County Clare would already be home to one of Ireland’s major tourist attractions outside Dublin. On any weekend, the Wild Atlantic Way coastline would be painted with buses full of people excited to spend time at The Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are undoubtedly an epic thing to see, but within just a 10km radius of the visitors’ center are dozens of tucked-away places full of color, warmth, and excitement for those wanting something special from their trip to the west.
Those pockets that connect the rural, winding roads of North Clare may not seem much from the outset, but the character is rarely seen from a distance. The market town of Ennistymon that sits on the River Inagh in the south of North Clare is one of these pockets, with unspoiled streets aligned by independent cafes and stores run by people that always know how to put a smile on your face.
For those brave enough to face the cold of the Atlantic Ocean, taking a dive is a popular pastime amongst locals of North Clare, with swimmers diving in across the coast at any hour of the day. For non-swimmers though, these areas offer glorious views. My favorite viewing spot is Clahane, a bay just 5 miles from Ennistimon, where a walkway along the seafront gives you a great chance to look out to sea and breath. The way the landscape of the view is arranged also means you get to see County Kerry from a distance, as well as the sloping green fields inland that lead up to roads where cars look smaller than the pebbles you’d be standing on.
From Clahane, my usual route is to walk to the village Liscannor for a pint of ‘plain’ (that’s Guinness to you guys) and the best ‘Bangers and Mash’ this country has to offer. The bay would give inspiration to songwriters and poets down the decades, but for me, the gravy-soaked sausage at John Mchughs would be worth a sonnet itself. Speaking of songs, not too far from Liscannor would be the musical hotbed of Doolin.
The live music sessions I’ve attended in Doolin have eclipsed any live concert or festival I’ve been to. The Fiddle Case are a 4-piece local band that you’d find at the bar of Hotel Doolin called Fitzpatricks. The pub breaks into silence from rowdy conversations to collectively listen to fiddles and flutes that accompany soulful voices that line the venue with heart and soul, and if you’re lucky, you might recognise a song or two.
Speaking of two, if the night is drawing to its end for the singletons who have yet to find company on this beautiful trip, Clare has its’ very own dating application. His name is Wily Daly, and he’s been matchmaking in these parts for over 50 years, with his family hooking up singletons for over 100 years prior. Every September, the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival is held for those unlucky-in-love to find their soulmate. Wily’s ancient matchmaking book, passed down through generations, has magical powers that will bring you a partner once you touch it with one hand, close your eyes and think of what life would be like with a passionate lover in your life. Now, there’s a disclaimer here: Wily says this could take up to 9 months, so you might consider taking up some part-time work to pay for your eventually fruitful and longer adventure to County Clare.
Cover photo credits © Istock/Thomas Jackson
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