Caves in the Aillwee Mountain in the heart of the Burren near Ballyvaughan, guided tours take you through the cave for 30 minuets through caverns with stalactites and stalagmites and past a huge underground waterfall and into extinct Irish brown bear hibernation den, caf? and souvenir shop (Tel: 065 77036. Open March to November. Entry IR?4). The caves are very popular and are least busy in the morning. Cahermore Stone fort is just west of Aillwee.
A well preserved 15th century towerhouse built by the O’Briens in the Burren near Lisdoonvarna
Ballykinvarga Stone Fort
Large ruined prehistoric stone ring fort with a chevaux des frise, (defensive wide perimeter of upright stones) near Kilfenora
Beaches in County Clare
Long Kilkee beach with a sea cave, natural swimming holes called the Pollock holes, cliff walks and interesting Duggerna Rocks formations, white sandy beaches White Strand and Ballard Bay beaches near Doonbeg, surfing beaches at Spanish Point and Lahinch seaside resort, safe sandy swimming beach backed by dunes at Fanore
Earthen mound which legend says is the site of king Brian Boru’s stronghold Kincora overlooking Lough Derg near Killaloe
This northerly headland at the edge of the Burren has an Iron Age stone fort Cathair Dhun Iorais, the fort of Irghus and views to the Aran Islands from the lighthouse
The site of Bunratty Castle was originally a Viking settlement. The Norman leader Thomas de Clare then built a stone fort on the site. The impressive castle still standing was built in the 15th century by the McNamaras but was almost immediately seized by the O’Brien Earls of Thomond who used it has their residence until the 17th century. The castle was recently restored and is kitted out with period furniture, wall hangings and portraits and hosts mock medieval banquets. There is also a folk park adjacent to the castle which contains a reconstructed Irish village with a working forge, buttery and weaving cottages. Bunratty is very popular and is less busy in the morning
Cahercommaun Cliff Fort
Huge stone ring fort on the cliffed edge of a valley near Carron with a stone inner defence wall and two semicircular defensive walls
Clare Archaeology Centre
Heritage centre housed in the 15th century O’Dea Castle with a 2 mile history trail around it which passes several ancient sites including a ring fort, high cross and Neolithic cooking site.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher on the north coast of County Clare are Ireland’s most famous and probably most spectacular cliffs. The cliffs start at the jutting point of Hag’s Head near Liscannor and peak five miles along, just north of O’Brien’s tower (built in 1857 by Cornelius O’Brien as a viewing point to impress his friends). If you dare to get close enough to the cliff edge to look over, the views of the Aran Islands are said to be wonderful. However, having been battered by fierce Atlantic winds and waves for thousands of years the cliffs are unstable in parts and sections have subsided into the seas during storms, so caution is advised. You can just hear the ocean crashing 660 feet below. Just north of O’Brien’s tower a 70m high sea stack is home to seabirds including puffins. A precarious path leads to the bottom of the cliffs from north of O’Brien’s tower.
Cistercian Abbey founded by the O’Briens in the 13th century near Bellharbour
Heritage park with reconstructions of ancient settlements including a crannog and ring fort and some authentic features including an Iron Age Road, with a cafe near Quin, (Tel: 061 367178. Open March to October. Entry IR?3.50), nearby fortified tower house built by the ruling McNamara family Craggaunowen Castle
Dolphin Watching on the Shannon
The Shannon Estuary is home to a resident population of around 70 dolphins. Dolphinwatch (Tel: 065 58156/ 584711) run two hour dolphin watching trips from Carrigaholt harbour.
Forest park near Corofin off the N18 which contains the ruins of a 17th century castle built by the O’Brien clan and two ring forts. (Tel: 065 37166. Open June to September)
Dysert O’Dea Monastic Site
Ruined monastery founded by St Tola in the 8th century on a rocky outcrop near Corofin, 12th century high cross the White Cross of St Tola, 12th century church with Romanesque and animal carvings, very ruined round tower
Gleninagh and Newtown Castles
Both castles near Ballvaughan were 16th century castles of the O’Lochlain family. People lived in Gleninagh Castle until 1840. There are also a holy well and a ruined medieval church outside. Gleninagh.
Gleninsheen Wedge Tomb
Wedge tomb dating 5,000 years also called the Druids altar near the Aillwee Caves in the Burren, where a magnificent gold gorget was found by a boy hunting rabbits in 1930 (the gorget can now be seen in the National Irish Museum in Dublin)
Ruined 12th century small cathedral in Kilfenora village on the edge of the Burren. The Cathedral was founded in the 6th century by Saint Fachan and has five high crosses outside it including the Doorty Cross
Near Quin, 15th century castle of the McNamaras, furnished in period style, hosts medieval banquets.
Well preserved castle near Corofin which is a combination of a 15th century O’Brien tower house and the later fortified house of Conor O’Brien who held this stronghold until he was killed by Cromwell’s forces fighting in 1651 for the Royalists
Scenic rugged cliffs with a clifftop path stretching to Kilkee, views south along the Kerry coast to the Dingle Peninsula and to the Aran islands in the north. The 17 miles long Loop Head Scenic drive heads south from Kilkee
You can catch boats to the Holy Island monastic settlement which was founded on Lough Derg by Saint Caimin in the 7th century and has a round tower, four ancient churches, and ancient graveyard and other ruins from Mount Shannon. Boats for trout and salmon fishing on Lough Derg can be also be hired from Mountshannon
Mooghaun Ring Fort
Huge Iron Age hill fort with three massive earthen ring banks, near Newmarket on Fergus in Dromland Forest signposted off the N18
Carbon dated at between 3800BC and 3200BC the elegant angular Poulnabrone dolmen in the middle of the Burren near the Aillwee caves was found to contain the bones of 25 people, pottery and jewellery. The tomb would have been covered by a low mound of earth when it was built by megalithic people
Well preserved Franciscan abbey founded in 1433 on the site of a castle owned by the Norman de Clare family, tall belfry and elegant cloisters, adjacent 13th century gothic St Finghin’s church (Tel: 065 544084. Open June to September). A wonderful archaeological find of hundreds of ancient gold gorgets, torcs and other pieces of jewellery, the Great Clare Find, was discovered by labourers working on the Limerick to Ennis railway line at Quin village in 1854, however although a few pieces are now in the National Museum in Dublin, most were sold and melted down.
Saint Flannan’s Cathedral
Saint Flannan’s Cathedral in Killaloe was built by the O’Brien family in the 13th century with the ancient Thorgrim’s Stone, a stone cross shaft carved with ancient Norse and Irish Ogham writing and Saint Flannan’s oratory church outside.
Scattery Island Monastic Site
Monastery on Scattery Island in the Shannon Estuary founded in the 6th century by Saint Senan with a well preserved 36 feet high round tower, five ruined churches and a ruined 9th century cathedral. Legend says that Saint Senan had to drive a sea monster away from the island before he could build the monastery. The monastery was sacked several times by the Vikings who took it over until 970 when Brian Boru drove them off. Boat to Scattery Island run from Merchants Quay in Kilrush and the Scattery Island Centre has displays about the island’s history