County Clare’s hospitality, the traditions of Irish music and dance, colorful small shops, cozy pubs, and traditional cottages are a few of the attributes that define this gorgeous area of Ireland. Lisdoonvarna lies in the heart of County Claire with unspoiled natural beauty and a spectacular coastline.
A Brief History
Evidence of prehistoric settlements, including the iconic Poulnabrone Dolmen, suggests early human activity in the region dating back to the Neolithic period. As with much of Ireland, the Celtic influence became prominent around 500 BC, shaping the cultural and linguistic landscape of Clare.
During the medieval period, the region saw the rise of several notable Gaelic clans, including the O’Briens, who established the Kingdom of Thomond. The imposing Bunratty Castle, constructed in the 15th century, became a center of power for the O’Briens and stands as a testament to Clare’s medieval heritage. The O’Briens also played a significant role in resisting English incursions during the Tudor conquest of Ireland in the 16th century.
The 19th century brought significant social and economic changes to County Clare. The devastating impact of the Great Famine (1845-1852) led to widespread emigration and population decline. The county’s landscape is dotted with remnants of abandoned cottages, reflecting the profound impact of this tragic period. In the following decades, efforts were made to revive the Irish language and preserve cultural traditions.
Today, County Clare is celebrated for its breathtaking natural beauty, including the iconic Cliffs of Moher and the unique limestone landscape of the Burren. The county’s rich cultural heritage is reflected in traditional music, dance, and the continued efforts to preserve the Irish language. Visitors to County Clare can explore its historical sites, engage with local traditions, and experience the enduring spirit of this captivating region on Ireland’s rugged west coast.
The Roadside Tavern
The Roadside Tavern has been run by the Curtin Family since 1893 making it one of the oldest pubs in the Burren area. The tavern’s famously laid-back atmosphere and guaranteed craic (fun) makes it as attractive to visitors and locals alike. The current proprietor is Peter Curtin, who also owns and operates the nearby Burren Smokehouse.
Burren National Park
The Burren takes its name from the Irish word ‘bhoireann’ meaning, ‘a stony place’ or ‘a rocky place’, which is a good description for this large plateau in North Clare. Stretching across northern Clare, from the Atlantic coast to Kinvara in County Galway, the Burren is a unique striated limestone landscape that was shaped beneath ancient seas. Plenty of opportunity for hiking and walking in the area.
In the heart of the Burren lies one of the oldest caves in Ireland, perched high on its terraced mountainside with what has to be one of the most spectacular views of Galway Bay. It is a must for all who find themselves in the area.
Bunratty Castle was built in 1425 by the MacNamaras and then passed to the O’Briens who were the Earls of Thomond. The Castle is filled primarily with 15th and 16th century furnishings. Medieval banquets are still held in the castle year round (reservations necessary).
Kilkee is a small coastal town located on the rugged west coast of County Clare. The town is a popular Irish seaside resort with families for its breathtaking scenic walks, sea cliff panoramic views, and wonderful amenities that are readily available.
This part of Ireland is known for…
its fish and seafood dishes, particularly the salmon and we recommend that you try some local food!
Don’t miss out on…
The Burren Smokehouse – Learn about the ancient Irish art of oak-smoking salmon at the world famous smokehouse. Try some smoked salmon and other fishies in myriad forms which are offered for a free tasting and available for purchase.
The village of Lisdoonvarna is the perfect place to explore many of the greatest sites in County Clare. Sheedy’s Country House Hotel is a long established family run four star hotel situated in Lisdoonvarna, just a ten minute drive from the Cliffs of Moher.
Cliffs of Mohe
The Burren in Spring
Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Whales Swim with Dolphins
Ireland – County Clare – 1974
Jack’s Favorite Moment
Lisdoonvarna and the World’s Best Salmon
Many visitors and lovers of Ireland may not have heard of the tiny village of Lisdoonvarna. I stumbled onto this gem in the west of Ireland on a road trip a few years back, and now I recommend it to everyone passing through the area.
Lisdoonvarna lies in the heart of The Burren, which takes its name from the Irish word ‘bhoireann’ meaning, ‘a stony place’ or ‘a rocky place’. Stretching across County Clare, from the Atlantic coast to Kinvara in County Galway, it’s a unique limestone landscape that was shaped beneath ancient seas, then forced high and dry by a great geological cataclysm.
This gorgeous area of Ireland is famous for its unique karst landscape, rare flowers, and rich archaeological sites. Let’s dive in and see what this gorgeous place has to offer!
Many historians and Tolkien lovers actually hold that it was the Burren that served as the true inspiration for much of the Lord of the Ring series, namely Gollum’s cave and the Shire. This has been a great debate over the decades as many local Irishman hold firm that Tolkien got his inspiration in rural Ireland, rather than England as traditional history tell us. Either way it’s easy to see how a young Tolkien might have been moved by the inspiring landscape and rich history.
It was by pure chance that we decided to stop here which ended up being one of the highlights of the trip, not only because of the neat little town and the beautiful surrounding landscape, but also for the locals we met while visiting. Right along the main drag, which is nothing more than a wee street, lies the one and only Roadside Tavern.
The Roadside Tavern has been run by the Curtin Family since 1893 making it one of the oldest pubs in the Burren. The current proprietor, Peter Curtin, also owns and operates the nearby Burren Smokehouse. The tavern’s famously laid-back atmosphere and guaranteed craic (fun) makes it attractive to visitors and locals alike.
When we walked in Peter was behind the bar pouring a pint as we looked around the historic tavern. We sat down and he quickly started to chat us up. We were clearly not from around here as my friend’s French and German accents were a dead giveaway along with my obvious American lingo.
I don’t remember exactly how the conversation got going but before we knew it we were best friends with Peter; hanging out behind the bar, chatting with the local patrons, and even going behind the scenes to see his little brewery. We stayed there for hours shooting the breeze and learning about the history and folklore of the Burren.
Peter told us about the history of the Roadside Tavern and the nearby Smokehouse, which he claimed was the ‘best salmon in the world.’ That was a bold claim and the Irish are known for exaggerating but after sampling it for myself I would have to agree this was the best salmon I ever had in my life.
We learned about the ancient Irish art of oak-smoking salmon, tried some tasty salmon and other fish in myriad forms which were offered as a free tasting. I later learned that this was the same smokehouse that the White House and Buckingham Palace order their salmon from, so it really is world renown.
Lisdoonvarna is also well known for an annual festival called the ‘The Matchmaking Festival’, an Irish tradition of bringing thousands of single people together in rural Ireland to meet and mingle. Every August/September the area around Lisdoonvarna explodes for an entire month of music and dancing from 11 am until late featuring Ireland’s top country musicians.
Matchmaking is an Irish tradition that’s as old as time that began when visiting gentry came to ‘take the waters’ at this spa town and looked to match their children with someone suitable from the upper classes. The opening of the West Clare Railway in 1887 meant Lisdoonvarna increased in popularity as a tourist destination and the matchmaking tradition grew exponentially. With the harvest safely in and September being the peak holiday month, many bachelor farmers began to flock to Lisdoonvarna for a spa town vacation and in search of a wife.
After what seemed like days of drinking, eating, and mingling we said our goodbyes to Peter and the Roadside Tavern and pressed on from Lisdoonvarna up toward our final stop in Galway. But, I’ll never forget the quaint village in the middle of nowhere Ireland,
Founder of Guidester
Explore the Cliff of Moher
Wander around Doolin
Hike around Burren National Park
Wander around Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
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