If you’re looking for some wild and wonderful things to do in Clare, you’ll find plenty of both below!
In this guide, we tackle everything from castles and coastal walks to unique attractions in Clare and some lesser-known points of interest.
You’ll also discover things to do in Clare in the rain on those dreaded wet and windy afternoons to places to visit on those sometimes rare sunny days.
The best things to do in Clare (a quick overview)
The first section of this guide will give you a nice, quick overview of the most popular places to visit in Clare, with everything from towns and villages to walks and beaches.
The second section of the guide goes into the specific things to do in Clare, like the mighty Cliffs of Moher and Loop Head to the Burren National Park.
1. Lively towns and villages
Before you decide on what to do in Clare, it’s worth taking a minute to have a think about where you’d like to stay during your visit.
Clare is home to a mix of quiet, rural villages, lively county towns and a clatter of coastal hubs that make great bases to explore from. Here are some of our favourites:
2. Unique places to visit in Clare
There are plenty of things to see in Clare that lay slightly off-the-beaten-path and that rarely make the cover of shiny tourist guidebooks.
Which is a shame, because places like Doolin Cave and the Bridges of Ross punch well above their weight. Here are some of the more unique things to do in Clare:
- Visit the Bridges of Ross
- Explore Doolin Cave
- Take a spin to the Aran Islands (yes, they’re in Galway, but you can get to them from Doolin)
- The cliffs at Loop Head Lighthouse
- Visit the Aillwee Caves
3. Hikes and walks
Arguably some of the top things to do in Clare involve lashing on a pair of walking boots and heading off into the Burren or out along the glorious Clare coast.
Now, for some of the rambles in Clare, you won’t need much planning while for others, like the lengthy Burren Way, you’ll need to plan well in advance. Here are some of our favourite walks in Clare:
4. Beaches galore
Some of the best places to visit in Clare are the seemingly endless sandy stretches that you’ll find dotted along the coastline.
Our favourite places to visit in Clare
So, the second section of this guide tackles our favourites/what we think are the best places to visit in Clare.
These are places that we’ve visited, loved and have been banging on about ever since to anyone that’ll listen!
1. The Loop Head Peninsula
The Loop Head Peninsula is arguably one of the most overlooked places to visit in Clare. The peninsula is an hour from Lahinch, 20 minutes from Kilkee and around an hour and 15 minutes from Doolin, and it’s home to plenty to see and do.
From the historic Loop Head Lighthouse and the mighty Carrigaholt Castle to the Kilbaha Cliffs and much more, this peninsula boasts some of the most unspoiled scenery in the county.
You can explore the peninsula on the Loop Head Drive (info here), or you can spend a night nearby and tackle it over a couple of days! If you’re looking for things to do in Clare that many tend to miss, get yourself to the Loop Head Peninsula.
2. The Burren
The Burren is a diverse ecosystem of karst limestone and an Area of Special Conservation. It is home to over 500 species of Ireland’s native plants including orchids, Irish Eyebright and Avens, an Arctic Alpine plant carried south by glaciers in the Ice Age.
The craggy landscape has a natural beauty, grazed by hardy livestock. Points of interest include Poulnabrone Dolmen, a massive 5,800-year-old dolmen, one of over 80 tombs in the area.
The Burren Centre provides a wealth of information about the area, which is arguably the most unique limestone pavement in the world.
Although you’ll often see the Burren described as one of the most popular places to visit in Clare, it doesn’t attract swarms of crowds, which makes it a joy to explore on one of the Burren walks.
3. Doolin for food and pints
The lively little village of Doolin is one of my favourites in Ireland. It’s a great base to tackle some of the best things to do in Clare from and the village is a buzzy spot to spend a night.
From brilliant pubs, like McDermott’s, to great places to eat, like the Oar, there’s plenty of places to eat, sleep and drink in Doolin. Here are some guides to nip into:
- 19 of the best things to do in Doolin
- 9 of the finest restaurants in Doolin
- 4 mighty pubs in Doolin
- See our guide to the best Doolin accommodation
4. The Cliffs of Moher
The cliffs stretch for 8km (5 miles) and were named after a ruined fort that was demolished during the Napoleonic Wars (Mothar is Gaelic for “ruin of a fort”).
Climbing to 214m (702 feet), the sheer-edged cliffs offer views as far south as the Dingle Peninsula and the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara to the north (on a clear day, of course!).
Ennistymon is another beautiful little base to explore Clare from. It’s also a gorgeous town to explore on foot with a coffee, if you’re just passing through.
This colourful riverside town has old world charm with a delightful shopping centre of local businesses and a multi-arched bridge across the Cullenagh River.
Check out the ‘An Gorta Mór’ memorial in the grounds of the old workhouse which remembers the victims of the potato famine in 1845-50.
6. Surfing at Fanore Beach
You’ll find the gorgeous Fanore Beach on the road between Doolin and Ballyvaughan in the Burren, where it’s one of nine sites of geological significance within the geopark.
The clear waters at Fanore Beach attract surfers and swimmers and the dunes are a protected habitat stabilised with plants.
If you fancy trying your hand at surfing, the folks at Aloha Surf School offer lessons that’ll suit everyone from beginners to those that have hit the waves previously.
7. Visit Spanish Point for Snamhai Sasta
If you fancy hitting the water, make your way to Spanish Point Beach where Snámhai Sásta (Happy Swimmers) takes place daily at 09:00.
Snámhai Sásta was started by June Curtin, who tragically lost her husband over 6 years ago. June started the community to promote wellness and positivity and to show the mental and physical benefits of sea swimming.
The community here is a welcoming one, so don’t worry if you have never visited before. You can find out more about Snámhai Sásta on their Instagram page.
8. Have a ramble around beautiful Killaloe
Set on the banks of the River Shannon in County Clare, Killaloe is a beautiful waterside village that’s well worth having a ramble around.
When you arrive, park up near Gooser’s Bar and take a stroll down through the town, over the bridge and across to the grassy area in front of Flanagan’s.
You can, if you like, take a river cruise from here, or you can kick-back with a meal with a view in one of several nearby restaurants. Here ARE some Killaloe guides to dip into:
- 12 of the best things to do in Killaloe
- 7 great restaurants in Killaloe
- 9 of the best B&Bs and hotels in Killaloe
Unique Clare attractions
Some of the top things to do in Clare are, in my opinion, the places that either 1, take you off-the-beaten-path or 2, treat you to a nice, unique experience.
This section of the guide is packed with places to visit and things to see in Clare that tend to get missed by many visiting the county.
1. Father Ted’s House
If you’re not familiar with the TV show Father Ted, it was a series that focused on the adventures and mishaps of a group of priests and their long-suffering housekeeper, Mrs Doyle.
Father Ted’s house can be visited at Glenquin Farmhouse (home of the McCormack family in real life) on the Boston road from Kilnaboy.
For fans of this cult sitcom, Father Ted Tours take visitors around their favourite haunts including pints in the local pubs and tea and cake with Mrs Doyle.
Find out more about visiting the house for afternoon tea and for info on the tours in our guide to Father Ted’s House.
2. The Bridges of Ross
A visit to the mighty Bridges of Ross is one of the more unique things to do in Clare. Here, you’ll find a sea arch that was carved out from years of pummeling by Atlantic waves.
There were once three such bridges (hence the name) but two have collapsed into the sea. There’s a free car park and you walk a few hundred metres along the cliffs to see this natural wonder while enjoying superb sea views.
It’s also a great place for birdwatching as huge flocks of sea birds (including Little Auks, Storm Petrels and Manx Shearwater) migrate south each autumn.
3. The Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival
The festival, which has been running for a whopping 160+ years, started its life as a way of helping local bachelors find love.
Today, the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, run by the legendary Willie Daly, boasts music, live events and, of course, matchmaking.
If you fancy visiting, there’s plenty of great accommodation in Lisdoonvarna to choose from.
4. Try glamping in Clare
If you don’t fancy staying in one of the many excellent hotels in Clare, you’re in luck – there’s plenty of unique accommodation on offer.
In our guide to glamping in Clare, you’ll find everything from pods and wagons to some very quirky cabins with their very own hot tubs overlooking nearby lakes.
5. Knappogue Castle
Another of the top things to do in Clare involves heading for a stroll around Knappogue Castle and/or trying the Medieval feast.
This medieval castle offers a unique insight into a very grand way of life and the best way to experience it is by attending a Medieval Banquet.
You’ll be greeted by the Earl’s Butler and led to the beautifully decorated Dalcassian Hall for an evening of choral singing, harps, fiddles, an account of the “Rules of Chivalry” and a six-course meal starting with a glass of mead. You can even stay the night!
6. Dolphinwatch Carrigaholt
Take to the water on an exciting nature cruise spotting dolphins, birds and other marine life on an eco-cruise with Dolphinwatch Carrigaholt.
Dolphinwatch has been operating as a family business for over 25 years and sails from Carrigaholt on the Loop Head Peninsula.
As well as pods of leaping dolphins, you’ll see feral goats on Rehy Hill, grey seals, cormorants and even Minke and Humpback Whales in early autumn.
7. The Ailwee Cave
In the heart of the Burren GeoPark, the Ailwee Caves is one of the oldest in the area, estimated at being over one million years old.
Discovered by a farmer in 1940, it was only mapped and explored in 1977 and it formed by water seeping through the limestone, the cave contains stalactites and stalagmites.
There’s also an underground waterfall. Interestingly enough, bones of Irish brown bears that likely hibernated in the cave were discovered here.
Those that visit can take a guided tour of the cave. If you’re looking for things to do in Clare with kids, there’s also a Birds of Prey centre on-site.
8. Doonagore Castle
Doonagore Castle is a now-iconic landmark in Doolin with a conical roof and parapet. Dating back to the 16th century, it was built on the site of a 14th-century fortress.
It was restored in the 1970s and is now privately owned by the Gorman family. Commanding magnificent Atlantic Ocean views as far as the Aran Islands, the round tower house has many small windows and is surrounded by a protective wall.
In 1588, survivors from the wrecked Invincible, part of the Spanish Armada, struggled ashore here and were captured and hanged. It is said their ghosts can still be seen on stormy nights.
9. The Doolin Cave
Head underground on an eco-tour at Doolin Cave (Pol an Ionain). This is another of the often-missed things to do in Clare.
Those that visit the cave will discover a very unique record-breaker: the Great Stalactite. Reaching down 7.3m (23 feet), it is the longest free-hanging stalactite in Europe.
Once you have marveled at this phenomenon, which has taken over 70,000 years to form, explore the Visitor Centre and follow the Nature Trail to see wildflowers and rare animal breeds.
There’s also a Café and a Pottery with handmade pottery created from glacial clay found in the cave. If you’re wondering what to do in Clare when it’s raining, Doolin Cave is a great shout!
Walk through 1,500 years of history at Craggaunowen with relics dating back to the Bronze and Iron Ages.
This Living Museum includes pleasant wooded pathways, ponds, marshes, agricultural fields and forests with points of interest to surprise you around every bend.
As you explore the park, costumed staff will provide details of life in those times. The trail passes a small stone castle (fortified tower house) and recreated thatched dwellings on a manmade island.
11. See Moher from the ocean
Don’t let that ropey jacket I’m wearing in the photo above distract from the fact that the Cliffs of Moher boat tours (affiliate link) really are one of the most unique things to do in Clare.
They leave from Doolin Pier and sail out for around 20 minutes. You’ll be treated to views of Moher from afar before the boat bobs closer to the cliff face.
You’ll then sail alongside the cliffs while getting a very different perspective on their sheer size from the choppy waters below.
What to do in Clare if you fancy an active break
If you’re wondering what to do in Clare that’ll give your legs a big aul stretch, you’re in luck – County Clare is home to a fine variety of hikes, ranging from handy to hard.
From some of the county’s most breath-taking coastline to some lesser known hills and peaks, there’s a walk to suit every level of fitness in the guide below.
1. Walk the Burren Way
The Burren Way is a long-distance, 5-day walking trail that’ll take you through some of the most unspoiled landscape in Clare.
This walk covers an impressive 114 km, taking in stunning scenery and no shortage of amazing Clare attractions.
On average, it’ll take 5 days to complete the full Burren Way walk. Here’s a guide that breaks down each stage.
2. Or try one of the shorter Burren Walks
If the Burren Way is too long of a ramble for you, you’re in luck – there are several other brilliant Burren walks you can try.
The walks, as you’ll discover in this guide, range in difficulty and length, and each one takes you through a different corner of the Burren.
3. The Doolin Cliff Walk
You can head off on the Doolin Cliff Walk with a local guide or on a solo stroll, with the walk to the Cliffs of Moher from Doolin taking between 2 and 3 hours.
Over the course of the walk, you’ll be treated to stunning coastal views and scenery that many who visit Moher miss.
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Clare where you’ll you’ll dodge the crowds, this is well worth doing (it’ll be quietish until you approach the visitor centre).
4. The Kilkee Cliff Walk
Walkers will enjoy the breathtaking scenery on the circular Kilkee Cliff Walk that starts at the Diamond Rocks Café.
There’s a long and short walk, as you’ll discover in this guide, and the entire trail should take you between 2 and 3 hours to conquer, depending on pace.
5. Take a ferry to the Aran Islands and rent a bike
OK, so, the Aran Islands are in Galway, but they’re easily accessed via a ferry from Doolin Pier, which is why we’re including them here.
Or, you can explore each of the islands on foot, if you like. Each island is home to a wealth of history and plenty to see and do.
6. Give surfing a crack
If you’re looking for things to do in Clare with a group of friends, book a night in one of the many hotels in Lahinch. If you fancy hitting the waves, there are few places as suited as this lively little town.
Lahinch has a mile-long sandy beach and has earned a reputation as a top surf centre as well as being popular for sea kayaking and kitesurfing.
The wild wind-lashed landscape makes a dramatic backdrop to the incredible waves making it a top spot for surfers looking for a challenge. There’s also plenty of pubs and restaurants in Lahinch to kick-back in after a long day in the water.
More popular tourist attractions in Clare
The final section of our guide on what to do in Clare tackles some more tourist favourites, like Bunratty Castle and Poulnabrone Dolmen.
You’ll also find some of the more unique tourist favourites, like sheepdog demonstrations (these are well worth seeing) and more.
1. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
A visit to Bunratty Castle is one of the most popular things to do in Shannon. Described as “the most complete authentic castle in Ireland”, Bunratty Castle was built by the MacNamara family in 1475 on a former Viking encampment.
From 1804, the castle was uninhabited until Viscount Gort bought and restored it. Now filled with medieval furnishings and artworks, it hosts banquets every night at 5.30 p.m. and 8.45 p.m.
The surrounding Folk Park covers 26 acres and has 30 reconstructed historic buildings in a “living village” setting. Stroll down the street and experience 19th-century Irish life for yourself and don’t miss the stunning walled gardens at Bunratty House.
2. Poulnabrone Dolmen (one of the best-know Clare attractions)
Poulnabrone Dolmen is one of the most iconic places to visit in Clare. This is the oldest megalithic monument in Ireland and, as the second most-visited site in the Burren after the Cliffs of Moher, it has a fascinating allure.
This portal tomb has two massive stones erected at the entrance supporting a sloping capstone which would have been sourced from the surrounding limestone pavement.
The chamber had the remains of 21 people dating back over 5,800 years along with a decorated neck pendant.
3. Ennis Friary
The wonderful Ennis Friary in, unsurprisingly enough, the little town of Ennis was built by Franciscan monks in the late 13th century.
Take a guided tour and marvel at the numerous limestone carvings including a carving of St Francis and the MacMahon tomb (1470AD), the decorative east window in the chancel and Gothic windows in the transept.
In its heyday, it would have housed 300 Friars and 600 students and was an important centre of learning in Europe. Those that visit will learn why it closed in the 1690s and what replaced it.
Nearby Quin Abbey is also worth visiting. If you fancy visiting Ennis, you’ll find these guides useful:
- 11 of the best things to do in Ennis
- 12 brilliant restaurants in Ennis
- 12 of our favourite pubs in Ennis
- 8 of the best B&Bs and hotels in Ennis
4. Caherconnell Stone Fort and Sheepdog Demonstrations
Experience one of the more unique things to do in Clare by watching Border collies rounding up sheep at Caherconnell Stone Fort.
Just one km from Poulnabrone Dolmen, this remarkably preserved ringfort (Caher means stone fort) was once a defensive settlement to protect the inhabitants from wild animals or even raiders.
Common between 400-1200AD, Caherconnell Fort appears to have been rebuilt in the 15th-16th century. It is 40m in diameter with walls up to four metres thick. Learn more from the audio-visual presentation in the Visitor Centre.
County Clare points of interest: Where have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that there’s plenty of places to visit in Clare that we’ve unintentionally missed in the guide above.
If there’s something that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments section below and we’ll check it out!
FAQs about the best things to do in Clare
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what are the best things to do in Clare if you only have a day to where to go to dodge the crowds.
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 most unique places to visit in Clare?
I’d argue the the most unique places to go in Clare are Doonagore Castle (the story behind it is dark), the Doolin Cave and the Bridges of Ross.
What are the best things to do in Clare for an active break?
If you fancy an active break, some of the best things to do in Clare are to try one of the many Burren or coastal walks or to tackle the 5-day Burren Way.
What Clare attractions are the most impressive?
The Cliffs of Moher tend to be one of the places to visit in Clare that impress people the most, however the Kilkee Cliffs and the cliffs at Kilbaha are incredibly impressive, too.
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.