If you’re debating staying in Miltown Malbay in Clare, you’ve landed in the right place.
Miltown Malbay was once a agricultural hub with five corn mills, hence its name. It’s famous for its musical heritage, dancing and culture with an excellent West Clare Music Makers’ Visitor Centre.
Birthplace of musician and piper, Willie Clancy, the town celebrates his legacy with a festival and a bronze sculpture on Main Street.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from things to do in Miltown Malbay to where to eat, sleep and drink.
Some quick need-to-knows about Miltown Malbay in Clare
Although a visit to Miltown Malbay in Clare is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Miltown Malbay is a small town about 3km inland from Spanish Point in West County Clare. It is 17km due west of Inagh and 12km southwest of Lahinch. It’s a great central location for exploring the surrounding area including Doolin, the Burren, the Aran Islands and the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher.
2. A town rich in musical heritage
Miltown Malbay has always thrived on Irish music, dancing and was the birthplace of several noteworthy musicians, poets and writers including Willie Clancy. It’s the natural home for the West Clare Music Makers’ attraction and the Willie Clancy Summer School and Festival.
3. A fine base for exploring Clare
Miltown Malbay may be a little less well-known than the likes of Doolin or Lahinch, but it has its own claims to fame when it comes to music, singing, dancing and culture. It’s a great little village for exploring, as it’s a stone’s throw from many of the best places to visit in Clare.
About Miltown Malbay
Miltown Malbay is a popular tourist hub for exploring West Clare. The name in Irish is Sráid na Cathrach, meaning “street of the stone ringfort” while the term “Malbay” means “treacherous coast”.
It has less than 900 inhabitants, but swells during the tourist season and the annual Willie Clancy Summer School and Festival, the largest of its kind in Ireland.
Uilleann piper and musician Willie Clancy was born into a musical family in Miltown Malbay in 1918. He played the whistle and flute from an early age and recorded many reels, Irish jigs and pipering under several record labels.
He died in 1973 but his spirit tunefully lives on in the Summer School when 1,000 students come from all over the world to attend daily classes.
Things to do in Miltown Malbay (and nearby)
One of the beauties of Miltown Malbay is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Miltown Malbay (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Visit the Music Makers of West Clare
Miltown Malbay’s main attraction is the awesome Music Makers of West Clare where you can immerse yourself for a wee while in Irish music, song, dance and traditions.
Watch a short film about Irish music and the origin of the instruments before reading some first-hand accounts from the musicians themselves.
Finally, enjoy your own “Session” with a 14-minute film playing inspirational music from the masters of County Clare. Open daily from May through September.
2. Suck down some ocean air at Whitestrand Beach
Time for some fresh sea air to clear your head, and where better than Whitestrand (not to be confused with White Strand Beach near Doonbeg).
It’s a 3-minute drive from Miltown MalBay and has Blue Flag waters, a grey sandy beach and pebbly shoreline (there’s more sand at low tide).
If you prefer, jump into the natural swimming pool nearby known as Kerin’s Hole. Accessed by steps from the headland, it has a dive platform and ladder (ALWAYS be careful when entering the water).
3. Take a spin out to Spanish Point (5-minute drive)
Named after the Spanish Armada ships that were wrecked nearby in 1588, Spanish Point is a popular tourist destination.
Check out the sandy beach, top surfing and wonderful scenic hikes along the Wild Atlantic Way. The Armada Hotel stands on the former site of “the biggest hotel in the British Isles” built in 1810.
It’s a lovely area to spend a summer’s day. Spanish Point is also the place to tee off on one of Ireland’s oldest golf courses.
4. Hit the water in Lahinch (13-minute drive)
Lahinch is a large surfing town and resort in West Clare which is always buzzing in summer. The big attraction is its stunning 2km long golden sandy beach which is just perfect for a ramble with the sound of the waves and gulls for company.
Known as a world-class surf centre, Lahinch Beach has several surf schools and equipment rentals but it caters for other watersports such as kite-surfing and sailing.
Go fishing, swimming and snorkelling or just treat yourself to an ice cream and a walk along the promenade.
5. Or head off on the Kilkee Cliff Walk (30-minute drive)
We promised there was plenty to see and do from your base in Miltown Malbay and there’s more! Head south along the coast to Kilkee, another pretty beach town with a curving mile-long sandy beach on Moore Bay.
The sheltered cove is protected by the Duggerna Rocks and is a lovely spot for a swim but if you’re looking for a good walk, Kilkee Cliff Walk is ideal.
Starting from the Pollock Holes (natural tidal rock pools) at the west end of town, the loop walk is 18km long and takes 4-5 hours to complete.
Related read: See our guide to the best things to do in Kilkee to see what else this corner of Clare has to offer!
6. Followed by a ramble at the Bridges of Ross
A little further southwest is the natural attraction known as the Bridges of Ross. Despite its plural name, it’s actually a single natural sea arch.
Originally there were three arches (imagine that!) but sea erosion got to work and two collapsed, so now we’re lucky to have just the one!
There’s a free car park and a path around the cliff which you need to follow along until you spot the Bridges of Ross. The broad arch is topped by a grassy plateau for enjoying a walk above the turbulent waves.
7. And then a spin out to Loop Head
Part of the Wild Atlantic Way, the Loop Head Drive offers a breathtaking jaunt around the Loop Head Peninsula. You might not have time to do the whole 90km, but don’t miss Loop Head Lighthouse, built in 1854.
The Lighthouse-keeper’s Cottage has interactive exhibits and you can take a guided tour up the lighthouse for stunning views of the Shannon Estuary, Blasket Islands and Twelve Pins in Connemara.
Other Loop Head highlights include Diarmuid and Gráinne’s Rock, dolphins, seals, whales and the occasional sea stack. It’s awesome!
8. Get blown away (literally!) at the Cliffs of Moher (27-minute drive)
If you’re staying in Miltown Malbay, visiting Ireland’s most visited attraction – the Cliffs of Moher – is a must.
Stretching for 8km along the rugged coastline, the cliffs reach up 214 metres in height. Part of the UNESCO Geopark, they are the highest in Europe.
Pop into the Visitor Centre and enjoy the audio-visual film before heading out along paved paths on a breezy walk to see the most famous cliffs in Ireland. They’re magnificent!
9. Grab a bite to eat and then explore Doolin (32-minute drive)
You can’t help but smile when first visiting the quaint but colourful village of Doolin. The village may be compact, but you’ll find a selection of friendly places on Fisher street to enjoy a pint, bar snack or a hearty meal.
Alternatively, stroll down to the harbour and take a boat trip to see the towering Cliffs of Moher from a different perspective. The coastal views are spectacular!
Related read: Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Doolin (from fine dining to cheap and tasty eats).
10. Head for a ramble in Ennistimon (17-minute drive)
Ennistimon / Ennistymon is a gorgeous town with a weekly market, art galleries, gift shops, a cheesemongers and some lively craic to be had in the pubs.
One of the best is Daly’s Pub, owned by the famous matchmaker Willie Daly (of Lisdoonvarna Festival fame!) The town is on the River Cullenagh, which takes a dive down some cascades nearby.
It’s well worth exploring the pretty Falls Walk before sitting at the bar in the Falls Hotel where Irish bard Brian Merriman was born around 1747.
Miltown Malbay Accommodation
You’ll find plenty of places to stay in Miltown Malbay with something for all budgets. To really enter into the spirit of this musical town, book a room at The Townhouse, which has excellent reviews.
There’s a good mix of places to stay in the area, and you can find the best of the bunch here (note: the links above are affiliate links).
At the other end of the scale, the Armada Hotel near Spanish Point which has stylish rooms, high-end dining and sea views.
Restaurants in Miltown Malbay
There’s plenty of great restaurants in Miltown Malbay where you can kick-back with a bite-to-eat after a long day of exploring.
Below, you’ll find some of our favourite Miltown Malbay restaurants, from the Old Bakehouse to the brilliant Yard Cafe.
1. The Old Bakehouse Restaurant
The Old Bakehouse Restaurant on Main street has a great atmosphere and serves generous portions from the reasonably priced menu. Local favourites include the chowder or fish and chips. There’s a chalk board of daily specials with plenty of variety. Families are welcome and kids have their own menu.
2. The Yard Café and Bistro
The Yard Café and Bistro is the place to find a good meal and live music each evening. It offers an excellent Italian-influenced menu (pizzas, pasta, duck etc), great service and a homely atmosphere. If you’re dropping in during the day they do homemade ice cream, scones, cupcakes etc.
3. The Westbridge
For a pub with a traditional all-Irish atmosphere, the Westbridge is another Main Street watering hole. There’s a spacious restaurant serving Irish cuisine and the chance to chat and socialise. The Wednesday Sessions are well worth getting a table for. Lively craic, cold drinks, tasty food… what more could you wish for?
Pubs in Miltown Malbay
We’re going to round off our guide to Miltown Malbay in Clare with a look at the different pubs the town has to offer.
Below, you’ll find some brilliant Miltown Malbay pubs, like Friel’s, Michael A’s and More. Dive on in!
1. Friel’s Pub (Lynch’s)
Friel’s Pub is everything you would expect from an old-fashioned Irish pub. There’s a well-stocked bar, open fire and plenty of original features in this listed building. Dating back to 1895, it is known for its Trad Sessions most nights and many of Ireland’s finest musicians have played here.
2. Michael A’s Bar
Right next door to Music Makers of West Clare, Michael A’s Bar is highly rated for its cosy atmosphere, nice beer garden and great service. Enjoy a pint by the fire, watch your favourite sports and tuck into some fine Irish fare including fish, seafood, burgers and more.
3. Hillery’s Bar
Opened in 1891, Hillery’s Bar is one of Miltown Malbay’s oldest pubs. It’s still run by the same family, now the fourth generation. Music nights attract some of the best local musicians and the big screen keeps you updated on all the latest sports matches.
4. Cogan’s Bar and Restaurant
Cogan’s prides itself on offering generous helpings of home-cooked food, service with a smile and a great atmosphere to go with your Guinness! Located on Main Street, it’s highly recommended and is super family-friendly. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, it also has a vegetarian menu.
FAQs about visiting Miltown Malbay in Clare
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what are the best things to do in Miltown Malbay to where to eat.
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.
What are the best things to do in Miltown Malbay?
So, there isn’t a huge number of things to do in Miltown Malbay, aside from nearby Whitestrand Beach and the Music Makers of West Clare, however, there’s an endless number of places to visit nearby (see above), which makes this town a great base to explore Clare from.
Are there many restaurants and pubs in Miltown Malbay?
Yes, food wise, you’ve everywhere from the Westbridge to the Yard Café and Bistro and there are plenty of pubs in Miltown Malbay, like Hillery’s Bar and Friel’s Pub, to name a few.
Where is there to stay in Miltown Malbay?
Miltown Malbay is home to several B&Bs and self-catering accommodation (link above) for those of you planning on setting up camp here for a few nights.
Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.