Ireland Scenic Drives: The Burren Loop
Sometimes, to experience the best of what Ireland has to offer, you need to get behind the wheel and explore the country for yourself. This special series of blog posts is here to shine a light on some of Ireland’s best road trips. This week, we’re diving in to the Burren Loop. Otherworldly in its beauty, the Burren loop landscapes are a must-see. Aside from exploring the Burren Wildlife Park itself, the surrounding area of Clare is chock-full of picturesque villages and great food & drink, all broken up by some of the best scenic drives in Ireland. Aside from boasting amazing natural beauty and top quality accommodation and entertainment, the Burren Loop is also a simple route to follow – there’s only a handful of different roads on our route.
Have a look at our suggested destinations for your Burren roadtrip and make sure to leave plenty of time for pit-stops, you might find yourself pausing to take in some breathtaking Atlantic vistas along the way.
Our starting point is the most northerly place in County Clare. Ballyvaughan is small harbour village located just off the N67, along the southern shores of Galway Bay. This gorgeous village is considered by many to be the ideal base for visitors exploring the Burren Loop. Boasting a great selection of hotels, guest houses, B&Bs and self catering accommodation, as well as great restaurants, cafes and pubs – the fine folks of Ballyvaughan pride themselves on their hospitality!
Ballyvaughan is also a fishing town and it’s harbour is defined by a 50m long pier and a working quay used by the boats that work the bay. Ballyvaughan Pier is not only a favourite spot for anglers but also serves as the starting point for the Ballyvaughan Heritage Trail. The village also hosts a Saturday Farmers Market and a Sunday Craft Fair from April to September. When in town, maybe set aside some time to explore nearby Black Head for its magnificent views of Galway Bay, the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher. Don’t forget to take a look at the Black Head lighthouse which dates back to 1936.
From Ballyvaughan, we’re getting onto the R478 and heading south toward Lisdoonvarna.
Black Head Lighthouse, Ballyvaughan (copyright Fáilte Ireland Tourism Ireland)
Lisdoonvarna, is one of Ireland’s premier Spa towns and renowned for its traditional music and array of summer festivals. Known as ‘Lisdoon’ to the locals, the town boasts a number of festivals throughout the year. Perhaps most famously, the September Festival – one of Europe’s largest singles match-making festivals – and the Burren Slow Food Festival. The village is also world famous for its amazing Victorian Spa Complex and Health Centre. The Spa’s therapeutic mineral waters of sulphur, iron and magnesium have been dispensed since the 18th century, and the strong smelling sulphur water is served hot and cold in the pump. The pungent water’s source can even be viewed thanks to the specially made illuminated well.
Another wonderful spot in Lisdoonvarna is the world famous Burren Smokehouse. The Burren smokehouse produces some of the finest smoked salmon that money can buy. The Smokehouse is open all year round and even offers tastings of their award winning produce.
On leaving Lisdoonvarna, we’re heading west on the R478, turning onto the R479 and keeping west toward Doolin.
One of the gems of the Wild Atlantic Way and boasting some of the most breathtaking scenery in Ireland, stopping in this colourful village is a must. Doolin is considered by many to be the spiritual home of traditional Irish music, so there’s no shortage of of song and craic to be enjoyed every night. Vibrant and full of characters, stories and unique experiences – Doolin is also home to some of the region’s best accommodation, eateries and beautiful local shops.
From Doolin, we’re taking the R459 until it joins the R478. Keep heading south-west on R478 and follow the signs for the Cliffs of Moher.
Doonagore Castle, Doolin
The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of nine sites of geological importance and are part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark region. One of Ireland’s most visited natural attractions, The Cliffs of Moher and their attached visitor centre are open all year round. Highlights include over 800m of cliff edge paths and viewing areas, the gothic style 19th century O’Briens Tower and the eco-friendly underground visitor centre building containing visitor services and facilities, gift shop, restaurant and coffee shop and the award winning Atlantic Edge Exhibition.
As a special protected area (SPA) for seabirds, the cliffs are home to over 30,000 pairs of seabirds. Birdwatchers should bring their binoculars, Guillemots and Razorbill can be found all along the cliffs with Puffins, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Peregrine Falcons and Choughs.
From here, we’re back on the R478 and headed for Liscannor.
The Cliffs of Moher (copyright Fáilte Ireland Tourism Ireland)
If it’s already been a big day, the gorgeous town of Liscannor is a wonderful spot to find a charming B&B or enjoy a meal.
A magnificent coastal village, Liscannor really comes into its own during the summer season. The village is stuffed with accommodation options and no shortage of pubs, restaurants and shops. Liscannor’s pier and beach are also favoured spots for angling. If you have any little people tagging along on your Burren road trip, they will surely love a trip to the Moher Hill Open Farm.
One of the most renowned aspects of Liscannor is its beautiful and distinctive flagstone, which is called Liscannor Stone. The stone is a popular choice for houses, walls, flooring, paving and roofs. An audio visual room at Liscannor Rock Shop showcases the quarry methods used to extract the stone along with quarrying tools and photographs of Liscannor in the 1800’s; fascinating stuff.
Just 3km north-west of Liscannor, you’ll find the O’Brien Monument and the Holy Well of Saint Brigid. The well’s waters are still believed by many to have curing properties.
In 1853 Cornelius O’Brien MP and owner of Birchfield House was cured of an ailment with water from the Holy Well. He erected the O’Brien Monument as a show his gratitude. On the last Sunday in July each year, pilgrims travel from far and wide to visit the Well as part of the Lughnasa festivities.
Well rested, we’re pulling back on the R478 and headed for Lahinch.
Lahinch Beach is widely considered one of finest beaches Ireland has to offer and is a hot spot for surfing and kitesurfing. Lahinch Seaworld and Leisure Centre, located on the promenade, has a state of the art Gym and Pool that cater for all ages. Right next to the leisure centre, you will find Lahinch Adventures who offer surfing lessons and other activities.
Leave Lahinch on the N67 and head east toward Ennistymon.
Lahinch Strand (copyright Fáilte Ireland Tourism Ireland)
The charming town of Ennistymon is as fine a spot as any to grab a bed for the night and indulge in a slap-up meal. Nestled on the banks of the River Cullenagh, Ennistymon beautifully combines scenic, natural beauty with it’s own distinct charm and lively local shopping area.
The narrow street near the bridge over the Cullenagh River is the oldest part of the town – and a little below the bridge, the river rushes over a ridge of rocks that produce a truly stunning cascade. This fabulous little town is the perfect place to relax, sit back and enjoy the atmosphere of the many bars and restaurants. Keep in mind, the Ennistymon Food and Craft Fair is on every Sunday..
Onto the final stretch, pull out of Ennistymon on the R481 and keep North-West toward Corofin.
River Cullenagh, Ennistymon (© Tourism Ireland)
This beautiful, picturesque village is considered to be the gateway to the Burren region. Corofin is located on the River Fergus and the hinterland around Corofin is renowned in itself as the Clare Lakelands and Lake Inchiquin. Unsurprisingly for a village in the Burren Loop, Corofin has many distinctive native floras as well as a truly breathtaking network of prehistoric tombs that are begging out to be explored.
The charming village boasts a number tourist attractions and accommodation providers – as well as lots of restaurants and pubs famed for their traditional music evenings. Make sure to stop in to Corofin’s Clare Heritage Centre – they offer their own genealogical research service to help you get in touch with your roots.
Leaving Corofin, we’re hopping on to the R460 and headed for our final destination, The Burren National Park.
Poulnabrone Dolmen, Corofin (copyright Tourism Ireland)
Burren National Park
No trip along the Burren Loop is complete without a visit to Burren National Park. The Burren is one of the finest examples of a Glacio-Karst landscape in the world. 1500 hectares of the Burren National Park contain all the major habitats of the region, limestone pavement, hazel scrub, deciduous woodland, wetlands and species-rich grassland. Botanically, there are few areas quite as fascinating as the Burren, with flowers from Arctic, Alpine and Mediterranean regions growing together in harmony. The National Park boasts 7 way-marked trails of variety of lengths and difficulties.
The Park’s acclaimed Visitor Information Point provides a unique, educational and interactive experience, as it covers the geology, flora and fauna that call this remarkable landscape home.
Burren National Park (copyright Failte Ireland and Tourism Ireland)
The Burren Loop – In Conclusion
There you have it! Your essential guide to the Burren Loop, one of the finest driving routes that the country has to offer. Pack up the car and head west, you won’t regret it. If you want to get the most out of the pit-stops along the way, we recommend spreading this journey over 2-3 days.
We’ve got more roadtrip guides coming throughout the summer so keep an eye on the Autoglass blog and as always stay safe on the roads.