Howaya! The guide below is going to give you a full itinerary for spending a mighty weekend in Clare.
It’s going to suit people that are fond of walks, deadly views, cosy pubs, surfing, cliffs, beaches and lots more.
If you’re planning on visiting Clare in the coming weeks or months, you can literally follow this guide to a tee. Below you’ll find:
- Things to do in Clare on each day
- Advice on where to stay
- Recommendations on where to grab post-adventure pints
A 2-day road trip through Clare
The map above gives you a rough outline of the different places that you’ll visit if you follow this guide.
Feel free to add or chop out places wherever it tickles your fancy. I’ve added in recommended times above each of the stops, to give you an idea of what’s possible.
If you follow the times, you’ll squeeze in each of the attractions over the two days, while also allowing plenty of time to chill in the evening.
Now, keep in mind that you’ll need to alter the times based on where you kick your road trip off from – e.g. if you’re starting from Belfast, you’d be doing well to arrive at the first stop on day 1 at 10:00.
Day 1 Stop 1: Loop Head Lighthouse and the cliffs at Kilbaha
// We’ve a busy day ahead, so aim to arrive here for 10:00 //
The cliffs near Loop Head Lighthouse are, in my opinion, one of the most overlooked places to visit in Clare.
When you think of cliffs in Clare, your mind generally flies to Moher (which we’ll be visiting later). Few visit the cliffs at Kilbha. And that’s what makes them even more special.
I’ve been here on many different occasions, and it’s rare that you’ll ever meet more than a handful of people. Often, you’ll have the whole place to yourself.
Aim your car in the direction of Loop Head Lighthouse and park in the little car park out front. When you walk around the right side of the lighthouse, you’ll see a big aul sea stack.
When you walk away from the lighthouse and to the left, you’ll see the cliffs in the photo above. Be careful here and don’t get too close to the edge.
Day 1 Stop 2: The stop that isn’t reeeeally a stop (but it’s still deadly)
// Leave Loop Head at 11:00 and aim the car in the direction of Lahinch //
So, the next stop isn’t really a stop. We’re going to make our way to Lahinch via a long (about a 75-minute drive) and lovely old road that’ll take you through chunks of Clare’s wonderful countryside.
You’ll see some of the road that you’ll be travelling along in the video above that we shot with one of these lads a few years ago.
You’ll pass through Kilkee (stop here at the beach for a stroll, if you like) and Spanish Point, along with many other gorgeous little corners or Clare. Take your time and hop out of the car whenever you fancy.
Day 1 Stop 3: Surfing in Lahinch (yes, it’s going to be very f*****g cold)
// Aim to arrive in Lahinch for 13:00 (note: check what times the lessons are at in advance) //
The gorgeous little town of Lahinch, similar to Strandhill in Sligo, is well known to surfers across Ireland and beyond.
On this road trip, we’ll be heading out for an adult lesson at John McCarthy’s Lahinch Surf School.
Now, if you’re worried that you’ve never hopped up on a surfboard before, don’t – you can take a beginners course which has been designed for people just like you.
And you won’t be milling about on a wave like the one above. The surf lesson is 2 hours long and you’ll spend 90% of it in icy cold, waist-high water. Prices are as follows:
- Adults €35
- Students €32
- Kids/Teens €30
Day 1 Stop 4: Filling the belly and warming the bones
// Arrive to the Tasty Station for around 15:30 //
You’re cold and hungry… a dangerous combination. We’re heading for a feed next, so there’s a full belly en route.
When you finish up surfing, take the short 5-minute walk to the Tasty Station restaurant and get some food into you.
The Breakfast Burger (I don’t care if it’s 3 in the afternoon) sounds unreal, but they also do pancakes and loads of other stuff.
Day 1 Stop 5: The iconic Doonagore Castle
// Arrive at Doonagore Castle for around 17:00 (it’s a 15-minute drive from the Tasty Station) //
One of our final stops of the day takes us to the iconic Doonagore Castle in Doolin. This tower house castle is finely plonked on a hill overlooking Doolin Point.
From here, on a clear day, you’ll be able to soak up views of the Aran Islands and beyond Clare to the Connemara hills.
Dating back to the 16th century, Doonagore castle looks like something plucked straight from a fairy tale.
You’ll see the castle from afar as you spin along the road towards it. When you arrive, hop out and have a nosey around.
Day 1 Stop 6: Check into your room and chill for a bit
// Arrive to your hotel for 18:00 //
We’ll be staying in Doolin on night one. Now, there are several different places to stay that’ll suit all budgets (you can find more info on this in our Doolin guide).
I’m going to recommend that you stay in the Doolin Inn. I stayed here a couple of years ago and the place was flawless (and cheap).
We stayed in a private twin room and were able to take the short stroll over to Gus O’Connor’s Pub for food and pints later in the evening. Check-in and chill for an hour.
Day 1 Stop 7: Guinness Stew, pints and music
// Arrive at your hotel for 18:00 //
We’re going to take the short stroll from the Doolin Inn over to Gus O’Conner’s Pub on Fisher Street to round off the day in style.
Gus O’Connors Pub has been rocking since 1832. A welcome sight for many a weary traveller returning from a day of exploring.
For those in need of feeding, the beef and Guinness stew is a hearty bowl of pure and utter deliciousness that’ll warm the coldest of cockles.
Wash it down with a pint and soak up the atmosphere in this cosy little pub. Music sessions start around 21:00 each evening during the summer and go on until late.
Day 2 – Cliffs walks, caves, islands and the best chocolate in the land
OK, so there’s a lot to fit into the second day of our Clare road trip. Try and get to bed at a reasonable hour on day one so that you’re reasonably fresh for day two.
Get up, get fed and get out the door for 09:00. You’ve a day filled with walks, cliffs, views and a remote little island ahead of you.
Day 2 Stop 1: The Doolin Cliff Walk
// The Doolin Inn to Fisher Street – 1-minute walk //
The guided Doolin cliff walk is a unique and active way to experience the Cliffs of Moher and is run by local expert Pat Sweeney.
The 3-hour walk kicks off from Fisher Street in Doolin, just outside O’Connors Pub. The walk takes adventurers towards Doonagore Castle and up to the walking trail along the Cliffs of Moher.
As you walk, you’ll be greeted with spectacular views of the cliffs as they rise up into view in the distance.
If you can manage to tear your eyes away from the scenery along the route, Pat will take you through the history of the area, recounting many a memorable story and tale.
Day 2 Stop 2: The best chocolate in the land
// You should arrive back in Doolin for around 11:30 (depending on how long it takes to get the bus) //
So, you’re after doing a long-ass walk, and stop #3 is going to involve coffee, so we’re going to grab some chocolate on Fisher Street in Doolin to compliment it.
I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, but the stuff this place is churning out is just stupidly tasty.
Known as the Doolin Chocolate Shop, it’s actually a sister company of Wilde Irish Chocolates where they’ve been perfecting their craft since 1997.
The last time that I was here the woman behind the counter made us sing a song before she’d let us have the chocolate… not ideal with a hangover, but she was good craic!
Day 2 Stop 3: Caves and Coffee
// Fisher Street to the Doolin Cave – 9-minute drive (arrive for 12:00) //
Hop back into the car and head off in the direction of the Doolin Cave. After a long walk along the cliffs, a trip to the Doolin Cave is a perfect follow up.
Armed with a chunk of chocolate that’ll knock you sideways, grab a cup of coffee in the little café in the visitor centre first, and rest your legs a little.
When you’re adequately satisfied and buzzed from copious amounts of caffeine and sugar, head off on the tour (book it when you arrive).
The Doolin Cave is home to the largest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. Known as ‘The Great Stalactite’, it hangs from the ceiling like some giant cone-shaped chandelier.
The tour itself packs a punch, taking visitors to the natural entrance of the cave, a stream sink at the base of a cliff face and through the main chamber where a guide turns on a light to illuminate the Great Stalactite.
Day 2 Stop 4: A ferry to Inis Oirr Island
// Doolin Cave to Doolin Pier – 10-minute drive (leave the cave at 13:30, arrive at the pier for 13:40) //
Our next stop takes us to Doolin Pier – the departure point for the ferry to Inis Oirr Island. There are several ferry companies to choose from.
I can recommend the Doolin Ferry Company based on past experience. For this trip, we’re going to go for the ferry that cruises beneath the Cliffs of Moher on the return journey from Inis Oírr.
The trip to the island takes just 30 minutes but when you arrive you’ll reach a slab of rural paradise off Ireland’s West Coast.
Rent a bike for a tenner and cycle along the narrow roads, surrounded by hand-built stone walls that separate the different fields on the island.
It’s like taking a step back in time. I can’t even begin to recommend this enough. For food, drop over to Tigh Ned. Finish off your trip with a creamy pint of Guinness in the pub near the pier.
Day 2 Stop 5: Sailing below the Cliffs of Moher
// This isn’t a stop – you’ll do it on the return leg of the ferry back to Doolin. And it’s amazing! //
This, in my opinion, is the best thing to do in Clare (if you disagree, let me know in the comments below).
So, you’ll have seen the cliffs during your walk earlier in the day, but this is a different ball game altogether. I did this a couple of years back and it’s cracking.
You get surprisingly close to the cliff face, and it’s only when you approach from below that you truly appreciate the sight of the 700-foot cliff that’s towering above you.
Couple the view with the fact that you’re on a relatively small boat that’s swaying side-to-side thanks to the rough Atlantic Ocean and you’ve an experience that’ll lodge itself in your memory for years to come
Day 2 Stop 6: The Drive from Doolin to Kinvarra
// Doolin to Kinvarra – 1-hour drive (we’re going to allow for 2 – Leave Doolin at 17:00, arrive in Kinvarra for 19:00) //
So, I’ve never known what this drive is called. Whatever its name, it’s one of my favourite things to do in Clare – especially in the early hours at sunrise or just before the sun starts to set.
There’s no other way to describe this route. The landscape changes by the minute, there’s a multitude of stop-off points, and it’s another fantastic example of why Ireland is such a wonderful place to road trip around.
This is another drive to play by eye – it’s a straight forward drive, so you’ll stumble upon the best bits as you chug along. Here are some places you can whack into your sat nav:
- Fanore Beach
- The Burren
- Ballinalacken Castle
- Poulnabrone Dolmen
- Aillwee Cave
Day 2 Stop 7: A room for the night
// We’ll be spending the night in Kinvarra. Check into your hotel for around 19:00 //
I’m going to recommend that you stay in the Merriman Hotel in Kinvarra. It’s nice and central and the reviews are top-notch.
Check into your room and chill for half an hour. When you’re ready to rock, it’s time for a feed and a post-adventure pint.
Day 2 Stop 8: A bite to eat and a pint or 4 in Kinvarra
To round off our Clare road trip, we’re going to get a feast in the Pier Head Bar and Restaurant (5-minute walk from your hotel).
We’re going to polish it all off then with a few pints in Keogh’s Bar to wrap up our adventure around Clare.
Eh, WHERE is Father Ted’s House and what wasn’t it included?
So, as much as I wanted to fit it in, I couldn’t.
But we’ve created a guide to visiting Father Ted’s House so you can check it out if you’d like to.
Is there anywhere we’ve missed that you’d like to recommend? Pop a comment in the comments section below!