17 Things To Do In Shannon, Ireland: A Locals 2020 Guide

What to do in Shannon and where to visit nearby

things to do in shannon ireland
Photo by Chris Hill

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 2020 (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) at the end of this guide. 

You’ll allllllllso find advice on where to grab a tasty bite to eat along with recommendations on cosy pubs to visit for a post-adventure pint.

A speedy intro to Shannon, County Clare

where is shannon Ireland

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).

Shannon Airport

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.

There’s easy access into Shannon via the international airport, as around 1,864,762 passengers discovered in 2018.

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.

5 things to do in Shannon, Ireland in 2020

The first section of our guide to Shannon, County Clare revolves around the best things to do IN Shannon.

There are a lot of guides online that list the Cliffs of Moher and many other notable places as ‘Shannon Ireland tourist attractions’, and this isn’t correct.

The first section of this guide solely contains places to visit in Shannon (the second section is packed with places to visit nearby).

1. Visit Bunratty Castle

things to do in shannon ireland
Photo by Chris Hill

Bunratty Castle (yes, this is the ‘Shannon Castle’) is one of the most well known medieval castles in Ireland. 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.

2. Ramble around the Bunratty Folk Park

bunratty folk park
Photo by Chris Hill

The Bunratty Folk Park is a 19th-century reconstruction of the homes and the environment found during Ireland of old.

The 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

gallaghers restaurant bunratty
Photo via Gallagher’s

If you’re visiting Shannon in County 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. Test your nerve at Atlantic Air Adventures

Atlantic Air Shannon
Photo via 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 when it’s raining, get yourself here. You’ll keep your head dry and mind occupied for a couple of hours.

5. Nurse a pint in the original Durty Nellies

Durty Nellys Shannon
Photo via Durty Nellys

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.

Things to do near Shannon, Ireland

Section two is dedicated to those of you in search of worthwhile things to do near Shannon. If you’ve made Shannon your base, or if you’re living there and in search of things to do, this is for you.

I’ve included drive times on each of the tourist attractions below along with public transport options. 

1. Explore Limerick City

things to do near shannon Ireland
Photo by Failte Ireland via Ireland’s Content Pool

Top of our list of things to do near Shannon is Limerick City. It was founded by the Vikings on the banks of Ireland’s longest river in 922AD.

It’ home to plenty of things to do, a heap of great restaurants and pubs, and a vibrant cultural and music scene.

  • Driving time from Shannon: 25 minutes
  • Public transport: Hop on the 343 Bus Eireann to Limerick

2. Explore the historic King John’s Castle

king johns castle
Photo by Shannon Development

King John’s Castle in Limerick is another of Ireland’s impressive 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.

  • Driving time: 22 minutes
  • Public transport: Hop on the 343 Bus Eireann to Limerick

3. Have a ramble around Adare

adare village limerick
Photo by Patryk Kosmider (Shutterstock)

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’s 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.

  • Driving time: 27 minutes
  • Public transport: Hop on the 343 Bus Eireann

4. Nip inside the 850-year-old St Mary’s Cathedral

st mary's cathedral limerick
Photo by Brian Morrison

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.

  • Driving time: 24 minutes
  • Public transport: Hop on the 343 Bus Eireann

5. The cliffs at Loop Head

kilbaha cliffs loop head
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

As you’ve probably gathered, many of the best things to do in Shannon lay a bit outside Shannon Town. In this case, it’s a fair bit outside of the town…

Next up are the cliffs at Kilbaha near the towering Loop Head Lighthouse. I’ve been here 7 or 8 times over the years and one thing, aside from their sheer beauty, strikes me every time – how the f*ck do so few people visit them?!

On each of my visits, there has been no more than 5 other people here with me. Which makes you feel like you’ve stumbled upon one of Ireland’s many hidden gems.

  • Driving time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Public transport: None

6. Have a nosey at Doonagore Castle

Doonagore Castle
Photo by shutterupeire (shutterstock)

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.

  • Driving time: 58 minutes
  • Public transport: Take the 343 bus to Doolin and then walk 9 minutes

7. See the Cliffs of Moher on the Doolin Cliff Walk

the doolin cliff walk
The Doolin Cliff Walk: Photo by Chris Hill

If you’re looking for adventurous things to do in Shannon, get yourself out and on the Doolin cliff walk.

It’s a brilliantly unique and active way to see the Cliffs of Moher and lasts for 3 hours and costs just €10. Not bad at all.

  • Driving time: 57 minutes
  • Public transport: Take the 343 bus

8. Drop by Father Ted’s House

father ted's house county clare
Father Ted’s House, County Clare: Photo by Ben Riordan

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.

  • Driving time: 42 minutes
  • Public transport: None

9. Head for a ramble along Kilkee Beach

Kilkee beach
Photo by Valerie O’Sullivan via Failte Ireland

The big aul beach at Kilkee 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.

  • Driving time: 60 minutes
  • Public transport: Take the 343 bus

10. Try your hand at surfing in Lahinch

surfing on lahinch
Photo by Brian Morrison via Tourism Ireland

One of the best things to do near Shannon involves climbing on top of a board and braving the chilly Atlantic Ocean.

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.

  • Driving time: 44 minutes from Shannon, Ireland
  • Public transport: 350 bus to Ennis then the 343 to Lahinch

11. Visit Doolin Cave

the doolin cave
Photo by Johannes Rigg (Shutterstock)

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.

  • Driving time: 58 minutes
  • Public transport: 343 bus to Doolin then an 8-minute walk

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 frequently asked questions in the hope that it helps some of you out. Have a question about visiting Shannon, County Clare? Pop it into the comments section below!

Can you recommend any things to do in Shannon, Ireland, that’ll be suitable for my elderly parents? 

The banquet in Bunratty Castle is a solid option for those of you wondering what to do in Shannon, Ireland with less mobile travellers.

The banquet, which takes place inside the fortress, treats visitors to a unique experience with a four-course meal with entertainment from the world-famous Bunratty Castle Singers.

What county is Shannon, Ireland in?

Shannon is located in County Clare. It’s a stone’s throw from Limerick, which makes it the perfect base for exploring both counties.

Where is the castle in Shannon?

When you hear people (tourists) refer to the ‘Castle in Shannon’, they’re referring to Bunratty. You can find it just off the N18 Limerick/Ennis Road, a handy 10 minutes drive from Shannon Airport.

Have you visited Shannon, County Clare recently? Have we missed anything? Let me know in the comments below!

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

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