base yourself for the weekend if you are thinking of a visit to Clare. There is an abundance of Hotels and guesthouses to choose from. I took the N68 out of Ennis to my first port of call – Kilrush. It’s a short 20 minute drive from Ennis to Kilrush and the town itself is bursting with shops, bars and restaurants. I took a drive down to Marina to be greeted with plenty of pleasure and sailing boats. You can go sailing from here with the yacht club to see the stunning coast line from the sea.
Kilrush was my first point of contact with the Wild Atlantic way on this trip and it is really well signposted in Kilrush. I took a short spin south to Cappa Pier to be greeting by some crazy kids jumping off the pier!
(It was absolutely freezing and the wind would cut you in two!). Cappa pier used to be the main pier serving this part of west Clare before the one in Kilrush took over. Two miles west of Cappa Pier is Scattery Island. This was once a Monastic settlement and you will find the remains of 5 churches and a round tower still on the Island to this day. You can get a boat over to Scattery Island from Kilrush Marina during the summer months and their are guided trips around the Island free of charge. (Definitely one for the bucket list).
I hopped back into the car then (the kids jumping off the pier were making me cold just looking at them!) and headed north on the Wild Atlantic way towards the beautiful little seaside town of Kilkee. Its only a 12 minute drive over the road from Kilrush to reach this pretty little town that is so popular with day trippers and holidaymakers alike. I parked up the car beside the pier to the north of the town. The tide was in so there was no hope of a walk on the beach but I was entertained by even more brave people jumping off the pier here!
Che Guevara visited this town in 1961 when his flight at Shannon Airport was grounded. A mural in honour of him adorned the seawall here for years but was removed by Clare County council in 2013 (apparently after some American tourists were disgusted by it). You can still find smaller murals of him all over the town though. They honour the Argentinian revolutionary every year at the Che Do Bheatha festival which celebrates Latin American and Traditional Irish music (That’s some combination!).
There’s so much to do here from fishing, scuba diving and so many water sports. My favourite thing to do here though is the cliff walk. I drove around the bay and parked up at the Diamond rocks cafe. This has to be one of the most stunning walks that Ireland has to offer (and I have heard the best way to cure a hangover! :)).
The sun had come out as I started my walk but you still get the full force of the Atlantic wind in your face and the foamy spray coming from the Sea to remind you that you are still in Ireland! You can do a complete 8km or 4km looped walk from here back into Kilkee.
I wasn’t feeling quite so fit on that particular day so I headed back down to the car and found my way back onto the coast road out of Kilkee- heading north on the Wild Atlantic Way.
You are staying on the N67 here and you will pass through the pretty little village of Doonbeg. White strand beach is just a short drive from the village and a perfect spot to go swimming. Just outside the village you will spot the sprawling giant that is the Trump International Hotel and Golf Links. If you take the left turn onto O’Donnell road it will bring you down to a little car park beside the Hotel and there is access there onto Doughmore Beach. This is a perfect spot for a walk or a picnic.
Continue on the N67 going north and you pass through the little village of Quilty. This is a small fishing village where you will find plenty of cottage accommodation and a nearby mobile home park. This beautiful coastal drive brings you into the small little seaside destination of Spanish Point. The Bellbridge Hotel is just on the corner as you approach the cliffs and you hang a left here for the road to the beach. (The chowder in this hotel is to die for by the way! )
Spanish point is named after the Spanish Armada that wrecked off the coast here in the 1500’s. Sadly the sailors who made it onto the shore were quickly executed by the Sherriff of Co Clare. Legend has it that some of the sailors escaped this fate and managed to seek refuge in nearby houses around Clare and even married into some of the families! (I always thought Davy Fitzgerald had the look of a Spaniard about him!:))
Another bit of history from Spanish Point are the remains of the Atlantic Hotel which lie just to the right of the beach. This was once the largest Hotel in the British Isles and one of the first Hotels to provide seaweed baths! Very ahead of its time as it closed in the 1930’s. There are a few guys here that do historic walks around Spanish Point but at the time of writing the post I couldn’t locate them. This would be well worth looking into as there is so much more history here. Miltown Malbay is just up the road from Spanish Point and has so many amazing little pubs and restaurants. The Wille Clancy Music festival/summer school is held here every summer and is a scaled down version of the Fleadh Ceoil. The town comes alive with Irish music for this week but you will always find a pub with a trad session at any time of the year.
From Spanish point I kept following the N67 north passing by more beautiful coves and beaches until the road dips down towards Lahinch. The views on this drive are out of this world! There is also an amazing fish restaurant on this road called Barrtrá. If you are staying in Lahinch or Spanish point its definitely one to check out. It has amazing views where it is situated also.
On the road into Lahinch you will notice plenty of accommodation in the form of Mobile home parks and camping grounds. The town itself has a few hotels and plenty of guesthouses. I drove straight down the town and out to the car park on the promenade. The tide was in on the day I visited but the beach gets absolutely packed on good days. There is a surfing school here and the beach is perfect for long walks or just chilling out with an ice-cream. Sea world is here also for the rainy days. Lahinch itself has some beautiful Bars and Restaurants, just up the slip from the beach. From Lahinch I continued on the N67 into the beautiful little town of Ennistymon. From Lahinch also you can take the R478 out towards Liscannor, The Cliffs of Moher ,Doolin (Doolin caves and the ferry out to the Aran Islands and the cliffs of Moher are here), Lisdoonvarna (if your are in the business to find a bride or a groom!) the beautiful beaches in Fanore and Ballyvaughan and so so much more. That trip is for another Galavant I think!
I headed back towards Ennis from Ennistymon which was a 25 minute drive through the beautiful Clare countryside. The drive in total was 130 km long to start and finish in Ennis. There are so many spots along the way to stop and have a walk along the beach or the cliffs or even just check out the hisory that this region is steeped in! I have attached a few links below to help you if you decide to take a trip. As always- Happy Galavanting!! xx