The Burren. Beautiful. Breathtaking.
In the past few years, I’ve really enjoyed traveling around Ireland, seeing new sights and revisiting spots I’ve not been to in a long time. County Clare was one of those, a beautiful part of the West of Ireland where I’d not been to since I came home from Munich in 2012.
Travel & Accommodation Details
Myself and Lorna (of Fashion Boss) headed over to Doolin, Co. Clare on a Friday morning with a 2.5 hour-drive ahead of us. I will note that driving the country roads around the Burren you definitely need a skilled and confident driver – many roads are rather narrow, many wind left and right, and there are plenty of blind spots too!
I booked our accommodation at Fairwinds Guest Accommodation in Doolin via Booking.com for 3 nights and it was a really great price. Our hosts Ciara & Damian have a beautiful house, minutes from the heart of the village, where our twin room had an en suite and ample space for all our bits and bobs. The beds were very comfortable, the room was lovely and warm, with tea/coffee facilities and plenty of wardrobe space.
Our bathroom was also nice and neat, with a lovely hot shower and toiletries too. Although usually a traditional bed & breakfast, due to the pandemic Fairwinds could not provide breakfast each morning. However Ciara did facilitate use of the fridge, and had a seperate box for me to store my yogurt and fruit in. We were able to check in and out very easily, and the on-site parking was very handy. Our B&B was also a 15-minute walk to the famous ‘pink cottage’ and only a 5-minute drive to Doolin Pier.
Please note during all tours and close-proximity activities on my trip, I did wear a face mask, wash my hands and/or use hand sanitiser to abide COVID-19 Government guidelines
RECOMMENDATIONS – SIGHTSEEING
When deciding whereabouts in Co. Clare to visit, I had a few places on my mind which included Doolin, Liscannor, Lisdoonvarna and of course the Burren. Naturally when heading over West, the Cliffs of Moher are a must. We got up early and made our way to the Cliffs of Moher Liscannor Walk for 8.30am – not a soul in sight. The car park here is a nifty spot, with only a €3 fee and allows you to walk up to the Cliffs and along the coast with truly spectacular views from the iconic Hags Head tower. We walked about an hour before turning back, and were so lucky with the clear views, sunshine and I adored the peace and quiet we experienced.
I recommend visiting Moher Cottage before or after your walk – it’s a beautiful spot for tea/coffee fix with indulgent homemade fudge! A beautiful stone wall cottage that’s run by Caitriona Considine, she told us how it was once the cow shed of the family’s farm. But now, it’s a lovely café and gift shop, with outdoor seating and views across the hills and down onto Lahinch Beach that are just stunning.
As Doolin was our home for the long weekend, it’d be rude not to visit their famous little spots. We had dessert and drinks at McGann’s Pub, peoplewatched at Gus O’Connor’s Pub, took snaps outside The Sweater Shop a.k.a. ‘the pink cottage’, which is full of beautiful Aran jumpers and gifts, and stopped into the Doolin Deli for a refreshing 99 ice cream – my first in about three years!
I also wanted to tick something very special off my Bucket List, and so at 5am, I got up, poked Lorna awake and headed to the Doolin Pier to watch the sunrise at 5.36am! It was truly spectacular and I do recommend you get up early for it – or perhaps do sunset instead. Either way, be sure to wear warm clothes and bring a hot drop with you to keep you toasty.
The Doolin Cave is a cool spot to visit, which is home to The Great Stalictite – the biggest free-standing stalactite in Europe at 7.3 metres (23 feet). Our guide, Richie, was super knowledgable and very easy to understand with great stories, facts & figures as well as a few geology jokes. The tour took roughly 45 minutes, with a large set of stairs to walk up and down. We were provided with hard helmets, and I do advise to wear comfy clothes and a jacket/warm jumper. Tickets cost €15 per person online
It was inevitable that we visit one or more of the Aran Islands, and Inis Oírr was our main choice. Why? Well…because it is Craggy Island! At least that’s why we visited the Plassey Shipwreck! But Inis Oírr has more than that of course, it’s full of nature with stone walls, livestock, cute cottages and An Loch Mór.
We rented bikes when we arrived onto the island – an elderly gentleman advised us to visit his son down by the beach and rent bikes from him. They were only €10 per person, so we did! It was a lovely cycle around the coast and sure got my muscles leg going, but unfortunately we didn’t have as much time as we’d have liked as our ferry journey over was delayed by 45 mins! We traveled over with the Doolin Ferry Co. but as our 2.30pm ferry from Doolin did not leave until 3.15pm, when we arrived to Inis Oírr we were rather rushed before our 4.45pm ferry back. Tickets cost €20 per person online
From Craggy Island to Father Ted’s House, this was on my list for a long, long time! Any Irish person who grew up watching one of Ireland’s best shows may experience the same feels I did walking up to the house in Killinaboy (who named this area though?!). The house and its grounds are privately owned by the McCormack family, so don’t go venturing in without an appointment – they usually offer Afternoon Tea (€10 pp) but due to the pandemic that’s temporarily off the table. But, this didn’t stop us bringing our cups for tea and snapping a good few photos – and we even met legendary pro cyclist Seán Kelly!
Ah go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on…GO ON!
If you visit Co. Clare and you didn’t walk through the Burren, where you even in Clare?? We visited the Burren National Park in Mullaghmore for a wonderful stroll, taking in all the natural sights. A true natural beauty, the Burren is dominated by glaciated karst landscape and it’s so different to the usual mountaineous landscapes I’m used to. You’ll see plenty of limestone and interesting formations, as well as pretty flora and fauna. Do visit the Burren Perfumery afterwards, it’s not only a beautiful little spot to learn about natural perfume and how they’re made, but also has a great gift shop and café.
The nearby villages have some great spots to visit too. Notably The Rock Shop and Vaughan’s Anchor Inn in Liscannor (more below), while I also recommend The Burren Smokehouse and a walk around the village in Lisdoonvarna.
We headed to Fanore Beach in the afternoon, and were once again very lucky with the hot, sunny weather. The car park is definitely not for the faint-hearted – be warned it’s a bit of a mess and requires very careful navigation! Once you’re on the beach though, everything’s smooth sailing. The beach is completely sandy in the water with flat rocks ideal for sunbathing, there is plenty of space for everyone, and there’s even a surf school available.
RECOMMENDATIONS – DINING
Sure it wouldn’t be a trip away without me having a foodie list! I was very excited to dine out a bit more since the lockdown was lifted, and already had a few restaurants and cafés on my Eat List. Known for their seafood, the West of Ireland definitely delivered on flavour and freshness. I am delighted I ticked off almost all places on my list – so here is where to eat & drink while in Co. Clare!
Oar Restaurant & Rooms, Toomullin, Roadford, Co. Clare, V95 KV02: Hands down, this restaurant served the best cod I’ve ever had! The food at Oar Restaurant is truly exceptional, and I was only delighted to wine & dine here for our last night in Doolin. The scallops starter was beautiful, each piece succulent with plenty of flavour. And then came the cod, superbly flavoured with exactly the right accompaniments. The fish was flaky and moist, the gnochhi tender, the sauce delicious. It was so good I genuinely didn’t want to finish my plate, because then it’d be all gone! I’ll for sure be back again, and highly recommend you visit when in Doolin – thanks to the chefs & Oar Restaurant team!
Tried & Tasted: Pan-Seared Scallops, Roasted Cod. Cookie FM Rating – 5/5
Anthony’s, Doolin Inn, 1a Fisher Street, Doolin, Co. Clare, V95 CC79: I nabbed two front row seats at the newest spot in Doolin on opening night and can safely say it’s really and truly worth a visit. Anthony, Deirdre, Chef Tomás and all of their team did an excellent job for their opening weekend. I was not disappointed ordering the local Burren Smoked Trout to start, the Spinach Risotto as my main and the Chocolate Delice to finish. A delicious three-course meal; the trout and salad was full of freshness, the risotto was insaaanely tasty and I relished every bite, and the dessert was pure chocolatey indulgence and I still want more.
Tried & Tasted: Warm Burren Smoked Trout, Spinach Risotto, Chocolate Delice. Cookie FM Rating – 5/5
StoneCutters Kitchen, Luogh North, Doolin, Co. Clare: With an idyllic view across green fields and to the sea, this restaurant is a sweet spot for families and friends alike. Their dinner menu has plenty of appealing choices, and the Traditional Irish Beef & Guinness Stew I had was just delicious. Full of flavour, melt-in-your-mouth beef and hearty vegetables too.
Tried & Tasted: Traditional Irish Beef & Guinness Stew. Cookie FM Rating – 4/5
Vaughan’s Anchor Inn, Main Street, Liscannor, Co. Clare, V95 FN5R: Known for their fresh seafood, Vaughan’s was on my list from the start. Though they have a restaurant, as we arrived shortly after they opened, the girls and I opted to dine in the pub section where the walls are decked in memorabilia with worldwide football club flags hanging from the ceiling of the bar. I ordered the half dozen Galway Oysters and Cesar Salad, both of which were delicious and so refreshing. My chef friend Richie Wilson was very proud of me, having introduced me to oysters only two years ago. Fun fact: Metallica once helicoptered to the Cliffs of Moher then visited Vaughan’s for oysters and lobster!
Tried & Tasted: Galway Oysters, Cesar Salad. Cookie FM Rating – 4/5
The Ivy Cottage, Fisher Street, Doolin, Co. Clare: Although The Ivy Cottage is currently operating as take away only, the seafood options here are still delicious. As we arrived on a rainy Friday afternoon, I needed my fishy fix, and so I ordered the Scampi & Chips. Succulent, perfectly battered scampi with thick chipper-style chips and plenty of vinegar for us to douse on! The Ivy Cottage does offer outdoor seating at which you can enjoy your meal.
Tried & Tasted: Scampi & Chips. Cookie FM Rating – 4/5
Doolin Café, Toomullin, Roadford, Co. Clare: Another cute little spot was the Doolin Café, which only opened in 2015. Taking pride in serving up healthy food, I had the savoury pancake, which was made with spinach and filled with even more, alongside mushrooms, feta cheese and tomatoes.
Tried & Tasted: Savoury Spinach Pancake with Mushrooms. Cookie FM Rating – 4/5
McGann’s Pub, Main Street, Toomullin, Roadford, Co. Clare: An excellent Irish pub that was only a few minutes from our accommodation, McGann’s was lively all weekend. After our dinner at Oar Restaurant, we headed in for dessert and drinks, and I had my first Apple Pie in so long – absolutely divine! It was a proper countryside apple pie that reminded me of my Grandma’s cooking, and she was one of the best cooks I know to this day. The atmosphere was cheerful, with plenty of families and friends, whilst staff, the venue and customers adhered to Government guidelines very well.
Burren Storehouse, Kincora Road, Rathbaun, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, V95 T85K: After visiting the Burren Smokehouse and having a wander around the village, we stopped into the Burren Storehouse for our final meal before we hit the road to Dublin. The sister spot to The Roadside Tavern pub, whose kitchens are also shared, I had the traditional Fish & Chips because why not! I was a tasty piece of white fish made with Burren beer batter and served with skinny fries and again…lots of vinegar! The staff was very friendly too!
Tried & Tasted: Fish & Chips. Cookie FM Rating – 4/5
Photographs © Nirina Plunkett & Lorna Duffy