West Coast of Ireland
Ireland is a patchwork of fields in various shades of green, sweet cows, the smell of peat in the air, and rain storms that clear to reveal magnificent, fairy-book like clouds. I had the privilege of spending a few weeks on the west coast of Ireland this summer. From my home base in County Claire, I was able to explore some amazing castles ruins and to soak in Ireland’s beautiful green scenery.
Photographs by Camille Seaman and tala Parker
Wild Atlantic Way, County Clare
Kilkee Doonaha West (beach)
Located near my mother’s house, the rocky beaches along the Shannon offer stunning views and interesting rock formations. At the particular beach I visited, the rock looked like black dragon scales. Beaches are great places to explore!
Bridges of Ross
Super fascinating rock bridge at least 30 feet above the water. The bridges are formed by gradual erosion. Also a great place to walk around or to have a picnic, if you don’t mind some wind!
“Ankle Breaker” beach near Bridges of Ross
As you head to the Bridges of Ross, you’ll pass a small bridge that leads down to a beach. We tried hiking down there but found it was filled with boulders, making it hard to walk around. I’d recommend just heading straight to the Bridges of Ross.
Scattery Island €20
You can pre-purchase tickets before hopping on a boat which will take you over to monastery ruins with what may be the first tower built in that period. The boat ride takes less than half an hour. On the island, there are guides to explain what you are seeing and to walk you around the island. You may also walk around by yourself, but be aware that much of the island is sectioned off because of bird nesting areas as well as monastery conservation.
Vandeleur Walled Garden
Vandeleur is always a favorite of mine. The area features both an interesting exhibit about the Irish famine, as well as a walled garden. Beyond the garden, there are several walks among the trees, which is often quite rare to find in Ireland where much of the land has been deforested.
Carrigaholt Castle is near the town of Kilkee. It’s boarded up so you can’t explore inside and you must carefully pass several young bulls to get near the castle. It wasn’t very interesting compared to other castles.
Kilkee Cliffs are another beautiful example of Irelands fantastic coast. Be careful when walking along them, as there are many steep drops that would surely end in death.
Clare Abbey is one of my favorite abbeys. It has great architecture and contains a tremendous amount of history.
Ennis is a cute town located roughly between Galway and Limerick. It’s a stereotypical Irish town which features brightly colored buildings, churches, and narrow streets. It’s much less touristy than some of the other towns across Ireland, including Galway. There are several good restaurants here and festivals during the summer.
Quinn Abbey is not as impressive as Clare Abbey. They’re fairly close to each other, so I’d recommend just going to Clare Abbey.
Craggaunowen Castle and Museum €10
Cragguanowen is a cool living past experience which teaches the history of Ireland. It also features a castle and forest. My favorite part was walking through the trees, but I also enjoyed speaking with the historians that worked at the park.
Kinvara Castle €8
Kinvara was pricey and not very worthwhile. Inside, the castle felt very stagey. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Galway is a very cute, touristy Irish town. It was packed with people when I went on a weekend. However, there are some great restaurants here and fun shops too.
Cahir Castle €3
Cahir Castle was super fun to explore. It had lots of different floors and rooms to explore. Many of them were left undecorated, but I prefer that to bad decorations.
Swiss Cottage, Cahir €3
Take a twenty minute walk from the Cahir Castle over to the quaint Swiss Cottage. Built by the defendants of the Cahir castle when it was popular to “live like the peasants,” the family spent a great deal of money hiding their top of the line building materials.
Rock of Cashel €8
The Rock of Cashel is one of the most amazing castles/cathedrals I have ever visited. The massive structure blew me away. I highly recommend stopping here! My mother and I went late in the day just before closing which was great because the tour busses had left and the crowds were much more manageable.
Just a short walk away from the Rock of Cashel is Hore Abbey. It’s a cute little ruin in its own right and also offers great views of the Rock.
Limerick is another small Irish town. Though it does offer some good restaurants, the town is seems a bit down on it’s luck. It’s not at all touristy and is a bit more worn down compared to places like Galway or Killarney.
Shannon Ferry (Claire to Kerry) €20 per car
The Shannon ferry offers the chance not only for a shorter commute from County Clare to Dingle, but also for a beautiful boat ride. Buy a round trip ticket in advance and save $$$
Carrigafoyle Castle is by far my favorite castle in Ireland. It’s free to enter, but unlike many free castles, the stairway is not closed off. This means that you can climb up to the very top of the incredibly tall castle and even step off on what is now a balcony. The castle was thought to be indestructible due to its intricate stone walls, but the British eventually defeated it with cannon fire, resulting in the partial collapse of one wall. Do be careful of getting pooped on by birds here, as there are numerous nesting birds throughout the building.
Connor Pass is a beautiful way to drive down into Dingle. It offers stunning views, narrow roads, and extreme weather.
Dingle is a very touristy and very cute town. Home of Murphy Ice cream, the town hosts many touristy shops along the water. However, if you venture further into town you will find cute artisan shops as well as local spots to eat and drink.
It’s a short walk to Hussey’s Folly, but when you arrive the view is not very impressive. Further still, you’re unable to enter. It’s a nice walk, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you were going just to see the folly.
Eask Tower and hike €3
Although I didn’t do the Eask Tower hike, I would have liked to. For about three euros to the local family who owns the land you can hike up the hill for a great view of both Dingle and the sea. Unfortunately, there was strong winds when I visited and conditions were not ideal for steep hiking.
Cashel Murphy stone monument €3
All along the dingle peninsula you’ll find places were you can explore for about three euros. This became quite overwhelming when every five hundred feet there would be another opportunity to see what ever monument they were advertising. We ended up stopping at the Cashel Murphy stone monument. It was basically the remains of beehive buildings that formed a sort of spiral. Supposably, it was the location that local chieftains came to make important decisions. It was fun to explore, and I’d recommend it.
Slea Head Viewing Point
Slea Head is a great spot to stop to take in the beautiful sea views surrounding Dingle.
Blasket Island Ferry point
When you google Dingle, many of the pictures that come up are of the Blasket Island Ferry point. Although we weren’t taking the ferry, I wanted to see the place for myself. The location featured a windy, steep ramp and some impressively triangular rocks out in the water. It wasn’t as impressive as in the photos I had seen, but was still a fun adventure.
My favorite part of the Gallarus Oratory was the walk of beautiful red flowers leading up to it. However, the oratory itself was quite interesting! Unfortunately, because it is one of the few free spots to visit in Dingle, many tour busses stop here so if you can try to visit when they’re not there.
South Pole Inn
The South Pole Inn is the pub created by the one Irish man who accompanied Shackleton on his voyage to the Antarctic. The pub is filled with history about the expedition as well as the mans life. It was a fun stop, especially because I already was interested in the history!
Minard Castle was rather underwhelming, mainly due to the fact that we saw no way of entering it. However, the beach near it was beautiful. The large rocks making up the beach were quite difficult to walk on, which you may want to keep in mind if you choose to visit.