If you are travelling through the northwest of Clare, the chances are you’ll stumble upon Corkscrew Hill.
This very bendy road snakes its way through the Clare countryside and there’s a nice little viewing point to stop at.
Some quick need-to-knows about Corkscrew Hill
Although a visit to Corkscrew Hill is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Corkscrew Hill is located on the road between Ballyvaughan and Lisdoonvarna (N67) in West Clare.
It’s called Corkscrew Hill for a reason – the road is narrowish with multiple hairpin turns. Make sure to drive with caution, follow the speed limit, and obey all posted signs.
There is a viewpoint near the top of the hill where you can pull in and enjoy this unique vantage point overlooking the Burren (here on Google Maps).
About Corkscrew Hill
The steep twists and turns of Corkscrew Hill were not built for the buses, minivans, and family cars that drive it today.
Some might argue that this road wasn’t even built for travel, let alone for cars. Corkscrew Hill was built as part of the Famine Relief Scheme between 1845 and 1851, the years of the Great Hunger or Great Famine.
It was constructed by peasants forced to work in return for food or a meagre allowance that allowed them to buy grain.
Famine roads like this crisscross the west coast. Some of them, like this one and Healy Pass, are now popular tourist destinations due to their unique construction and the spectacular landscape they pass through.
Things to see and do around Corkscrew Hill
There’s a handful of things to do in and around Corkscrew Hill in Clare.
If you just fancy driving it, you can always head straight for the many attractions in Doolin nearby.
1. Drive/cycle it (carefully)
Driving up Corkscrew Hill is a unique experience. Very few roads offer this sort of view and, for some, driving challenge.
The road is narrow and steep with 4 hairpin bends. As daunting as it may seem to go up or down in your family car, we can assure you that large buses are able to travel along this road so you can too.
Make sure to drive carefully and obey the speed limit. If you are looking for more of a challenge, you can cycle Corkscrew Hill.
Cycling up this hill is a steep ascent rising almost 200m in just 2km. Cycling down the hill might be slightly more enjoyable but make sure to test your brakes beforehand and only attempt on a clear dry day.
2. Soak up views from the pull-in area
The pull-in area at the top of the hill offers a great view of a glacial valley nestled between limestone hills.
The limestone karst landscape that gives the Burren National Park its unique look was formed around 350 million years ago when Ireland was at the bottom of a tropical ocean.
Valleys like the one visible from this lookout point were created by glaciers during the last ice age, around 10,000 years ago.
On a clear day, you can see all the way to Galway Bay from this vantage point. The large building just beyond the lookout point is Gregans Castle Hotel.
3. Grab a bite at the Corkscrew Bar 108
This 18th-century manor house has been welcoming residents since the 1940s and the hotel’s rustic charm and remote location made it a personal favourite of JRR Tolkien.
The Corkscrew Bar is located in the hotel and serves tea, coffee, and homemade pastries all day long.
Things to do near Corkscrew Hill
One of the beauties of Corkscrew Hill is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Clare.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Corkscrew Hill (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Aillwee Cave (10-minute drive)
Explore what the Burren’s famous karst landscape looks like from below at Aillwee Caves. Some of the calcite formations in the cave date back 350,000 years and the bones of extinct brown bears have been found in the cave dating back over 10,000 years.
2. Poulnabrone Dolmen (15-minute drive)
Poulnabrone is a large dolmen or portal tomb that dates back to the Neolithic period, roughly between 4200 BC and 2900 BC. It is unclear what this structure was originally used for but the remains of 33 bodies, dating back to 3800 BC were found buried underneath the dolmen. The site is well signposted and free to visit.
3. Doolin Cave (20-minute drive)
Doolin Cave, located just north of the village, is home to the Great Stalactite, the largest stalactite in Europe and one of the largest in the world. Guided cave tours take around 50 minutes.
FAQs about Corkscrew Hill
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How steep is it?’ to ‘Can you walk it?’.
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.
Can you get a car up Corkscrew Hill?
Yes. There is a tarmac road that winds around Corkscrew Hill that people drive along every day. Just make sure to take your time.
Is there a viewpoint on Corkscrew Hill?
Yes. You’ll find a reasonably large viewpoint right at the top of the hill where you can pull in and soak up a fine view of the Burren.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.