For anyone looking to discover the rare beauty of the Burren, the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop is a great place to start.
The fairly moderate hike takes you on a pleasant ramble through a mix of woods, open farm fields, country roads, and of course, the limestone landscape of the Burren.
With the occasional gorgeous sea view, as well as ancient and natural wonders nearby, it’s definitely one of our favourite walks in Clare.
Below, you’ll find info on parking, the trail and what to keep any eye out for, along with a couple of safety warnings.
Some quick need-to-knows about the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop
Before you whack Ballyvaughan Wood in the satnav, it’s worth checking the essentials below, as they’ll save you time in the long run:
The walk starts in the fabulous fishing village of Ballyvaughan, County Clare. It’s about an hour’s drive from Galway City, along some absolutely stunning coastal roads. The area sits on the edge of the Burren, with the wild Atlantic on the other side, and boasts some incredible surroundings.
You’ll find plenty of parking spaces along the main road by the sea in Ballyvaughan village. As far as we know, it’s free to park, just don’t stay overnight or camp and you should be grand. The closest parking to the start point and map board is on the main road at the junction.
3. Length + difficulty
Covering a total distance of 8 km over mixed terrain, you can expect the Ballyvaughan Wood Walk to take about 2 hours or so. Despite a small ascent of just 15 metres, it’s generally rated as a moderate hike, with some tough sections that require a good pair of boots. After rain, some parts of the trail can also be very muddy.
4. Safety warning
Part of this trail follows an often busy public road with no dedicated path. Please stay vigilant and use caution here, as sections of the road are narrow.
About the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop
The Ballyvaughan Wood Loop is a pleasant, yet occasionally challenging, ramble amid gorgeous County Clare scenery.
As you traverse a mix of woodlands and valleys, you’ll emerge onto the famous limestone riddled landscape of the Burren.
In late spring and summer, you can enjoy the wealth of wildflowers and fascinating plants that creep up through the craggy rocks and boulders, lending the area a surreal vibe.
The route takes you on varying paths, including greenways, forest trails, and country roads, over stiles and into fields of green and grey.
One of the main highlights is Aillwee Cave, an ancient geological wonder and a superb place to stop off for a break.
Returning to Ballyvaughan, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding some great places to eat, drink, and recover your strength.
An overview of the Ballyvaughan Wood Walk
So now you know what it’s all about, here’s what to expect if you plan on tackling the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop.
Check the link above for parking, and from the map boards, you’re ideally placed to start the walk.
Kicking things off
You’ll begin by leaving the main road that runs along the seafront, and following a smaller paved road that leads to the Ballyvaughan community field – it’s directly behind the map board.
Look out for the purple arrows, and there always used to be a brown road sign that says ‘Wood Loop’.
Follow this paved road to the end, where you’ll find the primary school on your left. Veer right here, following the arrows as they lead you over stone stiles and through woodlands, before emerging into an open field.
Enter the Burren Way
Cut across here until you reach another paved road. Here, signs for the Burren Way point right, but you’ll head left (look out for the purple arrows throughout the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop).
While you’re here, look to the surrounding hills on your right, where the lunar-type Burren landscape begins to transform the scenery from vibrant green to moody grey.
Stiles and caves
After admiring the scenery, follow the paved road until it meets with the larger main road (N67). Turn left here, but don’t worry, you’ll almost immediately take the next right where Hazelwood Lodge B&B sits.
Pass the B&B and follow the gravel track to the end, where you’ll find a metal gate that leads into a field. Climb the stile and follow the arrows across a number of fields and stiles.
Eventually you’ll hit a sandy lane that more or less takes you to the entrance of Aillwee Caves.
The route turns left here, but if you fancy a stop at the cave to rest your legs, grab refreshments, and maybe even see the falconry show, it’s well worth making time for. Just head straight on and you’ll find a visitor centre and cafe.
Leaving the caves behind you, continue up the roadway for about 2 km. You’ll eventually reach a T-junction and turning left here will lead you onto a greenway.
Look around you, as now you’ll not only see the majestic Burren landscape on the surrounding hills, but the limestone slabs will be creeping up through the fields too, contrasting beautifully with the vivid green grass and vibrant yellow gorse.
The greenway melts into a paved, yet seldom used track, which you’ll follow along until you reach another T-junction. Take a left here onto the paved road and follow it down, hedgerows providing some shade, before disappearing as more buildings appear.
The road leads to the larger N67 and if you take a left here, it’ll take you into the centre of Ballyvaughan. At the junction, take a right onto the road that is signed Fanore (R477).
Follow this past a whiskey bar, thatched cottages, and over a bridge, until you find yourself back at the start of your walk.
Things to do after the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop
After you’ve finished your walk, you’ll find plenty more great things to see and do in and around Ballyvaughan.
Here are a couple of suggestions to get you going (see our guide to the best things to do in Clare for more!).
1. Lunch in Monks (5-minute walk)
If you’ve parked at the start of the trail, it’s worth walking another five minutes down the road to Monks, one of the best seafood restaurants in the area. Brimming with old-world charm, the friendly team will make you feel welcome from the moment you step in, while the varied menu caters to all tastes.
2. Bishop’s Quarter Beach (5-minute drive)
Need to soothe those aching legs? Just outside of Ballyvaughan, you’ll find this hidden gem of a beach. Secluded and sheltered, it boasts a mix of soft sand for sitting and sandcastles, and craggy rocks for rock pooling. The sea is calm, cool, and refreshing, ideal for a paddle to ease those aches!
3. Aillwee Cave (5-minute drive)
If you didn’t stop by the Aillwee Cave during the walk, it’s just a short drive away from Ballyvaughan and well worth checking out. It’s one of the most well-known ancient geological sites in the Burren, complete with gigantic stalactites and stalagmites. The guided tour is fantastic, while the working farm, cafe, and falconry displays round off the experience.
4. Fanore Beach (20-minute drive)
Fanore is one of our favourite beaches in Clare, with soft golden sands, gorgeous clear waters, amazing views over Galway Bay, and superb amenities. Lifeguards make it safe for swimming, and you can even try out surfing if you’re that way inclined. It’s also a great stretch of beach for walking along.
FAQs about the Ballyvaughan walk
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Where do you park?’ to ‘How long does it take?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
How long is the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop?
The Ballyvaughan Wood Walk will take you around 2 hours to complete and covers roughly 8 km of mixed terrain in the Burren.
Is the Ballyvaughan Wood Walk hard?
The trail is very uneven in places and you’ll need to climb over some often slippy stiles, which can make it a no-no for some. However, this is a moderate trail.
Andy was once on a glorious worldwide trip on his equally glorious motorcycle. After 4 years, he’d still only made it as far as Eastern Europe, before falling in love with his surroundings and deciding to settle down a while. Nowadays, he spends his time writing about traveling through the places he once explored, normally while sipping a pint.