Having grown up in Northern Ireland I guess I have taken our island for granted. Always dreaming of exploring further shores and going abroad. As I’ve grown older and wiser I’ve realised you don’t always have to spend an absolute fortune to take a once in a lifetime trip. Especially when there are so many iconic sights to see right on my doorstep.
Not including the two days it took to drive to and from County Clare from my home in Belfast, I had 2 days to spare and I knew the main two things I wanted to see were the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren.
When I began my researching it wasn’t entirely clear where would be the best place in County Clare to stay to avail of these sights without being stuck in the middle of nowhere with little else to do.
AirBnb is fast becoming my go-to for quirky, comfortable accommodation, amazing views and reasonable prices. So onto their website I went to find a place to stay. I was looking for somewhere dog friendly, at least 2 bedrooms, a good view, and a good location. The weather in Ireland is extremely changeable, so I knew I wanted somewhere that would be enjoyable to simply relax in if the weather took a turn for the worse.
Once again I hit the jackpot with AirBnb when I came across “The Story-Teller’s Cottage”. Located just a 5-minute drive outside of Doolin, it was perfect!
A beautifully traditional thatched cottage on the outside, and a modern yet shabby-chic residence on the inside. Offering all the comforts of home:
- Fully equipped kitchen;
- Wood burning fire;
- Two double bedrooms;
- One large bathroom fit with a stand alone shower and a spacious bathtub to soothe your aches and pains after a long day’s hike around the cliffs;
- An outdoor sitting area that gets the sun all afternoon, and lastly…
- A second indoor sitting room with the most incredible view over The Wild Atlantic, Connemara and The Aran Islands.
Doolin itself is a lively little village with rustic Irish charm. It turned out to be the perfect location to explore both the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren. It even offers day trips to the Aran Islands direct from Doolin’s harbour. The village is known for being the home of traditional Irish music, and come sundown there is an abundance of Pubs to choose from boasting delicious food, traditional live Irish music and plenty of craic to be had!
Which leads me to the first main activity of our trip…….
The Cliffs of Moher
One of Ireland’s most iconic natural landmarks, the Cliffs of Moher, make up a spectacular piece of Irish coastline, carved by the mighty Atlantic ocean and the sometimes treacherous weather into amazing rock formations.
You can opt to view the cliffs from the sea, from the land, or from both if you have ample time! The sea cruises that depart from Doolin pier to view the cliffs come highly recommended, however I knew I wanted to hike the cliff walk and make a day out of it. We packed a picnic complete with good old ham and cheese sandwiches, haribo sweeties and a chilled bottle of Prosecco (had to be done), and off we went!
The cliff walk begins in Doolin village on Fisher Street and ends at the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre. If you are taking a brisk pace with little to no stops the walk can probably be done in 2hours, but where’s the fun in that?
The weather was amazing, the views were incredible, and we had a bottle of Prosecco to enjoy! We ended up spending the guts of 5hours along the trail, and probably could have stayed longer had we not have forgotten our sun cream (a rare necessity in Ireland).
If you are unsure of exactly where to begin your walk, simply pop in to the Tourist Information Centre on Fisher Street in Doolin and one of the friendly staff members will point you in the right direction. They can also provide you with the times of the shuttle bus that will drive you back to Doolin from the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre at the end of the trail, for a small fee of course……approximately €7 per person. The staff at the Cliffs of Moher visitor centre will show you where the “Paddy-Wagon” shuttle bus pick up location is. The experience was totally faultless and just as awe-inspiring as I hoped it would be!
Points to note/recommendations:
- No dogs or bicycles are allowed on the cliff-walk;
- Bring suncream if the weather is to be sunny as there is zero shade;
- Sensible shoes are an absolute must;
- There is an abundance of other tourists as you get within 1mile of the visitor centre, up until then you are likely to have the majority of the trail to yourself;
- Bring a picnic blanket to stop for a rest and enjoy the incredible views;
- Once at the visitor centre the queues for refreshments can be very long, fail to prepare…..prepare to fail!
The word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place. Well…that’s exactly what the Burren is! An internationally famous National Park known for its extensive limestone payment, hazel scrub, ash/hazel woodland, lakes, springs…….the list goes on!
Being so close to the Cliffs of Moher, just a 30minute drive, it makes complete sense to experience both of these incredible places in one trip.
There are seven marked walking trails in the Burren National Park and Slieve Carran Nature Reserve. They range from a short thirty-minute walk to a three-hour walk over limestone hills. Bear in mind that the terrain is very uneven, and if wet the rocks can be very slippery, so make sure to wear appropriate footwear. If you are concerned about walking in such a barren area, don’t fret, there are plenty of places to stop along the road to take in the incredible views and be able to walk just a short distance from your car for some wonderful picture opportunities.
A particularly beautiful drive is to take the R479 from Doolin, travelling North, and joining the R477 taking you along the coast and the edge of the stunning limestone landscape, through Fanore and on to Ballyvaughan.
From Ballyvaughan we drove on to Corcomroe Abbey for a short stop. A beautiful, secluded ruin offering glorious views of the surrounding ridges of The Burren. You’re likely to only share the site with a handful of other tourists, if any! I wouldn’t recommend visiting this site as a place on its own to see, however it makes for an excellent stop off on your way to the next must visit!
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
Just a 6minute drive from Corcomroe Abbey you will find Hazel Mountain Chocolate. A 1950’s cottage, playing host to a state of the art, bean to bar chocolate factory and tea room.
One of the smallest, and most remote, chocolate factories in the world specialising in unprocessed, gluten and diary free chocolate & other food delights to be had in the tea room. No trip to The Burren is complete without a visit to this quirky delight in the foothills. Their café was even shortlisted in the top 10 best tea rooms in Ireland.
They offer factory tours, however the times can vary so make sure to do your research before arriving if this is something you’d be interested in. Alternatively you can stock up on their delicious chocolate from their on-site store and enjoy your own taste-experience.
The Burren Perfumery
Our last stop, and probably my favourite, on our drive around The Burren was “The Burren Perfumery”.
The Burren Perfumery is best described as an oasis in the wilderness. Their setting is a small collection of stone buildings, adorned with whimsical climbing rose bushes, surrounding a quaint courtyard. They specialise in small batch, unique cosmetics and perfumes inspired by the surrounding area.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, or whether it would be worth the drive off the beaten path. Let me tell you it was the most pleasant shock and surprise to suddenly arrive at this shady respite in the midst of the barren landscape.
Whilst there you can watch a video on The Burren and learn about the fauna and flora that grow there and of which the perfumery avail of. We then had a lovely perfume demonstration from one of their very knowledgeable staff members. She took us through their whole collection, explaining what scents we were smelling and how they were made. After a relaxed browse around the rest of their product collection, including creams, balms, soaps, candles and herbal teas, we had a walk around their very diverse and beautiful flower and herb garden. Everything here is labelled so you know what areas of the garden are used for which products.
I simply couldn’t leave this hidden gem without purchasing some of their amazingly scented products for myself. I picked up some candles and some herbal tea, which have already gone down an absolute treat.
They have a wonderful tearoom onsite where you can enjoy some homemade delights while you reflect on the stunning purchases you have just made. I’ve heard the elderberry infused water was something I shouldn’t have missed out on. That will be one for next time!