By Elaine Whelan
County Clare is a magnificently rugged county on the West of Ireland known for its rolling countryside and wild coastline. Sitting perfectly along the Wild Atlantic Way, Clare is the ideal location for a family getaway in Ireland. Here are some of the top spots to visit on your rip.
The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare are one of the most iconic sites in Ireland and no list of things to do in Clare is complete without it. There is a very good reason why these cliffs are so popular and have even been named a UNESCO Global Geopark. The views from the staggering 214 metre height of the rock face are simply awe-inspiring. You and your kids will love exploring the famous cliffs and its exceptional visitor centre.
The Ailwee Caves
Located in the heart of the Burren, the Aillwee caves are one of the oldest caves in Ireland. The caves are perched high on the Burren mountainside and offer what has to be one of the most spectacular views of Galway Bay. Here you can marvel at the caves beautiful caverns, bridged chasms, unusual formations and the powerful waterfall. Make sure to keep an eye out for the bones of extinct brown bears and clamber over caves on the Burren’s typical limestone pavement.
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
Bunratty Castle in Co. Clare is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland. The impressive fortress was built in 1425 and is surrounded by a ‘living village’ which recreates life during the 15th century when the castle was built. Your kids will love seeing Irish history come to life before them.
Craggaunowen is a restored medieval castle, where you can visit a crannóg and ring fort, and find out how people lived in the past and their traditions. Craggaunowen is also home to the ‘Brendan Boat’, a leather hulled boat built by Tim Severin who sailed across the Atlantic re-enacting the voyage of St. Brendan.
West Clare Railway
The steam engines of the west have been brought back to life at West Clare Railway. Take a ride aboard the Sliabh Callan which has recently been brought back to its former glory. Explore the original station house with living quarters, kitchen, bedrooms, toilets aswell as the ticket office and waiting room. Finish the day off with lunch in a renovated old dining carriage. All aboard!
Loop Head Lighthouse
For views as far as the Blasket Islands, to the Twelve Pins in Connemara and along the Wild Atlantic Way, visit the Loop Head Lighthouse. The present lighthouse is 23 metres high and was built in 1854. Visitors can take a guided tour up the tower and go out onto the balcony and see an exhibition on the history of Irish Lighthouses in the Light Keeper’s Cottage.
At Kilrush Marina Centre you will find dolphin-watching boat trips operating from April to October. You can book a boat trip to see some beautiful scenery and meet the dolphins on the water. Your kids will squeal with delight when they spot the spectacular creatures leaping through the waves. Or you can take a walk out along the picturesque coast road to the dolphin-watching site at Aylevaroo Point, which as well as offering stunning views of a large area of the estuary, overlooks an area that is known to be regularly frequented by dolphins.
Atlantic Air Adventures
More than just a fun attraction, Atlantic Air Adventures is a living and breathing learning hub for both adults and children who want to know more about the fascinating world of flight. Visitors can engage in educational and fun activities in this exciting and interactive Aviation Museum.