So, you’re planning a trip and you’re in search of worthwhile things to do in Shannon, Ireland.
Or maybe you’re there now and bored off of your head and wondering what to do…
In the guide below, you’ll find a heap of interesting and adventurous things to do in Shannon in 2021 (it’s home to a couple of the best things to do in Clare).
We’ve also thrown in a load of places to visit nearby (within reasonable driving distance). So, dive on in!
Table of Contents
Our favourite things to do in Shannon, Ireland (and nearby)
The first section of our guide to Shannon, County Clare revolves around the best things to do IN Shannon and a couple of places to visit near Shannon Town.
Later in the guide you’ll find heaps of places to visit a stone’s throw from the town, which will suit those of you spending the night.
1. Visit Bunratty Castle
Robert De Muscegros built the first defensive fortress on the site in 1250. The current castle is one of the most impressive medieval fortresses that you’ll find in Ireland.
It was built in 1425 and then restored to its former glory in 1954. Visitors to the castle can admire the building from the outside before having a peek at many 15th and 16th century furnishings, works of art, and tapestries inside.
A visit to Bunratty is widely regarded as one of the best things to do in Shannon, Ireland for good reason – the set-up here is incredible!
2. Ramble around Bunratty Folk Park
The Bunratty Folk Park is a 19th-century reconstruction of the homes and the environment found during Ireland of old.
Bunratty Folk Park is set on 26 acres and features 30+ buildings, ranging from rural farmhouses and village shops to streets and thatched houses.
The Folk Park has recreated and furnished each building on-site as they would have looked over a century ago.
Visitors can experience everything from the type of dwellings that were occupied by the poor at the time to a Georgian residence built for the last family that occupied Bunratty Castle.
3. Grab a bit of lunch in the cosy Gallagher’s of Bunratty
If you’re visiting Shannon in Clare and you fancy a fine feed, get yourself down to Gallagher’s Seafood Restaurant in Bunratty.
This is an award-winning seafood restaurant set inside a gorgeous thatched building that boasts proper old world charm. I’d happily sit perched beside the stove in the photo above for hours on end.
Gallagher’s offer a wide range of locally sourced fish, meat and veg, and the hundreds of top-notch reviews online speak for themselves.
4. Have a ramble around Adare (25 minutes away)
You’ll find the gorgeous little Heritage Town of Adare on the banks of the River Maigue in Limerick.
This town is a joy to saunter through. It can be a pain to drive through, though, as the traffic tends to be a nightmare (every time I visit, anyway!)
Adare is home to a number of gorgeous thatch buildings that give the town a mighty bit of character. Park up, grab a coffee and soak up this gorgeous little village on a ramble.
5. Visit the historic town of Ennis (20 minutes away)
The lively town of Ennis tends to get missed by many of those that visit Shannon, which is a shame, as there are plenty of things to do in Ennis.
6. The Loop Head Peninsula (22 minutes away)
So, you’ll arrive on the Loop Head Peninsula around 22 minutes or so after you leave Shannon Town, but it’ll take you a good 1.5 hours to reach the cliffs seen above.
However, the Loop Head Peninsula is a must visit if you’re wondering what to do in Shannon, Ireland / nearby that’ll treat you to some of Clare’s wildest landscape.
More things to do in Shannon Town and beyond
No that we have our favourite things to do in Shannon, Ireland / places to see nearby out of the way, it’s time to see what else there is to do nearby.
Below, you’ll find everything from things to do in Shannon Town to places to visit on Clare’s coast that pack a punch and a half!
1. Test your nerve at Atlantic Air Adventures
If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to hop inside a jet airliner and take it for a spin, this should tickle your fancy.
Visitors to the Atlantic AirVenture Aviation Centre in Shannon can try their hand at taming a full-scale Boeing 737-80. There’s also an interactive Aviation Museum and Aviation Education Centre on-site.
If you’re wondering what to do in Shannon, Ireland when it’s raining, get yourself here. You’ll keep your head dry and mind occupied for a couple of hours.
2. Explore Limerick City (20 minutes away)
Next on our list of things to do near Shannon Town is Limerick City. It was founded by the Vikings on the banks of Ireland’s longest river in 922AD.
It’s home to plenty of things to do, a heap of great restaurants and pubs, and a vibrant cultural and music scene.
The fact that it’s a handy, 20-minute spin from Shannon means that you could easily get up early, have breakfast in the city and then head for a ramble around.
3. Nurse a pint in the original Durty Nellies
No good guide comes complete without a solid pub recommendation. You’ll find the original Durty Nelly’s next door to Bunratty Castle, where they’ve been for just under 400 years.
Those that nip in here for a pint or a glass of whiskey (or a tea!) can expect to find a cosy old-school pub that’s the perfect spot for a post-adventure pint and bite to eat.
A visit here is a fine way to round-off a visit to the castle and the Folk Park and the food is reputed to be top-notch!
4. Explore the historic King John’s Castle (20 minutes away)
Although many of those in search of what to do in Shannon, Ireland tend to flock to Bunratty Castle, many overlook another nearby castle that’s just as impressive.
King John’s Castle in Limerick is another of Ireland’s well-known medieval castles. This castle boasts over 800 years of history and can be found at the centre of King’s Island in the city.
A visit to King John’s Castle will immerse you in its rich history via interpretive activities and exhibitions, 21st-century touch screen technology, 3D models and plenty more.
5. Nip inside the 850-year-old St Mary’s Cathedral (23 minutes away)
Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick was founded over 850 years ago. This beautiful old building stands proudly over the City of Limerick on the banks of the Shannon.
It’s believed that St. Mary’s was built on the site of a Viking meeting place. This extraordinary building has stood strong through invasions, sieges, battles, wars, famines and times of peace.
6. Visit the beautiful town of Killaloe (37 minutes away)
A visit to the gorgeous little town of Killaloe (a handy, 37-minute drive away from Shannon Town) is a great way to spend an afternoon if you’re staying in Shannon.
This picturesque little village is a joy to stroll around – when you arrive, park up near Gooser’s pub and walk down the hill, through the village and over to the grassy area near the water.
You can join a river cruise here, if you like – there’s plenty of other things to do in Killaloe while you’re there, too!
7. Explore the Burren (38 minutes away)
The Burren is home to over 70% of Ireland’s flower species and the rocks that make up the Burren were formed between 359 and 299 million years ago.
If you fancy exploring it, you can do so on one of the Burren walks. Here are some places to look out for:
- Poulnabrone Dolmen
- Fanore Beach
- Aillwee Caves
- The Aran Islands (Inis Oirr, Inis Mor and Inis Meain – you need to take a ferry from Doolin to get to these)
8. Have a nosey at Doonagore Castle (55 minutes away)
The iconic Doonagore Castle in Doolin is like something whipped straight from a fairytale. You’ll find it plonked on a hill that overlooks the beautiful Aran Islands.
The castle dates back to the 16th century and while you can’t go inside, it’s worth visiting to admire it from the outside and from afar.
9. See the Cliffs of Moher on the Doolin Cliff Walk (55 minutes away)
If you’re looking for adventurous things to do in Shannon / nearby, get yourself out and on the Doolin Cliff walk.
This is a nice, unique and active way to see the Cliffs of Moher and it takes around 2.5 to 3 hours to do. You’ll dodge the crowds for most of the walk and the coastal views are magnificent.
You’ll finish your walk at the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre where you can grab a shuttle bus back to the town (check times in advance).
10. Drop by Father Ted’s House (42 minutes away)
If you’re reading this and wondering what Father Ted’s House even is, get yourself on YouTube and work your way through some clips.
Now, if you’re really organised and fancy having a look inside, you can book into one of the tours here in advance.
There’s a whole load of nostalgia tied to this old house for many people in Ireland. Make sure to watch some of the series before you visit.
11. Head for a ramble along Kilkee Beach (70 minutes away)
The big aul Kilkee Beach is crescent-shaped and it sits at the end of a sheltered bay on the magnificent Clare coastline.
If you’re looking to stretch the legs, head off on the Kilkee Cliff Walk, which offers walkers some spectacular views of the coastline.
It’s worth noting that if you visit Kilkee during the winter months, you’ll find many places closed. Make sure to pack some snacks with you if you’re planning on visiting.
12. Try your hand at surfing in Lahinch
One of the best things to do near Shannon involves climbing on top of a board and braving the chilly Atlantic Ocean at Lahinch Beach.
Now, if you’ve never surfed, don’t worry – if you visit John McCarthy’s Surf School you can join one of the 2-hour beginner sessions.
If you don’t fancy hitting the water, there are plenty of other things to do in Lahinch to keep you busy (and dry!).
13. Visit Doolin Cave (57 minutes away)
The final tourist attraction on our list is the Doolin Cave in, unsurprisingly, Doolin! The Doolin Cave is home to the largest free-hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere.
The tour here packs a punch and takes visitors to the natural entrance of the cave, along a stream sink at the base of a cliff face, and through the main chamber where a guide turns on a light to illuminate the Great Stalactite.
Some quick need-to-knows if you plan on visiting Shannon, Ireland
Although a visit to Shannon is fairly straightforward (especially if you’re flying into Shannon Airport…), there’s a few need-to-knows.
Where is Shannon located?
Situated on the mighty River Shannon, the town of Shannon is the second largest in Clare, and while it’s mainly known for its International Airport, there’s plenty more to this place (as you’ll discover below).
The biggest draw that Shannon has is its location. It’s a fine base for exploring Clare and Limerick and it’s close to an almost never-ending number of places to visit nearby.
Shannon Town (not city…)
Shannon was the first of Ireland’s ‘planned’ towns, and was developed during the 1960s. We get a fair few emails from people visiting from the states asking about ‘Shannon City’ and ‘Downtown Shannon’.
There is no city in Shannon, but there is a town, and it’s a bit of a weird one. I drove into it a few years back, en route to Limerick, and it confused the shite out of me, to put it bluntly.
There’s no real centre to Shannon Town (the SkyCourt shopping centre is arguably it) and the town’s streets feel very un-town-like, in comparison to other towns in Ireland.
What to do in Shannon: Where have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant things to do in Shannon Town and beyond in the guide above.
If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
Frequently asked questions about what to do in Shannon, Ireland
We get a fair few emails from tourists planning an Ireland itinerary. One of the towns that we’re most frequently asked about, interestingly enough, is Shannon.
The queries tend to come from Americans that are trying to decide whether to fly into Dublin or Shannon Airport. I’ve popped in the most FAQs below.
Are there many things to do in Shannon?
So, there isn’t a huge amount of things to do in the town itself. To be honest, the biggest draw Shannon Town has is that it’s close to the airport and a stone’s throw from many things to see and do.
Is Shannon worth visiting?
Personally, I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit the town. There are other places (Ennis, Limerick City, etc) that are a nicer base to explore this corner of Clare from, in my opinion.
Is Shannon a town?
Yes, it’s a town – not a city! It was given town status in 1982.
What is there to do near Shannon, Ireland?
There’s an endless number of places to visit near Shannon Town, from Loop Head and Limerick to Killaloe, Ennis and more (see above).