Howaya! This road trip guide is part of our 5 days in Ireland travel series.
In a nutshell, the series is made up of 5 different ways to spend 5 days in Ireland.
Each guide (you can find them all here) visits different counties and contains a full itinerary for each day along with advice on where to sleep and where to grab a post-adventure pint.
In this guide, you’ll find a 5-day road trip that’ll take you through the mighty County Clare for a couple of days before tipping on to Galway. Dive on in below.
The Clare and Galway Road Trip
- Day 1: Clare (Ennis to Ennistymon – stay in Ennistymon)
- Day 2: Clare (Ennistymon to Doolin – stay in Ennistymon)
- Day 3: Galway (Ennistymon to Galway City – stay in the city)
- Day 4: Galway (Galway City to Inis Mor – stay on Inis Mor)
- Day 5: Galway (Inis Mor to Clifden – stay in Clifden)
Day 1. Clare (Ennis to Ennistymon)
Day 1 of this 5-day road trip is a busy one. Thankfully, there’s only one long drive (Ennis to Loop Head) and a good chunk of the day will be taken up by coastal walks.
I’m going to recommend that you make Ennistymon your base for night 1 and 2 of this road trip to save you travelling around too much.
Later on, when we get to Galway, you’ll have to spend three nights in three different places. This isn’t ideal, but it’ll be worth it!
1. Breakfast and a ramble in Ennis (arrive for 09:30)
It’s time to fuel up for the day ahead. Kick-start your day with a bit of breakfast (see our Ennis restaurants guide) and a coffee in the gorgeous little town of Ennis.
As the first few activities of the day are long walks, I’d recommend that you grab bottles of water along with some snacks to keep you going.
Ennis is a nice spot for an early morning ramble. A good chunk of the streets are lovely and narrow and there’s a good dollop of colour in the shopfronts.
2. Loop Head (arrive for 12:00)
The drive from Ennis to Loop Head is a long one. It’ll take you an hour and 15 minutes by car but it’ll be worth it – I promise!
We’re going to offset the long drive with a lovely ramble that’ll treat you to spectacular coastal views. Point your car in the direction of Loop Head Lighthouse.
There’s a little car park here that’s rarely full. When you hop out, walk around to the right of the lighthouse – you’ll find a massive sea stack here.
Next, walk back towards the car park and continue down along the coast to the left. The views that you’ll be treated to are sensational (see photo above).
3. The cliffs at Kilkee (arrive for 13:30)
When you’re finished at Loop Head, hop back into the car and head off in the direction of Kilkee. It’s a handy 25-minute drive… unless you get stuck behind a tractor.
The 2.5-hour Kilkee cliff walk here that’ll treat you to views that many of those that explore Clare tend to miss .
Dress appropriately, keep your distance from the edge and enjoy the sounds of the waves and the wind while gulping down a lungful of fresh sea air.
4. The Strand Bistro for lunch (arrive around 15:00)
When you finish your walk, it’s time for a big aul feed! You’ll have earned it! Now, you can eat wherever you fancy, but I’m going to recommend the Strand Bistro in Kilkee village.
The food at the Strand is supposed to be the business (have a nosey at the Google reviews). Get in, get fed and rest your bones for a while.
5. Spanish Point (arrive around 16:30)
We’re going to take a 30-minute drive down along the coast to the little village of Spanish Point, next. There’s a gorgeous beach here that’s perfect for a post-lunch stroll.
I’ve yet to visit Spanish Point when the weather hasn’t been wild. This kind of weather, while chilly on the nose, gives you plenty to gaze out at while you walk.
Spanish Point is a popular spot for surfers. You can watch on (or take part in, if you like) as surfers attempt to tackle huge waves as they thunder towards the shore.
6. Coffee and a stroll at Lahinch (arrive around 17:30)
It’s a handy 15-minute drive from Spanish Point to our next stop of the day – Lahinch. Head into the village first and Find Joe’s Cafe.
Grab a cup of coffee to go and then stroll on down to the water. Lahinch is another popular spot among the surfing crowd.
The village is also home to many a buzzy pub along with plenty of fine restaurants and places to spend the night.
7. Food, a pint and a bed for the night
I’m going to recommend that you make Ennistymon your base for the first two nights of this road trip. This is a gorgeous little town and there’s plenty of great restaurants and pubs.
Here are a few recommendations if you’re looking for somewhere to stay (each is nice and central and has great reviews):
- Falls Hotel & Spa (around €130 per night)
- Station House Bed & Breakfast (around €90 per night)
- Lazy Cow Hostel (around €60 per night)
When you’ve checked into your accommodation for the night, head out for a bit of food. Little Fox, An Teach Bla and Byrne’s are just three of many great places to eat in the town.
The chances are you’ll be wrecked after your first day on the road. Take it handy on night one. If you fancy a post-adventure pint, nip into Cooley’s House.
Day 2: Ennistymon to Doolin
We’re going to pack a good bit of exploring into our second day on the road. You won’t need to drive far and there’ll be plenty to see and do.
You’ll be rewarded for getting up and out early with pints on the evening of night 2 in one of the best pubs in the county.
1. An alternative view of the Cliffs of Moher (arrive for 11:00)
Our first stop of the day is a very handy 20-minute drive from Ennistymon. Pop ‘Cliffs of Moher Liscannor Walk’ into Google Maps and head off on your merry way.
You’ll get parking here (it was €2 the last time that I was here) and you can take a handy 15-minute walk up to the viewing point near hags head.
You’ll get a nice ‘alternative’ view of the Cliffs of Moher from this side. It’ll also be A LOT quieter than the side near the visitor centre.
2. The Doolin Cave (arrive for 12:30)
Our second stop of the day takes us on a 25-minute drive out as far as the Doolin Cave. It’s here that you’ll find the largest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere.
You’ll find the cave in the Burren region where it was formed around 350 million years ago. Interestingly enough, it was actually only discovered in 1952.
There’s a little cafe here out front so you can grab a pick-me-up and a cake, if you fancy, before you head off on the tour.
3. Lunch on Fisher Street (arrive for 13:30)
Right – time for a bit of lunch. Head off in the direction of Fisher Street (6-minute drive) next. You’ll find parking just past the row of colourful buildings above.
I’ve eaten in Gus O’Connor’s pub 7 or 8 times over the years and it has never been anything short of delicious (the beef and Guinness stew is the business!).
If you arrive on a winters day, you’ll be greeted with a roaring fire when you walk through the door. Kick-back, get fed and chill for a bit.
4. Doonagore Castle (arrive for 15:00)
Our final stop of the day, the fairytale-like Doonagore Castle, is a short 3-minute drive away from Fisher Street.
Although the current Doonagore Castle dates from the mid 16th century, there was a castle on this site as far back as 1300.
Unfortunately, as the castle is privately owned, you can’t have a look around inside, however, you can drive up to it and admire it from the outside. There’s also stunning views of the surrounding countryside from nearby.
5. Food, live music and pints
When you finish up at Doonagore, take the 15-minute drive back to where you’re staying in Ennistymon and chill for a bit.
When you’re feeling hungry, head down to the town and grab a bite to eat and then saunter over to Cooley’s House.
Cooley’s House is easily one of my favourite pubs in Ireland. This is an old-school pub where the staff are sound and you’ll be treated to a fine bit of live music.
Day 3: Ennistymon to Galway (via the Burren)
Our third day on the road sees us explore more of Clare before heading on to Galway City where we’ll be spending the night.
Now, if you fancy staying somewhere else or stopping somewhere different than outlined below, fill your boots – this is just a guide. You don’t have to follow it from start to finish.
1. The Burren Scenic Loop (start at 11:00)
Our first activity of the day is the Burren Scenic Loop. This is a 155km looped drive (we won’t be doing all of it – you’ve already been to the Cliffs of Moher) that’ll take you through the Burren National Park.
It’s in the National Park where you’ll discover one of the most unique landscapes in Ireland. The drive also takes in many of Clare’s top attractions.
I’ve mapped out this route for you in Google Maps. Here are some of the notable places worth stopping at:
- The Ailwee Cave
- Poulnabrone Dolmen
2. Kinvarra for lunch (14:00)
When you finish the Burren drive, head off in the direction of Kinvara. If you finished the drive in Ballyvaughan, it’ll be a handy 20-minute spin.
Kinvarra is a gorgeous little town and it’s the perfect place for a bite to eat and a stroll. If you’re feeling peckish, I can’t recommend the Pier Head or the Merriman enough!
When you finish, head for a ramble around the town. If you don’t fancy staying in Galway City, you could just as easily spend the night here.
3. Dunguaire Castle (arrive for 15:30)
Dunguaire is a 16th-century tower house that’s finely plonked on the shore of the gorgeous Galway Bay. The castle was built in 1520 by the O’Hynes clan and was later restored.
If you fancy it, you can have a nosey around inside on a guided tour. Or you can just admire it from the outside.
4. An evening in Galway City (arrive around 16:30)
When you finish up in Dunaguaire, take the 35-minute drive around to Galway City, our base for night three.
Now, where you spend the night will be completely dependent on how much you want to spend. In our guide on where to stay in Galway, you’ll find options to suit every budget.
When you’ve dropped off your bags, head for a ramble around the city. There’s no end to the number of things to see and do. Here are a handful of suggestions:
- Visit Galway Cathedral
- Take a look around Galway City Museum
- Ramble along the ‘Long Walk’
- Grab a coffee and head down to the Spanish Arch
- Take a stroll out to Salthill
5. Live music in buzzy pubs
If you fancy a pint and some live music, you’ll find plenty of recommendations in our guide to the best pubs in Galway.
I’m going to recommend that you nip into the Crane Bar. This is arguably the best known traditional music pub in the city.
If you fancy a pint (the Guinness here is unreal) along with a clatter of live music, you’ll find both in the Crane (just make sure to get in early as it’s small and it attracts a crowd).
Day 4: Galway City to Inis Mor
Day number 4 takes us out of Galway City and across the water on a ferry to the magnificent island of Inis Mor.
Now, a couple of notes: the first is the weather. If there’s a lot of rain forecasted for the day, skip Inis Mor. It’s an island so, unsurprisingly enough, it’s not an ideal place to be when it’s raining.
The second note regards the ferry – make sure to check the ferry times in advance to ensure that you have the times 100% correct.
1. The ferry to Inis Mor (take the 10:30 ferry)
The ferry to Inis Mor leaves from Rossaveel, a 45-minute drive from Galway City. There’s secure paid-parking on-site (€7.00 for 24hrs).
Aim to arrive at the ferry point 20 minutes early to ensure that you give yourself enough time to park and walk across.
The ferry from Rossaveel to Inis Mor should take around 40 minutes, depending on the weather, and you’ll be treated to lovely views of the Galway coastline during the trip.
2. Grab a bike (start your cycle at 12:00)
The best way to explore any of the Aran Islands, in my opinion, is by bike. You can rent a bike from the pier on Inis Mór or you can have a bike delivered to your accommodation.
You can rent a mountain bike for a day for €10, a child’s bike for €10, an electric bike for €30 (steep) or a tandem for €30.
There’s something pretty damn special about spinning along mile after mile of stone wall with the wind whipping against your face as you explore Inis Mór.
2. Head off in search of seals
Our first stop of the day takes us out to ‘Seal Colony Viewpoint’, as it’s marked on Google Maps – this is a handy 13-minute cycle from the bike hire spot.
The mighty shores of Inis Mór are well known for their colony of seals. At times, you’ll find anywhere up to 20 seals chilling on the rocks, some of which weigh up to 230kg.
Please don’t be one of those tools that try to get up close for a selfie or, even worse, to try and pet the seals. Admire these lads from afar.
3. Kilmurvey Beach
Our second stop takes us on an 8-minute cycle out to Kilmurvey Beach. This is one of the finest beaches in Galway!
This gorgeous sandy beach has Blue Flag status, which means that it’s safe to swim at as there are no strong currents.
Translation: if you’re feeling hardy and you fancy braving the chilly Atlantic, pack your swimming shorts and dive on in.
The water here is nice and clear – if you’d rather keep yer toes dry, saunter along the sand and gulp down a lungful of salty sea air.
4. Soup, Ice Cream, Fudge and the Man of Aran Cottage
Next up is your chance to fuel up with a hearty feed or some sweet stuff. There are several different spots for a bite to eat near stop 3, depending on what you fancy.
If you’re in search of a decent feed, get yourself to Teach Nan Phaidi (the soup here is mighty!) – this is a gorgeous little thatched cafe (above) that serves a fine bitta food.
If you fancy something a little sweeter, you can grab some fudge from the Man of Aran Fudge, or you can score some ice cream from Paudy’s.
If you fancy having a nosey at another gorgeous old thatched cottage, take the 3-minute cycle to the Man of Aran Cottage.
This is an old thatched cottage that was built in 1930 for use in the movie ‘The Man of Aran’. It’s now a B&B, which should appeal to those of you looking for unique places to stay during your visit.
Stop 5: Dún Aonghasa
You can safely park your bike at a dedicated parking station just down the road from Paudy’s and the cafe. This is the perfect starting point for your ramble to Dún Aonghasa.
If you’re not familiar with Dún Aonghasa, it’s arguably the most popular place to visit on the Aran Islands. Few forts boast a location as dramatic as Dún Aonghasa.
Dún Aonghasa is the largest of a number of prehistoric stone forts that can be found scattered across the Aran Islands. According to Heritage Ireland, the fort was originally constructed c.1100BC to impede attackers and was later re-fortified around 700-800 AD.
Standing out at Dún Aonghasa makes you feel like you’re perched at the point where Ireland ends. The rugged cliffs, the power of the wind and the crash of the waves below send shockwaves through your senses.
Stop 6: The Wormhole
We’re off to Poll na bPeist next. Also known as ‘the Wormhole’ and ‘The Serpent’s Lair’, Poll na bPeist is a naturally formed and other-worldly looking hole in the limestone that connects to the sea.
To get here, follow the signs for Gort na gCapall (or just ramble east along the cliffs from Dun Aonghasa). You might remember this place from the Red Bull Cliff Diving event back in 2004.
Divers jumped from a diving board on the cliffs above down into the chilly waters below. The hole in the rock here looks like it was carved by some enormous machine. It’s surreal to think that it formed naturally.
Stop 7: The Black Fort
Our final stop of day 4 takes us out to the Black Fort – another cliffside ruin. You’ll find the Black Fort on the southern side of Inis Mór, a stone’s throw from where you picked up your bike.
Dún Dúchathair (the Black Fort) is a big aul stone fort that, due to the effects of erosion, is now situated on a rocky promontory that juts out into the Atlantic.
This is our last stop of the day before heading off for a bite to eat, a post-adventure pint and a kip before another day of adventure!
Stop 8: Post-adventure pints (or a tea/coffee)
We published a guide to the best pubs in Ireland a few months back. In the days that followed, many people replied to say that Joe Watty’s needed to be added sharpish.
Joe Watty’s pub on Inis Mór is the perfect place for a few post-adventure pints. You’ll find live music playing away here seven nights per week during the summer and at weekends throughout the year.
Get in, get fed and then head back to the nest for a sleep. If you’re looking for places to stay on the island that have top-notch reviews, try:
Day 5: Inis Mor to Clifden
Our final day takes us back to the mainland to explore a bit of Connemara before rounding off the trip in the buzzy little village of Clifden.
Grab a lie-in on the morning of day 5 and take the 12:00 ferry from Inis Mor back across to Rossaveel.
Note: make sure to check the ferry times in advance to ensure that you have the times 100% correct.
1. Spinning through Connemara (start at 13:00)
When you grab the car, point it in the direction of Dog’s Bay Beach. We’re going to spin through a nice chunk of Connemara on the way.
The best advice that I can give you if you’re exploring this corner of Ireland for the first time is to follow your gut.
If you see something that catches your eye, pull in safely and have a nose around. Take your time, enjoy the views and explore at will.
2. Dog’s Bay Beach (arrive around 14:00)
Dog’s Bay Beach in Roundstone is up there with the best beaches in Ireland. This is a glorious white sandy beach that’s often missed by those visiting Galway.
Dog’s Bay is a horseshoe-shaped beach that stretches for over 1.3 km. Hop out of the car, kick off your shoes and head for a stroll along the sand.
The beach here is nice and sheltered and it’s a popular spot for swimmers. If you’re feeling hardy (it’ll be nice and cold) hop on in.
3. Lunch in Roundstone (arrive around 15:00)
If you fancy a bit of food, there’s plenty of options here. Based on previous experience, I can’t recommend O’Dowd’s and Vaughan’s enough.
3. The Sky Road (arrive around 16:30)
Our final stop of the day takes us to the Sky Road in Clifden. It’s a 30-minute drive so, when you’re ready, head off on your merry way.
The Sky Road is one of the most picturesque corners of Connemara and it tends to have a knack of painting itself upon your mind.
There’s a 16km long looped drive here that takes you from Clifden out onto the Kingstown peninsula and then back around and into Clifden via the N59 road.
This place is special. Take your time. Hop out of the car when it’s safe to do so (there’s a viewing point where you can park) and soak up the sights, smells and sounds that envelope you.
4. Rounding off your 5-day road trip in style
Your base for the final night of this road trip is Clifden. First things first – let’s grab a bed for the night. Where you stay is going to depend on the amount of cash you have to splash.
For this trip, I’m going to recommend Foyles Hotel as it’s central, the reviews are exceptional and a bed for the night and a full Irish in the morning will set you back around €100.
For dinner, nip into Guys Bar & Snug for fish and chips (or whatever you fancy, obviously). It’s a short stroll from your hotel and the reviews speak for themselves. There’s plenty of other restaurants in Clifden to try, too!
If you’d like a pint and a bit of live music, head to Lowry’s Bar. Kick-back, listen to the music and soak up a bit of chill time.
And that’s a wrap
Hopefully you’ve found the above guide useful. Is it perfect? Absolutely not! We couldn’t squeeze in many of the best things to do in Galway, like a hike up Diamond Hill.
5 days is a tiny amount of time. You always run the risk of trying to squeeze in too much.
If you fancy seeing what other road trips Ireland has to offer, hop into our road trip hub. You’ll find itineraries for every type of trip.