Clare / Galway / Wild Atlantic Way

The Burren – things to see and do in this unique region of Ireland

There’s something quite magical about the Burren and if you haven’t watched the 2017 film, The Silver Branch, then it’s definitely one to add to your list. The film beautifully portrays this stunning, wild and unique landscape, while exploring one man’s journey through life and his deep connection to the land.

And while the magnificent scenery may be enough to draw you here, there’s a lot more to love about the Burren region. You’ll discover charming towns and villages, wonderful ancient sites, pristine beaches, limestone mountains and fascinating caves. That’s not to mention the Burren’s abundance of Irish artisan food producers and renowned traditional musicians.

So, if you’re still planning your holiday in Ireland, I highly recommend checking out what the Burren has to offer. I’ve put together this list of some of the top things to do in and around the Burren region.

Note: some locations may be temporarily closed or have limited access or hours due to Covid-19 restrictions. Please contact businesses directly before you travel to visit any specific location.

The coastal road heading towards Fanore

Where to Stay While Exploring the Burren

If you plan on spending a number of days exploring the Burren, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options including hotels, B&Bs, AirBnBs and camping sites throughout the many towns and villages of the region.

Below I’ve listed my top four locations to use as your base. Each one offers lots of things to do within a short distance, as well as great options for food and drink after a long day exploring!


Doolin is one of those places everyone loves. The colourful and picturesque village has lots to offer and is a great base for exploring the region. The coastal hike to the Cliffs of Moher is magnificent and one of the best ways to enjoy the cliffs. Or take a tour at the award-winning Doolin Cave and visitor centre, home to Europe’s largest free-hanging stalactite.

Check out the gift shops on Fisher Street, then head down to the pier for some beautiful views of the cliffs or jump on a ferry across to the Aran Islands. In the evenings you’re sure to find a lively session of traditional Irish music in full swing. Try Gus O’Connors or Fitzpatrick’s Bar at Hotel Doolin. Be sure to grab a pic at nearby Doonagore Castle too, before you pack up and hit the road.

Accommodation: Stay at Hotel Doolin, Ireland’s first hotel to be awarded carbon neutral status. It’s a great location and there’s alway some craic to be found. Keep an eye on their facebook page for Spaced Out Sessions. Doolin has heaps of other accommodation options including B&Bs, glamping, apartments and more. Check availability in Doolin.

Doonagore Castle near Doolin


Lahinch is a lively seaside resort at the head of Liscannor Bay. It’s a really popular holiday location and is bustling during the summer months. The 2km long golden sandy beach is a big draw for swimmers and water sports enthusiasts. It has also built a reputation as one of Ireland’s top surf destinations and you’ll find several places offering lessons and equipment for hire if you want to give it a go.

Add to that two golf courses, the stunning scenery, heaps of great shops, restaurants and bars and it’s no wonder that it’s such a popular stop along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Accommodation: Lahinch offers a wide variety of accommodation including hotels, B&Bs and self-catering options. Check availability in Lahinch.

Lahinch at dusk


If you like things a little less busy, Ennistymon is another option and just a 5 minute drive from Lahinch. This quaint market town is known for its colourful, traditional shop fronts and bars. The river Inagh runs through the town and behind the main street you can view the series of small rapids, known as ‘the cascades’ or simply ‘the falls’.

Over recent years the town has developed a reputation as a foodie destination. Try Byrnes for dinner and Oh La La for delicious crepes. An Teach Bia serves up a great feed too. Be sure to drop in to my cousin Sinéad in The Cheese Press on Main St. She’ll get you sorted with any picnic essentials and deli items you need. Or you can enjoy a delicious toastie and coffee while picking some fine Irish cheeses to take home. Don’t be surprised if you walk in on an impromptu session. That’s just one of the things that makes this such a unique spot!

Accommodation: Located by the banks of the river, the Falls Hotel is a lovely place to stay and have some great offers available on their website. Other accommodation options include The Lazy Cow hostel, Station House B&B and private properties for rent. Check availability in Ennistymon.


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The charming village of Kinvara in Galway is the northern gateway to the Burren. Located on the shores of Galway Bay, it’s a lovely place to stay awhile.

Perched on the water’s edge, just a few hundred metres from the village, Dunguaire Castle is a captivating sight. Not surprisingly, it’s one of the most popular and photographed castles on Ireland’s west coast.

Seafood lovers should check out Pier Head restaurant and you won’t be short on places to sink a pint and enjoy a traditional music session (when back up and running!). Try Keogh’s or Green’s Bar, which has been serving up pints for over 150 years now. On Friday’s the Kinvara Farmer’s Market takes place in the village, offering local artisan products and crafts.

Accommodation: Stay at the centrally located Merriman Hotel, which has the largest thatched roof in Ireland. B&Bs and private rentals are other options available. Check availability in Kinvara.

Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara, a gateway to the Burren. The castle is reflected in the water of the bay on a grey, dull day but some pink wild flowers provide a pop of colour in the foreground.

Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara

Things to do in the Burren

1. Poulnabrone Dolmen

Poulnabrone dolmen is one of the the largest portal tombs in Ireland, second only to Brownshill Dolmen in Carlow. After the Cliffs of Moher, it’s also the second most popular location in the Burren. Of course we know from our nursery rhymes that second is the best, so you won’t want to miss it!

Built by Neolithic farmers, the Poulnabrone Dolmen dates back to between 4200 BC and 2900 BC. During two excavations of the site, the remains of both adults and children were discovered. Radiocarbon dating of the bones indicates that the site was used for burials for a 600 year period, between 5,200 and 5,800 years ago.

2. Caherconnell Stone Fort

Caherconnell Fort lies just 1km south of Poulnabrone dolmen, so these two attractions can easily be visited together. The stone fort is said to date from early 10th century to mid 12th century and was in use until the early 13th century. It’s an extremely well-preserved example of a medieval ringfort.

The drystone enclosure wall has a diameter of 42 metres, while the walls measure up to 3 metres in width and height. The fort is open to the public and entrance tickets can be booked online. There’s also a café and craft shop inside the visitor centre, which was designed as a traditional Irish cottage to blend into the landscape.

At Caherconnell you can also purchase a ticket for one of the Sheepdog Demonstrations. The sheepdog is an essential part of any farming family and here you can observe their skill and intelligence, as they work with both cattle and sheep.

3. Cliffs of Moher

Of course, no trip to north Clare is complete without a visit to one of Ireland’s top tourist attraction, the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs form part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark and there are a number of ways to take in their breathtaking beauty, depending on your preferences and how much time you have.

If you’re after quick and easy access, you can park at the main visitor centre or nearby Guerin’s Path. If you have the time though, I’d recommend hiking along the cliffs from either Doolin or Liscannor. There will be less people and more opportunity to enjoy the fantastic views. Alternatively, hop on a boat cruise with Doolin Ferry and enjoy the cliffs from the water for a unique perspective.

Tip:  head to nearby Moher Cottage to enjoy coffee and a great view. This fab café and gift shop stocks a wide collection of Irish products, including homeware, art & prints, throws, pottery, skincare and so much more. Be sure to pick up some of their delicious handmade fudge while you’re there too.

4. Aillwee Cave

Aillwee Cave is one of the oldest caves in Ireland and was discovered in 1944. However it remained a secret for almost another 30 years. until the farmer who found it, shared the location with a group of cavers.

In 1976 the bones of two brown bears were discovered in the cave and they turned out to be over 10.000 years old. The cave system has over 1km of passages. About one third of this is accessible on the tour, which is well worth doing.

Located next to the cave is a Birds of Prey centre, were you get up up close and personal to birds such as Falcons and Hawks.


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5. Burren National Park Walking Trails

The Burren National Park is one of six National Parks in Ireland. It’s also one of the best places to explore the unique karst landscape of the Burren. Located in the south east of the Burren, it has some great way-marked walking trails. I highly recommend the Mullaghmore Loop walk. I’ve done it a number of times now and it remains one of my favourite hikes.

The best time to visit the Burren National Park is in summer when the wildflowers are in bloom and abundant. There are free guided walks during the peak season too. They offer a great way to learn more about the flora, fauna and geology of the area.

Stormy dark clouds and a rainbow over the rocky landscape of the Burren from the top of Mullaghmore

View from the summit of Mullaghmore

6. Father Ted’s House

Just a few minutes drive north of the trailhead for the Mullaghmore walks, you’ll find Father Ted’s Parochial House. Fans of the popular TV show will find it hard to pass without stopping for a pic! Just bear in mind that it’s a private property, so it’s not possible to get up close to explore. It’s still cool to see it and get a quick photo at the gate though.

Pre-Covid it was actually possible to book afternoon tea at Father Ted’s and even a guided walk through the Burren. Hopefully that will be an option again at some stage.

Photo outside the white metal gates of Father Ted'S House in the Burren. A long driveway leads up to the house which was used for the TV show.

Father Ted’s House

7. Hazel Mountain Chocolate Factory

For anyone with a sweet tooth, a stop off at Hazel Mountain Chocolate Factory is a must. This boutique bean to bar chocolate factory is one of the smallest and most remote chocolate factories in the world. Be sure to add it to your list of things to do in the Burren.

Grab a delicious cake and a hot chocolate in the café before heading through to the factory and shop. You can see the chocolatiers hard at work behind a window, while you browse and stock up on yummy treats to take home. Tours are also available and can be booked online.

The words Hazel Mountain Chocolate engraved on wood above the gates at the entrance to the factory shop in the Burren

8. The Burren Perfumery

The Burren Perfumery is a family company, making perfumes and cosmetics inspired by the Burren landscape. Everything is made on site, in the Burren using natural and organic ingredients.

Get a bite to eat from the Tea Rooms and enjoy the beautiful location, including the herb garden which is free to visit year round. You’ll find examples of native herbs and information about their traditional uses. There’s also a free audiovisual presentation about Burren flora and fauna for visitors to enjoy.


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9. Dysert O’Dea Castle

Dysert O’Dea Castle is a restored 15th century tower house, located a few miles south of Corofin. The castle is home to the Clare Archaeology Centre and has exhibits of local artefacts dating back to the Stone Age.

There are four floors which can be accessed by visitors, as well as a wall walk on the roof. There is also an archaeology trail surrounding the castle, which contains 25 original field monuments. These include two Romanesque churches, a 12th century high cross, Iron Age stone forts, holy wells and more.

10. The Burren Centre & Kilfenora Cathedral  

In the historic village of Kilfenora, you’ll find the Burren Centre. This interpretative centre is a great introduction to the area. You’ll find exhibitions and information related to the flora & fauna, geology, history and legends of the region.There’s also a gift shop and tea rooms.

The centre is adjacent to the famed Kilfenora Cathedral. Built in 1189 the cathedral is of great architectural interest. It features ornate doorways and windows, stone heads and effigial slabs. Kilfenora is also renowned for its high crosses, three of which are located at the cathedral. They were moved to the transept of the cathedral, where a glass roof has been fitted to protect them.


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11. Burren Smokehouse

Visit the Burren Smokehouse, where you can sample their Burren smoked Irish organic salmon in the visitor centre. There’s also a video you can watch about the smoking process and colourful mosaics on display, both outdoors and inside.

In the shop you can purchase products from the Burren Smokehouse range, as well as other local food products, crafts and gifts. You can also purchase their products or create a gift basket or hamper from their website.


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12. Newtown Castle

Located near Ballyvaughan village, Newtown Castle is a 16th century tower house, built for the O’Brien clan. Unlike most tower houses in Ireland, Newtown Castle is cylindrical rather than square. Even more unique is tower’s pyramidical base, which makes it one of a kind.

Newtown Castle was restored in the 90s and is part of the Burren College of Art. It’s available for hire for weddings or conferences but is also open to the public on weekdays, free of charge.


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13. Corcomroe Abbey

Also near the village of Ballyvaughan are the ruins of Corcomroe Abbey, an early 13th century Cistercian monastery. The ruins are a National Monument and are open to the public. Some of the stone carvings found among these Romanesque ruins are said to be the finest examples in Ireland.

Inside the ruins of Corcomroe Abbey in the Burren

Inside the ruins of Corcomroe Abbey

14. St Tola Goat Farm

If you haven’t tasted St Tola award-winning artisan goats cheeses yet, then you’re missing out. St Tola goat farm is near located near Inagh and the team love showing people around the farm. While tours are not back up and running just yet, it’s well worth doing when they are so keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.

Kids get to pet the goats and watch them being fed. You’ll get to watch a cheesemaking demonstration and of course do some tasting. What’s not to love! In the meantime you can still purchase their delicious cheeses online.


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15. Michael Cusack Centre

Born in Carron, on the eastern edge of the Burren, Michael Cusack was the founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). Even if you’re not Irish, you’re probably aware of how much Irish people love their GAA, so you’ll know that’s a pretty big deal!

The small stone cottage, where Cusack lived with his family, is now part of the Michael Cusack Centre. Guided tours and an audio visual display provide insight into Cusack’s life and legacy.

The Cusack Way, a 6km linear trail, starts from the centre and takes you to Cahercommaun Cliff Fort. Enjoy stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape before returning to the centre, where there’s a gift store and tea room .


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16. Dromore Nature Reserve

Once part of a private estate, Dromore Wood is now managed by the State and is a statutory Nature Reserve. A large variety of flora and fauna can be found throughout the reserve, which includes rivers, lakes, meadows and woodlands.

The ruins of the O’Brien castle (Dromore Castle) are located by the lake and date back to the 16th century. Other historic sites include a church, ring forts and a limekiln. There are also six marked walking trails within the reserve.

17. Fanore Beach

Fanore is a beautiful, long sandy beach with an extensive sand dune system. Being a Blue Flag beach, it’s a popular spot for swimming and water sports. The area is unspoilt and the drive along the coast from Doolin is spectacular and one of the easiest ways to see the unique landscape of the Burren. So be sure to pack the togs, pack a picnic and check it out!

18. Burren Nature Sanctuary

Just a few minutes drive from Kinvara Village, the Burren Nature Sanctuary is a great introduction to the unique biodiversity of the Burren. The sanctuary is a 50 acre organic farm with nature trails through ancient Ash and Hazel woodland and Burren habitats, showcasing the native wildflowers of the Burren.

Kids can meet the farm animals, search for fairies or enjoy the outdoor adventure play area. There’s also a café on site, perfect for when you work up an appetite doing all that exploring!


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19. Lisdoonvarna Spa Wells Heritage Centre

Though it’s probably best known for its annual matchmaking festival these days, the town of Lisdoonvarna was once famous for its Spa Centre. Water flowing from the springs here are rich in sulphur and iron and attracted visitor’s hoping to benefit from their curative properties.

Though the spa closed in 2014, the Victorian pump house has been restored and features an exhibition on the history of the wells. You can even taste the water from the well in the Pump Room. Unfortunately, the heritage centre isn’t open again just yet but keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates if you’re heading that way.


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20. Thoor Ballylee

Located in the Burren lowlands near Gort in Co. Galway, Thoor Ballylee is a bit of a hidden delight. The tower and its surrounds inspired the work of W.B. Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is!

In fact, Yeats was so enchanted with it that he purchased the tower in 1916, which is why it is also knows as Yeats’ Tower.  After paying a price of £35, he spent several years restoring the property, which became a summer home for his family. Though you can’t access the tower right now, it’s still worth visiting. The tower is adjoined to a small thatched cottage and garden also used by the family. Don’t miss the short riverside walk to the ruins of the old mill close by.

Thoor Ballylee located in the Burren Lowlands on the Streamstown River

Thoor Ballylee on the banks of the Streamstown River in the Burren Lowlands

21. Coole Park

Yeats was also a regular visitor to nearby Coole Park Estate, owned by his good friend Lady Augusta Gregory. Along with a number of others, they co-founded the Abbey theatre. The estate was also frequented by other literary greats like Sean O’Casey and George Bernard Shaw.

Nowadays, Coole Park is a beautiful nature reserve with walking trails, tea rooms and a visitor centre. Within the 18th walled garden you can see the Autograph Tree, on which Lady Gregory and her famous guests carved their initials. Though they are somewhat faded now, you can still make out a lot of them, thanks to a helpful display.


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