Most guides on things to do in Shannon, Ireland are lying to you.
They lead you to believe that there are endless attractions in Shannon Town, but that isn’t the case.
In reality, there isn’t a whole lot to do in Shannon itself, however, there’s endless places to visit a short spin away.
In this guide, you’ll discover things to do in Shannon and loads of nearby attractions. Dive on in!
The best things to do in Shannon, Ireland
The first section of our guide to Shannon, County Clare revolves around the best things to do in Shannon and a load 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. Shannon Aviation Museum
As mentioned above, there aren’t many things to do in Shannon, Ireland, but one of the few attractions in the town is the Shannon Aviation Museum.
It’s a 5-minute drive from Shannon Airport and its here that you’ll discover a wealth of information about all things aviation.
There are two main experiences here – the museum and the Discovery Experience. You’ll get decked-out in Top-Gun-Style clothing and take the reins of a virtual aircraft.
If you’re wondering what to do in Shannon, Ireland and you don’t want to venture far from the airport, this is a great option.
Related read: See our guide to the best things to do in Clare in 2023
2. Road trips that start from Shannon Town
If you’re arriving into Shannon Airport or if you’re starting your road trip near Shannon Town, we’ve done all of the hard work for you.
We recently published the largest library of Irish road trip guides available anywhere and one of the start points you can choose is Shannon Town.
Although you can view all of the itineraries here, these are the most popular guides:
Things to do near Shannon Ireland
Now that we have what to do in Shannon, Ireland out of the way, it’s time to see what lies on its doorstop.
While there aren’t many things to do in Shannon itself, the Shannon Town is a stone’s throw from many of the area’s top attractions.
1. Bunratty Castle (10-minute drive)
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. Bunratty Folk Park (10-minute drive)
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. The original Durty Nelly’s (10-minute drive)
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. Knappogue Castle (20-minute drive)
The enchanting 15-century Knappogue Castle is arguably best explored on one of their medieval banquets (which need to be booked).
The banquet is a night of traditional Irish music, dance, and food and it takes place inside the beautifully maintained Knappogue Castle.
During your visit, you’ll be greeted by the Earl’s Butler and taken to the Dalcassian Hall where you’ll watch castle entertainers, sample mead and see the castles many lavish features.
If you’re wondering what to do in Shannon, Ireland that’ll treat you to a very unique experience, a visit to Knappogue Castle is worth considering.
5. Quin Abbey (20-minute drive)
Nearby Quin Abbey sits just outside of Ennis, a stone’s throw from Shannon Town. It’s here that you’ll find impressive ruins.
Quin Abbey was constructed between 1402 and 1433 by Sioda Cam MacNamara for Fathers Purcell and Mooney of the Franciscan order. There was a monastery on this site as far back as 1278.
Those that visit Quin Abbey will be given an insight into medieval monastic life. You can see its impressive cloisters, admire Quin’s intriguing architectural features and see its intricate stone carvings.
6. Ennis Friary (20-minute drive)
The lively town of Ennis tends to get missed by many of those that visit Shannon Town, which is a shame, as there are plenty of things to do in Ennis.
7. Explore Limerick City (30-minute drive)
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.
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.
8. Craggaunowen (30-minute drive)
If you’re visiting Shannon Town and you’re looking to explore some of Ireland’s history, step back in time at nearby Craggaunowen.
This is what’s known as an ‘open-air museum’ and it brings prehistoric and early Christian Ireland to life wonderfully.
Those that visit Craggaunowen can have a nosey at a reconstructed ring fort, wander around an ancient crannog and see what Ireland’s Bronze Age roads were like.
9. Adare (35-minute drive)
You’ll find the gorgeous little Heritage Town of Adare on the banks of the River Maigue in Limerick.
This is one of the more picture-perfect towns in Ireland and it’s 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.
10. The Burren (45-minute drive)
It also boasts 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)
11. Father Ted’s House (45-minute drive)
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.
There’s a whole load of nostalgia tied to this old house for many people in Ireland and beyond.
Unfortunately, the tours here no longer run and there’s no where to park close by. If you’re a fan of the show, it’s worth a visit, but please make sure to never block the road or any gates.
12. Lahinch (50-minute drive)
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. Killaloe (50-minute drive)
A visit to the gorgeous little town of Killaloe (a 50-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!
14. The Kilkee Cliffs (1-hour drive)
Many people looking for things to do in Shannon and nearby head straight for the Cliffs of Moher, not realising that there are some other worthwhile cliffs close by.
Head to see the big aul Kilkee Beach, first – this is a crescent-shaped beach 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.
15. The Cliffs of Moher (1-hour drive)
One of the more popular things to do near Shannon Town is to take the 1-hour drive to the towering Cliffs of Moher.
Attracting over 1-million visitors a year, these cliffs are one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ireland.
They stand at a staggering 702 feet and one of their more notable features is O’Brien’s Tower, which dates to the 19th-century.
You can take a tour of the visitor centre or you can walk straight up the viewing area.
16. Doonagore Castle (1-hour drive)
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.
17. Doolin (1-hour drive)
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).
18. Loop Head’s wonders (1.5-hour drive)
Loop Head Lighthouse is the furthest point on the wild Loop Head Peninsula.
The Loop Head Peninsula is home to everything from its famous lighthouse, the cliffs at Kilbaha, Dolphinwatch Carrigaholt and the very unique Bridges of Ross.
It’s a decent spin to here, but if you’re wondering what to do in Shannon, Ireland / nearby that’ll treat you to some of Clare’s wildest landscape, this place is hard to beat.
Some quick need-to-knows if you plan on visiting Shannon, Ireland
Although a visit to Shannon, Ireland is fairly straightforward (especially if you’re flying into Shannon Airport…), there’s a few need-to-knows.
1. Where is Shannon located?
Situated on the mighty River Shannon, the town of Shannon is the second largest in Clare, and it’s best-known fro its International 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.
3. There’s no Shannon 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 Shannon City, but there is a town, and it’s a bit of a weird one. 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?
No, there aren’t many things to do in Shannon Town itself. 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 or a city?
Despite what some American Travel sites say, there is no Shannon City – it’s a town! It was given town status in 1982.
What are the best things to do near Shannon Town?
Some of the nearest attractions are Bunratty Castle, Craggaunowen, Ennis Friary and Quin Abbey. Slightly further afield is the Burren, Limerick City and Loop Head.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.