A couple of weeks back I took a spin out to County Clare for a two-day road trip around a place that’s been the focal point of wanderlust for many a traveler the world over, myself included.
I can appreciate why.
I’ve visited Clare a handful of times over the years but it never fails to amaze. The trips never get old or repetitive. Most importantly – it always succeeds in leaving a lasting happy memory.
As if a couple of days out of the office, roaming around a county packed with natural beauty wasn’t enough to look forward to, Clare is also home to one of my favourite villages in the country – Doolin.
Perfectly positioned for many of the West Coasts most sought-after tourist attractions, Doolin offers the perfect cocktail of convenience mixed with traditional-Irish-country-lifestyle in one glorious mouthful.
If you’re planning a visit, here’s 7 things to do in Doolin that’ll arguably make you never want to leave this gorgeous little village.
1 – Get sorted with a place to rest your head
I never write about hotels or hostels. This isn’t that kind of travel website (not yet, anyway). The reason I’m mentioning it here is because my biggest regret from my last trip to Doolin was not getting a room there for the night.
I was stuck for time and was only raging that I’d miss out on an evening of wandering between the cosy little pubs scattered across the village.
Tip: if you stay near Fisher street (pictured above) in the winter months when darkness hits at around 17:00, you’ll be unable to walk safely to the pubs further down the road as there’s no footpath, and the roads are poorly lit (accurate at the time of writing).
You can just tell that once the live music kicks off, the place is absolutely hopping.
Honestly, grab a room for a night and soak up everything on offer! Anyway, you’ll be wrecked after finishing the rest of the activities below that’ll you’ll be glad of a place to catch a decent kip.
2 – Take the Doolin Ferry out to Inis Oírr (Inisheer)
I hate boats. No, really. I absolutely hate them. With a passion.
It could be down to movies like JAWS and the Perfect Storm, but it’s probably more likely due to the fact that I get seasick at the drop of a hat.
As you can imagine, getting me onto a ferry in the choppy Atlantic Ocean was no easy feat, but it was worth it. So if you get seasick, don’t let it put you off.
Doolin Ferry provides a boat to Inis Oírr from the village pier and it’s worth every penny.
The trip to the island takes just 30 minutes but when you arrive you’ll reach a slab of rural paradise off Ireland’s West Coast.
Rent a bike for a tenner and cycle along the narrow country roads, surrounded by hand-built stone walls that separate the different fields on the island. It’s like taking a step back in time.
I can’t even begin to recommend this enough.
Finish off your trip with a creamy pint of Guinness in the pub near the pier.
3 – Check out Moher on the Doolin cliff walk
If you’re staying in Doolin then the chances are you plan on wandering over to the Cliffs of Moher. If it wasn’t on your itinerary then get it jotted down sharpish!
The Doolin cliff walk is a unique and active way to experience the Cliffs of Moher and is run by local expert Pat Sweeney.
The walk kicks off early in the morning from Fisher Street in Doolin, just outside O’Connors Pub.
A handy walk if you’re staying in the village. If you have the car, there’s some limited parking just outside the pub but there are many more spaces down at the pier.
The walk takes adventurers towards Doonagore Castle and up to the walking trail along the Cliffs of Moher. As you walk, you’ll be greeted with spectacular views of the cliffs as they rise up into view in the distance.
If you can manage to tear your eyes away from the scenery along the route, Pat will take you through the history of the area, recounting memorable stories, myths and past memories.
If you plan on visiting the cliffs without the guide, they’re only a stones throw from the village with the journey only around 15 minutes in length by car.
4 – Mosey on down to the Doolin Cave
After a long walk along the cliffs, a trip to the Doolin Cave is a perfect follow up.
Armed with a roomy cafe out front, you can grab a coffee and a cake before you kick off the tour.
The Doolin Cave is home to the largest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. Known as ‘The Great Stalactite’, it hangs from the ceiling like some giant cone-shaped chandelier.
Particularly mesmerising when you think it formed from a single drop of water many years ago.
Located in the Burren region in County Clare, the cave was formed around 350 million years ago but was actually only discovered in 1952.
The most recently opened show cave in Ireland, it opened to visitors in 2010 and now boasts a popular visitor center.
The tour itself packs a punch, taking visitors to the natural entrance of the cave, a stream sink at the base of a cliff face, through the main chamber where a guide turns on a light to illuminate the Great Stalactite.
Definitely worth a visit!
5 – Sample some of the best chocolate in the land
I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, but the stuff this place is churning out is just stupidly tasty. Known as the Doolin Chocolate Shop, it’s actually a sister company of Wilde Irish Chocolates where they’ve been perfecting their craft since 1997.
These guys create over 80 different chocolates out of a small artisan chocolate factory. We went for the white chocolate Oreo merengue. It tasted even better than it sounds.
6 – Cruise beneath the cliffs
One of the tours you can choose with Doolin Ferry involves cruising beneath the Cliffs of Moher on the return journey from Inis Oírr.
I’ve been to the cliffs twice before and loved each visit, but this is just a whole other ball game.
You get surprisingly close to the cliff face, and it’s only when you approach from below that you truly appreciate the sight of the 700 foot cliff that’s towering above you.
Couple the view with the fact that you’re on a relatively small boat that’s swaying side-to-side thanks to the rough Atlantic Ocean and you’ve an incredible experience, just waiting to be seized.
If you’ve got the time, I’d 100% recommend doing the Inis Oírr/Cliffs of Moher Ferry tour. You take a spin out to Inis Oírr on the ferry, spend a couple of hours on the island and then take a trip back along the cliffs.
7 – Grab a pint and some beef and Guinness stew in Gus O’Conners
After a ramble along the cliffs or a trip to Inis Oírr, the chances are you’ll be tired, hungry and probably cold/wet.
Gus O’Conners pub is the perfect spot to recharge the batteries.