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 and lesser-known points of interest.
You’ll 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
Located on the West Coast of Ireland northwest of Limerick, Clare is Ireland’s 7th largest county by area.
Bordered to the south by the Shannon, Ireland’s longest river, it encompasses the extraordinary karst area known as The Burren which you will definitely not want to miss.
With so many tempting things to do in Clare, what are you waiting for?! Go on – dive on in below and start exploring!
Natural Attractions in Co. Clare
1. 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, 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.
Traveller tip: There’s a brilliant drive from Doolin to Kinvarra (or vice versa) that takes in a little chunk of the Burren’s beauty (aim for Fanore and then Ballyvaughan) – it’s the perfect drive for a rainy day!
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 pummelling 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 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 marvelled 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.
Related read: Check out our guide to 17 of the best things to do in Doolin (caves, chocolate, buzzy pubs and more).
4. The Cliffs of Moher
Marking a Signature Discovery Point on the Wild Atlantic Way, the Cliffs of Moher are a geological wonder with awesome views from their lofty elevation.
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!).
5. The Doolin Cliff Walk
Take the Doolin Cliff Walk with a local guide and combine fresh air and amazing sea views with tales of history as you head to the Cliffs of Moher.
Starting at 10 a.m. from O’Connors Pub on Fisher Street, you’ll walk over farmland to Doonagore Castle and pick up the clifftop gravel track to the famous cliffs and O’Brien’s’ Tower.
Finish at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre for craft shops, refreshments and public transport back to Doolin. The views, information and storytelling are well worth the €10 fee.
6. The Ailwee Cave
In the heart of the Burren GeoPark, the Ailwee Cave is one of the oldest in the area, estimated at being formed over a million years ago.
Discovered by a farmer in 1940, it was only mapped and explored in 1977. 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.
7. 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.
Related read: Discover move places to hit the waves in our guide to the best places to go surfing in Ireland.
8. Kilkee Cliff Walk
Walkers will enjoy the breathtaking scenery on the circular Kilkee Cliff Walk that starts at the Diamond Rocks Café.
Pass the sparkling quartz rocks that gave Diamond Rocks its name, along with Pollock Holes and a natural stone amphitheatre as you head to Intrinsic Bay, named after a shipwreck here in 1836.
There’s a short incline as the path turns inland. Turn left and return to Kilkee town for a scenic 5km walk.
9. Loop Head Lighthouse and the Kilbaha Cliffs
Where better to start your tour of Co. Clare than Loop Head Lighthouse? Perched on the tip of the peninsula overlooking the Shannon Estuary, it’s a fantastic spot to see whales and dolphins.
Dating back to 1854, the lighthouse is now automated. The former Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage houses an interesting museum and you can climb to the balcony of the lighthouse, weather permitting, and enjoy views to the Blasket Islands and Connemara’s Twelve Pins.
The neighbouring Kilbaha Cliffs are a natural haven for colonies of seabirds. You may not see them but you will definitely hear their cacophony of noise!
Manmade Attractions in Clare
10. Doonagore Castle
Doonagore Castle is a famous landmark with its 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.
11. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
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.
Related read: Check out our guide to 17 of the best things to do in Shannon Ireland in 2020.
12. Poulnabrone Dolmen
Poylnabrone Dolmen is the oldest megalithic monument in Ireland. 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.
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.
14. Knappogue Castle
Another of the top things to do in Clare involves heading for a stroll around Knappogue Castle.
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!
15. 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.
Related read: Check out our guide to 11 of the best things to do in Ennis (historical sites, great places to eat and more).
Top Experiences and Things to Do in Clare
16. Surfing in Lahinch
If you’re looking for things to do in Clare with a group of friends, book a night 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.
17. Pints and live music in Doolin Village
They say that Co. Clare is the most musical county in Ireland, and the village of Doolin has become a mecca for those in search of traditional Irish music.
For a unique musical experience head to Doolin Music House, home of Christy Barry and his partner Sheila.
Gather round the fire for an evening of music, singing, questions and history. Pubs like McDermott’s and O’Connor’s also host live sessions during the week and at the weekend.
18. Take a ferry to Inis Oirr
Now, the next place on our list is in County Galway, but we’re popping it in as you can reach it on a ferry from Doolin Pier.
Inis Oirr is the smallest of the Aran Islands and you can reach it in just 15 minutes if you take the newly launched Doolin Express.
When you arrive, rent a bike near the pier and head off on a trip around the island. You’ll discover everything from an old shipwreck (the Plassey) to many an ancient site.
There are three pubs and numerous cafes for refreshments. Some of the return journey sails below the Cliffs of Moher (check in advance of booking your ticket).
19. 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 visit the house for afternoon tea and for info on the tours in our guide to visiting Father Ted’s House.
20. Spend the night somewhere swanky
Everyone deserves a treat, so book a night at the spectacular Armada Hotel overlooking the restless Atlantic Ocean in West Clare.
From ocean view rooms showcasing Irish furnishings and local seascapes to glamping suites in a luxury tent with king-size bed and ensuite bathroom, there’s something for every budget.
Foodies will appreciate the luscious menu featuring sustainably sourced meats, vegetables, oysters, crab, smoked salmon and beers all sourced within Co. Clare.
Don’t miss the signature chowder served at Johnny Burke’s pub and the chocolate bomb in the Pearl Restaurant.
Traveller tip: If you’re there on a Sunday, make sure to take part in ‘Snamha Sasta’. It’s a group swim that features music, dancing and plenty of laughs.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. Spend a weekend in the buzzy little town of Ennistymon
Ennistymon makes a great base for exploring all the places we have featured above in our whirlwind tour of things to do in Clare.
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.
What places to visit in Clare have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that there are plenty of other places to visit in Clare that we’ve missed in the guide above.
If you’ve somewhere to recommend, let us know in the comments section below!