If you’re in search of the best things to do in Killaloe in Clare, you’ve landed in the right place.
Set on the banks of the River Shannon in County Clare, Killaloe is a gorgeous waterside village that’s well worth visiting.
Best known as the birthplace of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland circa 940-1014 AD, Killaloe was the capital of Ireland during his reign!
With its historic 13-arch bridge, Killaloe is one of Ireland’s prettiest towns and there’s lots going on. See what you think…
In the guide below, you’ll discover a clatter of different things to do in Killaloe, along with loads of places to visit nearby.
Our favourite things to do in Killaloe in Clare
The first section of this guide tackles our favourite things to do in Killaloe, from walks and coffee to boat tours and more
Later in the guide, you’ll find loads of things to do near Killaloe (this is a great base in Clare to explore from).
1. Grab a coffee and explore the village on foot
Put your best foot forward and explore the waterfront town of Killaloe on foot. Coffee in hand, stroll down to the river and admire the 13 arches of the stone bridge. Take a deep breath of fresh air and drink in the rich historic past of this once royal “city”.
Follow the 4.5km Historic Town Trail which has 9 waypoints of the main sights. You can’t miss the imposing Cathedral, Courthouse and Well of Murrough, but there’s another gem at the top of Main Street – St Lua’s Oratory which was relocated from Friar’s Island as part of the Hydro-Electric Scheme.
2. Join one of the Killaloe River Cruises
The river cruises are arguably one of the most popular things to do in Killaloe, and for good reason! Seeing Killaloe from the river is a great way to admire this lovely town.
Forget hard plastic seats or damp benches, the Spirit of Killaloe has an open upper deck and an enclosed salon with plush seating, bar tables and cushioned stools.
It’s the perfect place to relax with a drink from the bar as the scenery glides gently past the window. The smaller Spirit of Lough Derg operates scheduled cruises on demand.
Related read: Check out our guide to the best hotels in Killaloe (with something to suit most budgets)
3. Then grab a bite to eat with a view
There are several brilliant restaurants in Killaloe that’ll make your belly happy. For food with a view, head to Flanagan’s on the Lake, an award-winning gastro pub with excellent food, outdoor seating and superb lake views.
The Boathouse is another lovely spot with a stunning riverside setting within the Anna Carriga Estate. The Cherry Tree Restaurant is a popular waterside venue with an excellent menu which offers great value.
It’s listed in the McKenna 100 Best Restaurants Guide and is Michelin listed to boot. For more casual dining, Molly’s Bar and Restaurant on the Ballina side of the bridge has a restaurant, sports bar and balcony with the best river views.
4. Rent a bicycle and head off on the Lough Derg Cycleway
If you’re after active things to do in Killaloe in Clare, this should tickle your fancy. You can discover Killaloe on two wheels as the town has numerous bike routes and bicycle hire shops to choose from.
Triathlon enthusiasts might want to tackle the gruelling 132km Ring of Lough Derg Cycleway, but most people just enjoy a local ride, passing picturesque villages in the three different counties of Clare, Galway and Tipperary.
Look for Holy Island (Inis Cealtra) on the lough or head south along the River Shannon to O’Brien’s Bridge and Parteen Weir.
5. Or stretch your legs on the Ballycuggaran Crag Wood Walk
The Ballycuggaran Crag Wood Walk offers incredible views across Lough Derg on a 7km loop walk that includes forested upland. Best views are from the anti-clockwise direction.
Allow 2 hours for the pleasant hike which is mainly along forest roads and tracks. Start this rather strenuous hilly walk at Crag Wood car park just 3km outside Killaloe.
The fabulous lough views, peaceful surroundings and sound of the birds will keep you going through the towering spruce and fir trees. For a longer walk, the trailhead also connects with the East Clare Way.
Other brilliant things to do in Killaloe and nearby
Now that we’ve got our favourite things to do in Killaloe out of the way, it’s time to see what else this town has to offer.
Below, you’ll find everything from the Killaloe Farmer’s Market and the Lough Derg Drive, to much, much more.
1. Spin along the Lough Derg Drive
If you chickened out of the Lough Derg Cycleway, how about circumnavigating the lough by car on scenic winding roads on the brilliant Lough Derg Drive?!
Start from Killaloe and head up the western side of the lough, passing through some of Ireland’s prettiest villages. Pause at the lookout over Holy Island before heading to Tuamgraney and St Cronan’s Church, probably Ireland’s oldest church still in regular use.
Continue to Scariff and Mountshannon Harbour then enter Co. Galway and see Portumna Castle at the head of the lake. The bridge takes you into Co. Tipperary and the thatched village of Puchane, followed by another viewpoint at Portroe and back to Killaloe.
2. Or brave the water at Two Mile Gate (Ballycuggaran Beach)
If you’re brave, mad or a combination of the two, you can take a dip in the chilly Lough Derg at Ballycuggaran Beach aka Two Mile Gate.
It’s a popular spot for a Christmas Day Charity Swim, triathlon events and diving off the pontoons in summer, but you might prefer the outdoor heated swimming pool at Riverside Park in Ballina.
Note: Please only enter the water when 1, you’re capable of doing so safely and 2, when you’re with someone.
3. Soak up some history at the bridge
There’s been a bridge across the River Shannon since 1013 when a wooden construction was in place. In fact, there were a series of wooden bridges prior to the current stone arch bridge which was constructed in the 18th century.
It has 13 arches including a section that lifts, added in 1929. It’s now a protected structure and has one lane controlled by traffic lights.
There’s a plaque marking the partial rebuild in 1825 after seven arches were swept away. Another monument commemorates four men who were shot on the bridge in 1920 during the War of Independence.
4. Then make your belly happy at the farmer’s market
The lively Sunday Farmer’s Market in Killaloe started in 2004 and is now one of the finest farmer’s markets in the area. Stalls set up from 11am to 3pm in an area known as Between-the-Waters, between the river and the canal.
It’s the place to find organic produce, tasty cheeses, fruit, chutney, artisan breads, meats and fresh fish, delicious chocolate, homemade fudge, plants, lotions, arts and crafts.
Need I go on? It’s also a haven for foodies, from passionate bakers to hot dogs, curries, soups and freshly brewed tea and coffee to go.
If you’re looking for things to do in Killaloe after a Saturday night in one of the towns lively pubs, get yourself here for a bite-to-eat.
5. Admire the architecture at St Flannan’s Cathedral
St Flannan’s Cathedral is known for its remarkable stone carved inscriptions. These Norse runes and Celtic Druid ogham symbols date back to 1000AD. This 13th century Gothic cathedral occupies the site of an earlier Romanesque cathedral built by Donal O’Brien in the 1180s.
Along with the inscriptions, the original doorway has been preserved in the south wall. The cathedral has a tower and battlements and interestingly, in the 16th century it passed from Catholic to Protestant control. The church is open daily and tours of the tower are available by appointment.
6. Take a 30-minute spin to Limerick City
If you’re running short of things to do in Killaloe, there’s plenty of things to do in Limerick, from the historic King John’s Castle to museums, galleries and much more.
The city is also home to plenty of great places to eat and pubs, and it’s a short spin away from many other attractions.
7. Or the 32-minute spin to Bunratty Castle
On the shores of Lough Derg, the fabulous Bunratty Castle and Folk Park are an award-winning attraction. This 15th century fortress is the most complete and authentic castle in Ireland.
Take a tour and learn the history of those who lived and defended the castle before exploring the 26-acre Folk Park. It’s home to 30 recreated buildings in a living village setting.
Buildings include rural farmhouses, village shops a one-bedroom cottage and the grand Georgian residence of the Suddarts, the last family to occupy the castle. There’s plenty of things to do in Shannon when you finish, too!
FAQs about the best places to visit in Killaloe
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything for what are the most unique things to do in Killaloe to where to see nearby.
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 Killaloe?
I’d argue that the best things to do in Killaloe are to get up early and ramble around the village with a coffee before it gets busy and then head off on one of the river cruises.
Is Killaloe in Clare worth visiting?
Yes! Killaloe is up there as one of the most beautiful little villages in Ireland. And it’s a great base to explore both Clare and Limerick from.
Are there many things to do near Killaloe?
There are tonnes of things to do near Killaloe. You can explore Limerick City, head off towards the coast in Clare and much, much more!
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.