A moonscape of cracked limestone awaits visitors to the uplands of northwestern County Clare, Ireland. Known as the Burren, this 97 square mile area is full of ancient monuments, caves, natural wonders, and a national park. Where the Burren ends, the impossibly tall Cliffs of Moher snake along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. A day-long road trip gave us a sampling of what the area has to offer. Here’s how we saw the Burren and Cliffs of Moher.
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This loop can be done in either direction, but Rick wanted some late afternoon shots of the cliffs, so we drove counter clockwise from Ennis, first stopping in Corofin and the Burren National Park Visitor Center. Deciding against leaving our car to ride the shuttle into the park, we chose instead to see the Burren from the R480, traveling northward toward Ballyvaughan. First up, though, an unplanned visit to…
1. Killinaboy (or Kilnaboy) Church
Shortly after leaving Corofin, we came upon the town of Killinaboy. Looming through the mist above road level, we spied the old Killinaboy church. It looked like an interesting place to poke around, so we did.
Because of its decorative and masonry styles, the church is believed to be a 16th century rebuild of an earlier 13th century church. Notable features include a medieval fertility symbol carving called a Sheela-na-gig and a double armed cross designed into the stone of the church gable. There’s also the stump of a round tower dating from the 11th or 12th century.
2. Caherconnell Stone Fort
Onward and northward to see Caherconnell, one of the larger examples of a stone ringfort. It was built in the 10th century, perhaps by someone of royal status and continued to be occupied for at least 700 years. The site is currently under archaeological excavation which has unearthed the remains of human burials, former foundation walls, and an old fire pit.
You’ll have to pay to see this one, but Caherconnell Stone Fort has decent parking, a little café and gift shop inside the visitor center, and an informational movie.
3. Poulnabrone Dolmen
Just another two minutes up the road (by car) is the 5,000-year-old Poulnabrone Dolmen portal tomb, a thin capstone balancing on top of two 6-foot high supporting stones. The megalithic monument is free to visit and looks over a field of cracked limestone slabs (or “clints”) which are the hallmark of the Burren region.
A little further north and we came to a dead end at the Atlantic ocean. Time for lunch and a stop in the quaint little seaside village of Ballyvaughan.
5. Black Head
Back in the car and we headed west around the point of Black Head. Just a mile after passing the lighthouse, we joined everyone else at the Murrooghtoohy pull-off where an opening in the stone barrier wall allows access to the water.
6. Doolin Pier
Thinking that we might want to take a one-hour boat tour to see the Cliffs of Moher from below, we drove over to Doolin Pier to check on the cruise times and prices. On another day, we may have done this, but the water was choppy, most of the puffins had left for the season, and it was already late afternoon. We decided our time would be better spent on top of the cliffs.
We weren’t the only ones.
7. Cliffs of Moher
Finally… the last stop of the day, and we had made it to the mighty Cliffs of Moher, five miles of ocean-side, straight-down rock face that rise 700 feet at the highest point. As one of Ireland’s most-visited natural tourist attractions, the cliffs are super popular and best visited after 4 p.m. in the summer. Not that we were the only ones there, but most of the tour buses had gone home by then.
The route we took through the Burren region was a full day of driving and sightseeing. We left our home-base of Ennis in the morning, but easily made it back, tired and hungry, by dinnertime.
While in Ireland, we also drove the Dingle Peninsula’s Slea Head Drive and part of the Ring of Kerry. We took side trips to the Rock of Cashel, Bunratty Castle, the Loop Head Peninsula, and enjoyed our stay in the town of Ennis.
Read our entire 9-Day Ireland Itinerary here.