The ancient town of Ennis in County Clare is one of Ireland’s most picturesque towns. Its history, combined with its famous narrow streetscapes and character buildings gives it an ambience that confirms to visitors, this is somewhere very special.
The distinctive streetscape of Ennis includes "bow-ways", arched tunnel passageways linking the narrow streets of the county capital. Ennis was the Entente Florale European Gold Medal Winner 2002.
The old town is surrounded by the The River Fergus, which divides and unites again, forming the island – inis in Irish – that gives Ennis its name. Recent years have seen the development of a most delightful riverside walk, with stone sculptures at strategic points and with a great water meadow where geese graze and ducks dabble, as they have done for hundreds of years.
The oldest building is the 13th century friary 13th century friary, roofless for generations, but containing some gems of medieval sculpture, and its history is palpable. The newest building is Glór – Irish Music Centre, a superb auditorium where the best of traditional music and dance is performed on most nights, as well as theatre.
Intimate old shops abound in the narrow streets offering the best of food, crafts and clothing. Next door to these are supermarkets, typifying the success of Ennis in combining the best of traditional and contemporary life.
This village and small port on the southern shores of Galway Bay is a convenient centre for exploring the fascinating surrounding countryside. It also has a lot to offer the visitor in its own right: sea fishing, pubs, restaurants, craft workshops.
From a medieval settlement in the 19th century Ballyvaughan grew round its harbour, built in 1829 for fishery purposes: imports of turf from Galway had become essential, while local exports - grain, bacon and vegetables - were also transported by sea. Steamers brought visitors from Galway, laying the foundation for a thriving tourism trade. Commercial use of the harbour has declined in recent years and it is now used for pleasure craft.
Starting or finishing point for the signposted "Burren Way" walking route through the Burren, nearby are Aillwee Cave, one of Ireland's premier showcaves and the internationally accredited Burren College of Art based at the 17th century stone building on the former Newtown Castle estate.
This small village is situated on the most easterly point of Ballyvaughan Bay in its own once oyster rich Pouldoody Bay. South at Turlough, the Burren Educational Centre offers hostel - style accommodation,dining and recreational areas, showers and a drying room. The Centre offers a wide variety of adventure and outdoor activities which include caving, canoeing, sailing, orienteering, rock climbing and hill walking. Environmental courses exploring the geology, history and ecology of the Burren are also available.
The Cistercian Abbey of Corcomroe is located 1.5km from Bellharbour. The chancel area(around the alter) has some of the finest stone carvings in Ireland.
A small fishing village, also known as Fisherstreet, on a sandy bay some 3km from Aill na Searrach, the northern end of the Cliffs of Moher. Doolin is world-famous for its wealth of Irish folk music and in recent years has been attracting crowds to spontaneous sessions and festivals or 'fleadhanna' of Irish and international music. Lots of music pubs and restaurants.
The smallest of the Aran islands, Inisheer, is only 10km from the mainland at Doolin. A ferry operating a daily service can take groups of up to 150 people across to the islands in less than 30 minutes - making it the fastest route to the islands.
Overlooked by Doonagore Castle, an unusual circular tower within a walled "bawn" enclosure, which has been restored as a residence. Nearer the sea, Iron Age burial mounds dot the surrounding landscape.
Centred on the 1588-vintage O'Brien castle and known for the traditional shop fronts of its town centre. The market town is on the doorstep of Lahinch seaside resort and includes the Falls Hotel, home of Caitlin MacNamara who married the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. It was regularly visited by the celebrated Welsh painter, Augustus John. Ennistymon, is situated on the River Cullenagh, which at this point passes over the famous 'Falls'. These 'Falls' can be viewed from the bridge or, better still, from the footpath or river-side walk. The poet Brian Merriman was born here in 1749.
The linked towns of Killaloe and Ballina offer history, an exceptionally beautiful riverside setting and access to Ireland's greatest waterway. Joined by a 13-arched stone bridge, the twin towns lie on either side of the River Shannon, where it narrows after passing through Lough Derg.
Killaloe, on the left bank, in County Clare is a network of charming narrow streets, flanked by old shops and houses, that climb up the steep hillside and look down over the 13th century cathedral. The buildings of Ballina, in North Tipperary line the roadway that runs parallel to the river. The high ground is dominated by the The Lakeside Hotel. Below it, one of the many first-class pubs in the town stands by the old quayside. Just upstream, a new marina caters for the hundreds of leisure craft that make Killaloe/Ballina one of the best centres for water activities. The old canal banks, disused railway line and narrow streets and footpaths of the old town make the twin towns a most delightful place to wander through.
Now one of Ireland's premier tourist centres, Kilkee's career as a seaside resort took off in early Victorian times when affluent families from Limerick built themselves summer houses here.
Today the resort has something for everyone; in dramatic cliff walks, safe bathing and numerous activities. Sports on offer include tennis, golf, diving, water sports and children's amusements. Kilkee is regarded as one of the safest bathing places in Ireland being protected from the full force of the Atlantic by a reef known as the 'Duggerna Rock'. The Diamond Rocks and Pollock Holes which retain the sea water when the tides recede form natural swimming pools and are well worth a visit. Kilkee Bay, was rated by the late Jacques Cousteau as the best diving location in Europe and among the top five in the world!
Kilkee's renown as a scenic and popular holiday resort goes back to the nineteenth century when it was frequented by aristocracy and literary figures. Newspapers of the day referred to Kilkee as "this fashionable Bathing Place". Among the visitors to Kilkee in Victorian times were poets Lord Alfred Tennyson and Sir Aubrey de Vere, and Charlotte Bronte the novelist, honeymooned here in 1854. In 1896 the Crown Princess of Austria was a visitor. Authors H. Rider Haggart and Gerard Griffin, the famous Limerick novelist, author of "The Collegians" and other works also visited Kilkee.
The resort has retained much of its earlier charm which is now enhanced by the modern facilities including the Kilkee Waterworld, an indoor pool with a host of features including a lazy river, flume, gushers etc.
The capital of West Clare, is a busy market and heritage town with access to the Shannon at Cappagh Pier. The town was planned and owned by the Vandeleur family in the late 18th century.
Their demesne, now Kilrush Wood, occupies 170 hectares east of the town with a car park and picnic area on the site of Vandeleur House. Kilrush is a popular west coast base for sailing enthusiasts.
The 120-berth Kilrush Creek Marina is part of the water-based activities including dolphin watching in the Shannon estuary, sailing and pleasure trips. Offshore, Scattery Island was a monastic settlement from the 6th century was occupied by looting Vikings for a century up to 970, has remains stretching from the 9th to the 15th century. A 19th century island was a colony for pilots who raced as far as the Blasket Island in flimsy canoes to claim pilotage fees from sailing ships. From Kilrush you can enjoy a Dolphin Watching boat tour or a boat visit to Scattery Island (a 20 minute trip).
Kinvara is a popular fishing village at the south- east corner of Galway Bay. It's harbour has served as a backdrop for many photogragh's and has also been on the set for TV commercials.
Kinvara has long had a tradition of trading by the sea with the people along the Connemara coast. This legacy is celebrated in the village every August when Cruinniu na mBad(Gatehering of the Boats) festival takes place.
Located on the coast 3 km west of Ennistymon, The literal translation of its name, "Leath Inis", or "the Half Island" describes it best.
The wide smile on the generous mouth of a broad bay is the glinting fine-grained golden expanse of beach fronting a dunes system with twin golf courses. Ireland has one-third of the world’s coastal links courses and Lahinch has two of them. And the older championship course is ranked among the best in the world. The beach offers excellent surfing and the bay is renowned as a top sea angling destination.
Protected by the stone-faced shield of the towering Cliffs of Moher, all-weather facilities at the bright and breezy seaside resort includes the Seaworld sea-life and leisure centre close to the fine beachside promenade. Here visitors can now see and experience the underwater life of the Atlantic coast. Sharks, rays and conger eels; starfish, lobsters and flatfish can all be viewed in a giant aquarium. Also there, is a unique recreation of a "blow hole" wave explosion, demonstrating the power of the ocean as it beats against the Clare coastline. The walks along the beach are wonderful. Lahinch has several fine restaurants and pubs.
It derives its name from 'Lios Ceannuir', meaning O'Connor's Fort. The ruined castle above the village is another O'Connor stronghold which was granted to the O'Brien's by Elizabeth I. Ships of the Spanish Armada sought aid in the bay.
Some 3km north west of Liscannor on the road to the Cliffs of Moher stands a tall pillar, O'Brien's monument, erected in 1853. Near this monument lies St. Brigid's Well, the waters of which are believed to have currative powers. Visitors still travel to the well on pilgrimages from Clare and the Aran Islands.
John Philip Holland, inventor of the first submarine, was born here in Castle Street, now renamed Holland Street, in Liscannor in 1841. Holland was fascinated by the sea and particularly with models of underwater vessels. In 1873, he moved to America where he continued teaching and designing his submarine, motivated by the hope that his vessels might one day sink British warships! The Irish Republican Brotherhood financed Holland's one man model, and continued with the necessary finance until the launching in 1881 of the Fenian Ram, a 31 foot long, 19 tons displacement submarine with a three man crew. The Fenian Ram 'the intended scourge of the British Navy', never saw warfare but survives intact as a museum piece in Patterson, New Jersey. After many near hits, the Liscannor man finally perfected his design with the launching of the Holland in 1898; this was to provide the prototype for the first mass-produced submarines. John Holland, the father of the modern submarine, died in August 1914, a few days before the outbreak of World War One in which his perfected underwater weapons played a major role. Today, a headstone, commemorating his career, presented (1977) to the town by the U.S. Navy, can be viewed at the harbour.
Lisdoonvarna, in north Clare, Ireland's premier spa town; is famous for the 'craic' (Irish for fun) and for its September festival - one of Europe's largest singles matchmaking festivals. The village has a wide selection of pubs and hotel and guest accommodation.
This small village became a popular health resort in the early nineteenth century growing around its spa wells. Lisdoonvarna's famous Victorian Spa Complex and Health Centre is a major attraction. It is the only active spa centre in Ireland. The waters contain magnesia, iodine and iron and are reputed to have health restorations. The Spa's therapeutic mineral waters have been dispensed here since the 18th century. The Centre features sulphur baths, massage, wax treatments and saunas. The Victorian Pump House is open daily. Base for specialist activities in the Burren including painting and botany.