If you are looking for a magical staycation in the west of ireland – visit Clare. You can be at one end of the county in the morning and the other in the afternoon, making it possible to explore all of Clare’s natural beauty in one trip! Explore the wondrous Doolin caves or be awestruck by the expansive views at the Cliffs of Moher. The only problem with this spot is that it is hard to leave…
Main Image; www.ireland.com
Celebrate an Irish summer with our Fly The Flag Destination Guides featuring travel tips, restaurant recommendations, luxurious hotel stays and a focus on Irish shops and produce. If you are planning an Irish getaway – scroll and save for your next trip …
WHERE TO STAY
Gregans Castle, Burren Region
Best for: A luxurious, gourmet retreat. Nestled in the heart of the Burren, Gregans Castle has been welcoming guests including artists and writers such as Seamus Heaney, Sean Scully and JRR Tolkien (who was said to have been inspired by the surroundings to write Lord of the Rings). No doubt they all found the stunning 18th-century manor house, its established gardens and views that stretch across the Burren hills to Galway Bay, spectacular. Inside, guests will find welcoming open fires, and striking decoration ranging from modern art to antique furniture. It’s the perfect base for exploring the Burren. (Pop into The Burren Perfumery, where you can take an audio-visual tour of the flora and fauna, enjoy a talk on perfume, cream, soap-making, and skincare or have a cream tea in the tea-rooms). Currently on offer is a two night stay including breakfast with dinner on one evening. From €325 per night; www.gregans.ie.
Dromoland Castle, Newmarket on Fergus
Best for: The ultimate escape. Dromoland Castle is the ultimate hideaway for any time of the year. The castle itself has been welcoming guests since the 16th century. Dromoland Castle boasts a world of historic grandeur – with all of the modern comforts! Lavish décor, breathtaking views, magnificent bedrooms and indulgent dining – it is a true escape from everyday life. After a lush night’s sleep and a decadent breakfast, stroll around the 500-acre estate, take a turn of the golf course or enjoy an afternoon tea. Guests can also use the spa and wellness centre or dine in one of the delicious restaurants – including the Earl of Thomond restaurant. One night stays start from €608; www.dromoland.ie.
Fiddle + Bow, Doolin
Best for: Self-catering groups of families and friends. After all of the excitement of the experiences around Doolin, the Fiddle + Bow Doolin Hotel is the perfect spot to rest your head for a night – or a week. The Fiddle + Bow collection consists of 20 self-catering lodges, eight luxury cottages, Russells Seafood Bar and Russells Takaway. You are guaranteed to be well taken care of. The hotel features a range of room options – from Deluxe Doubles to The Loft, where you can have your own private entrance. With Russells’ restaurant breakfast in the morning – you will be more than ready to face your day of exploration around the surrounding area. The self-catering cottages vary in sizes but can accommodate from four to eleven people. They are perfect for families or friends who are looking to have a space of their own. Many are dog friendly, with a kitchen, cosy living spaces and they boast incredible views. The lodges are in wonderful locations, boasting panoramic views and sleeping up to up people. Stay in one of the lodges in the idyllic village of Doolin to really get your feet on the ground. Prices start at €224 for one night stay in the hotel with breakfast, with prices starting at €300 for the cottages and lodges; www.fiddleandbow.ie.
The Old Ground Hotel, Ennis
Best for: A home away from home feeling. Located in the heart of Ennis town, The Old Ground Hotel is a beautifully restored 18th-century manor house hotel, which is owned by the Flynn family, and is full of character. Points of interest include the hotel’s extensive art collection, a private library to snuggle up with a book, the picturesque “Poet’s Garden” where you can take a coffee or enjoy a drink at Poet’s Corner Bar. On the hotel’s doorstep are garden delights such as the magical ‘secret garden’ of the Vandeleur Walled Gardens with its own tea rooms near Kilrush. Or for a less formal style check out the award-winning Caher Bridge Garden near Fanore in a restored riverside cottage setting (open by appointment only). www.oldgroundhotelennis.com
The Armada Hotel, Spanish Point
Best for: A coastal getaway. The Armada Hotel, Spanish Point is the only hotel in Ireland to have been awarded B Corp certification. As such, it’s the go-to destination for travellers who seek hotels that prioritise people over profit, empower local communities, assist conservation efforts and boost connections between tourists and locals. Of course, its beach location is a huge draw too. Part of The Armada’s environmental efforts includes regular beach cleans with Clean Coasts and it also collaborates with Coastwatch to support the conservation of an endangered seagrass species, which contributes to the long-term sustainability of coastal environments. Currently on offer is a “Reconnect by the Sea” package. Depending on what day guests arrive, this two-night stay includes complimentary surf lessons, a guided jog around Spanish Point and yoga sessions. In the evening there is live music in the cosy surrounds of Johnny Burkes bar or on the sundowner deck (weather permitting). As for guest rooms, they reflect the colours of the hotel’s natural surroundings, from Abigail Edward’s seascape wallpaper, the handwoven tweed blankets draped over each guest bed, Kevin Lowery art featuring some of the most popular surfing waves, to the Handmade Soap Company amenities. From €190 a night; www.armadahotel.com.
WHERE TO SHOP
Paula Flynn of TheShopkeepers.com and THE GLOSS collated a fabulously diverse and exciting list of independent retailers around Ireland for The Best Shops Ireland and we couldn’t resist featuring some of them in our Irish Destination Guides for the summer. Look no further, here is where to shop in Co Clare.
Truth , 8 High Street, Ennis
Truth’s neon green door signals that Conor Harkin’s approach to menswear is fresh and unique. With ten years’ experience, menswear veteran Conor Harkin opened Truth in 2021. There is a tightly edited assortment of athletic and contemporary casual wear merchandised in a modern way that is easy to shop. With frequent deliveries and items chosen to work together, Conor makes it easy for men to update their wardrobe. www.thisistruth.ie
Blackbird, Unit 4, Bank Place, Ennis
A pretty pink shopfront is home to Blackbird a jewellery shop featuring contemporary Irish and European jewellery designers. Blackbird was opened in 2019 by Katie Rogers whose vision was for a jewellery store more accessible to customers, especially men. She has achieved this using freestanding units rather than having everything displayed in a glass counter as at a traditional jewellery shop. www.blackbirdennis.ie Photography by www.vagelisart.com.
Seodín means “little jewel” in Irish, an appropriate name for Maureen Harrison’s jewellery shops. After leaving school, Maureen worked in a local jewellery shop and through repair works in the service department, she learnt she had a natural talent as a jeweller. When the stars aligned, she fulfilled her dream to open her own shop which she did in Ennis in 1996. Leveraging on the success of that first store Maureen has opened three more boutiques, adding another store in Clare and shops in Dublin and Limerick. www.seoidin.com Photography by Leon Murphy.
WHERE TO EAT
From the beautiful Burren to bustling Kilkee, Co Clare has a lot to offer the summer visitor. Whether you fancy fine dining or fish and chips, you won’t go hungry at any one of these eateries, says our Food Editor Ciara McQuillan.
Vaughan’s Anchor Inn, Liscannor
Two words. Fish, chips. That is all. Well, actually, there is a lot more to Vaughan’s; the Champagne flights, the scallops, the scampi and the halibut with cauliflower and curry all come to mind, but the fish and chips with 20 year old starter batter is truly special. And if you aren’t steaming your potatoes before frying them in beef dripping then you are doing it wrong. www.vaughans.ie
Linnane’s Lobster Bar, New Quay, The Burren
Peak summer dining perfection could well be achieved on a sunny day, dining at Linnane’s Lobster Bar in New Quay. Of course, there is the obligatory fish and chips, the oysters, the chowder and the mussels but the giveaway here is in the name. You absolutely do not have to partake in grilled New Quay Lobster with baby potatoes and salad but I can certainly attest to the fact that is likely what I would do. www.linnanesbar.com
A bakery and café in lovely Lahinch, Hugo’s is the place to go for dark and crunchy loaves of sourdough, sweet and savoury pastries, sausage rolls and custard tarts that should be enjoyed with abandon. It’s the perfect place to pick up picnic supplies and the wild garlic focaccia earlier this summer was memorable to say the least. @hugos_lahinch
Holly’s Café, Kilkee
Holly’s Café is where you want to go for Manjari chocolate mousse with chocolate cremeux and a caramel centre or passionfruit mousse with white chocolate, passionfruit centre and coconut sable, and perhaps a vanilla choux pastry filled with Madagascan vanilla crème diplomat and pistachio macaroons filled with chocolate ganache and raspberry gel. Holly’s Café also serves breakfast, brunch and lunch but let’s face it, you will probably end up saving your roast beef baguette with caramelised onion, rocket and aioli for dinner after eating all the cakes. @hollyscafekilkee
The Hungry Veggie, Cliffs of Moher, Liscannor
Tom O’Regan and his vegetarian food truck are back at Guerin’s Path at The Cliffs of Moher for the summer season serving up a selection of homemade veggie burgers, fries and salads in a spectacular setting. As with most of the food trucks, hours will vary so do check in advance if you are gung ho for couscous fritters or the popular grilled halloumi and pineapple burger. The perfect way to end a bracing walk in one of the most scenic spots in the country. www.the-hungry-veggie.com; @thehungryveggiefoodtrailer.
Julia’s Lobster Truck, Ennistymon
Another one for the seafood lovers, Julia’s Lobster Truck keeps it simple with fresh barbecued lobster served with chilli lime butter, organic leaves and real chips. Too much? Then a shrimp po’boy could be the one for you. There are lots of options and you can text your order ahead of time to avoid disappointment. This summer, you will find Julia on Friday and Saturdays at Pot Duggan’s in Ennistymon but check ahead as the locations can change. www.facebook.com/juliaslobstertruck; @juliaslobstertruck
Wild Honey Inn, Kincora Road, Rathbaun, Lisdoonvarna
Upscale country inn best describes the dining room at Wild Honey Inn which was awarded a Michelin star in 2017: polished floorboards, high ceilings, wooden furniture. ‘Wild food from land and sea’ best describes the food at Wild Honey Inn. In the words of chef and proprietor Aidan McGrath, it’s “classical in style, made with prime ingredients from the Burren and beyond”. With dishes that include Lough Neagh smoked eel, endive and Roquefort salad, and wild turbot with white asparagus, this is country inn dining 2.0. www.wildhoneyinn.com
Other pit stops worth checking out include Pot Duggans in beautiful Ennistymon; The Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna, or superior traditional food, beer tasting, music or storytelling; Sa Domu in Kilrush for destination pizza pies; The Espresso Bar in Kilkee for classic Roman Maritozzi along with astounding array of other treats and newbie Homestead Cottage in Doolin from former Gregans Castle head chef, Robbie McCaughley.
WHERE TO VISIT
Two insider recommendations and more…
Nicky Logue, General Manager of the InterContinental Dublin likes to escape to his native county when he can, here are his favourite haunts:
For kayaking: Only ten minutes from Ennis town, heading north out the old Galway Road, is the beautiful Ballyalla Lake on the river Fergus. During the summer months single or double kayaks are available to rent and are very reasonably priced. It’s a great way to spend an hour or two in the peace and quiet and see the land and lake from a different perspective while also getting some exercise.
For walks: Lahinch Beach or Promenade are great places to watch the surfers learning or perfecting their skills in the waves. Follow this with lunch in The Atlantic Hotel, on the main street, where the chowder or seafood dishes are a speciality. They also do a great Sunday Roast by the fire. Following lunch, have a browse in Kenny Woollen Mills. It has an expansive shop of Irish-made goods and has recently opened a lovely art gallery. If time allows, a trip to the Cliffs of Moher – 20 minutes from Lahinch- is always a wow for the spectacular scenery on a clear day.
For shopping: My hometown of Ennis is renowned for its boutiques, traditional pubs and lovely walks along the river or its many cobbled lanes. There is a fantastic antiques shop on Abbey Street called Honans which is an Aladdin’s cave of unique pieces from jewellery to furniture. In the evening, The Town Hall restaurant in the Old Ground Hotel, Ennis is the place for dinner with superb food and service and, very often, traditional Irish music sessions.
Georgina O’Hanlon, scarf designer.
For walking: Cratloe Wood in Cratloe village boasts an extensive network of walking trails and a children’s playground. The Galtee Mountains in Co Tipperary can be seen to the east, the Ballyhoura Mountains in North Cork to the south and Shannon Airport to the west. Another spot is 12 O’Clock Hills, perfect for hiking enthusiasts of all levels.
For dining: Located in the heart of the Burren, Linnane’s Lobster bar is a favourite for lunch or dinner, where the emphasis is placed on fresh, local produce; it’s a short walk to The Flaggy Shore which is a must visit! The Riverside Bistro in Doolin is a cosy little restaurant which is great value for money. I highly recommend its seafood tagliatelle.
For shopping: The Country Boutique in Ennis is renowned for celebrating Irish Designers like Aideen Bodkin and Caroline Kilkenny. Willow, also in Ennis, is a one-of-a-kind boutique where visitors can immerse themselves in a meticulously curated edit of opulent and unconventional brands, redefining luxury shopping. [Editor’s Tip: Georgina has just launched her new Majestic Sunset Josephine silk scarf – part of her wider collection, My Granny’s Garden, inspired by childhood trips to Co Clare with her late mother Josephine.]
For architecture: I grew up in Sixmilebridge, known for its architectural heritage and proximity to some of Clare’s best known visitor attractions. One of my favourite spots is the Cozy Cottage, a family-friendly café nestled along the serene banks of the O’Garney River.
Where To Surf: Lahinch Beach
Lahinch is the perfect spot for surfing, kayaking and kite surfing. The strong currents make it the most thrilling place to go surfing in Ireland – but do take care. There are many surf schools in the area for every level of surfer so take a lesson and hop on a board for some good fun. You will have certainly earned a spa treatment or delicious meal afterwards. Grab a beautifully roasted coffee in Dodi Café to warm up after the dip, and throw a sweet treat in there too from their delicious selection – their Sunday pancakes are heavenly! www.discoverireland.ie
Where To Swim: Pollock Holes, Kilkee
The Pollock Holes are beautiful and clear sea pools that become uncovered when the tide is out. On a sunny day in Kilkee there is nothing more relaxing and serene than bathing in one of these pools. Be sure to check the tide times, but trust us, it is worth it. Dry off and dress up to head to the Pollock and Porter after your dip for incredible fresh seafood and warm up with a glass of carefully selected wine to accompany the dishes. www.discoverireland.ie
For Seafood Fanatics: Flaggy Shore Oyster Experience, New Quay Pier
Flaggy Shore Oysters in New Quay makes oyster tasting an experience like no other. Take a tour of the oyster production centre – where you can learn how to harvest, purify and then eat oysters. This is a fun-filled tour, with a decadent dish at the end. The tours run on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 12pm. Get shucking! www.airbnb.ie/experiences.com
For Adventurers: Doolin Ferry
It feels like summer has arrived and with it the need for some “vitamin sea”. The Doolin Ferry Co (winner of Boat Tour of the Year 2021) has opened for the summer season. The family-run business offers four sailing routes with 19 cruises departing Doolin Pier on a daily basis. This includes five daily cruises to Inis Óirr, four to Inis Mór, four to Inis Meáin and six to the Cliffs of Moher, where visitors can spend time walking along the white-sand beaches, visiting the many historical sites, scuba diving in the underwater burren, horse riding and snorkelling with seals. Doolin Ferry Co is also offering a new Adventure Express “Seafari”. This experience will take place onboard its private ten-seater rib, designed to provide passengers with unrivalled views of the entire Clare coast while keeping them sheltered from the elements. All private charters allow those onboard to dictate the itinerary so no two journeys are ever the same; www.doolinferry.com.
For Explorers: The Burren
It’s been said The Burren National Park in County Clare resembles the surface of the moon, due to its 1,500 hectare area of exposed limestone pavement. Officially called a karst landscape, there is beauty in its barrenness and shades of grey, and the surface is ideal for walkers and cyclists. One of Ireland’s six national parks (have you visited all the others yet?) Doolin Pier from where the views of the Cliffs of Moher are outstanding, are just two of its many attractions. Other must-sees are the ruins of Kilfenora Cathedral, and for shopping at the Burren Perfumery. www.theburrencentre.ie
For Everyone: The Cliffs of Moher
When in Clare, the Cliffs of Moher is a must. It is one of Ireland’s most popular visitor experiences and tourist attractions towering over the rugged West County Clare coast. The Cliffs sit astride the striking landscape of the Burren on one side and the wild Atlantic Ocean on the other. Rising out of the Atlantic waters to a height of over 700ft at O’Brien’s Tower and running along the coast of Clare for almost 14km, they are an epic sight for visitors. Formed over 320 million years ago the Cliffs of Moher form part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark. Do some bird watching, walk along the cliffs – there is safe, paved pathways – learn of the cliff’s history, geology and the exciting myths and legends associated with it (including witches and mermaids!) in the Visitors centre. The Cliffs are sure to leave you awestruck and will help you create memories that will stay with you forever. www.cliffsofmoher.ie
For The Family: Doolin Cave
Exploring the Doolin Cave is another one of the magical experiences to avail of in Doolin. Travel 200 feet down into the cave – a fantasy-like world created from water, time and the incredible hand of nature. The cave features an intricate system of passages and pathways leading you to a cathedral-like dome in the cave and the showstopping Great Stalactite, Europes largest stalactite. At a whopping 7.3 metres in length and weighing around 10 tonnes – it catches light, reflects colours and leaves you amazed by the power of nature. This is an exciting trip for all the family, book a cave tour here; www.doolincave.ie.
If you visit any of these spots on your next trip to Co Clare, be sure to let us know! Tag us on Instagram using #FlyTheFlag and @theglossmag. Or email us on email@example.com, we would love to hear from you …