Home Uncategorized Why I’m drooling over Doolin

Why I’m drooling over Doolin

by Roberto
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Doolin in county Clare in Ireland is one of those places that has “that” effect on you. You first travel through not knowing a whole lot about it, and it startles you. Compels you to return. When you do, you can’t help falling in love. For such a small village it offers so much. Firstly, it’s the gateway to the Cliffs of Moher, so it’s instantly on the radar of anyone visiting Ireland. But wait, there’s so much more. Doolin is as quaint as villages get, and as it’s set in the UNESCO Burren Geopark, you can bank on it being scenic too. Let me introduce you to the things to do in Doolin, that make it so memorable

I make no secret of my love of County Clare in Ireland. Beata and I have travelled here three times over the years we have been together. The place keeps drawing us back. But up until now, we never found the place to stay in that we truly loved. Enter Doolin on the Wild Atlantic Way! It will be hard to look elsewhere for our next trip west to the Banner County.

Oddly up until now I’ve never written about Clare, always feeling that I need to know more before I can paint a true picture of just how great a place it is. But of late I’m getting there. So let’s begin with what to do in Doolin Ireland.

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Disclosure; This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link such as the Booking.com one below, and purchase something that I have recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any money, it will help keep this site going and me travelling. Thank you for your continuing support.

11 Excellent Things to do in Doolin

Visit the Cliffs of Moher

Of course we will start with the Cliffs of Moher as the number one thing to do in Doolin. If not Ireland. Those magnificent cliffs rise and fall for 14 kilometres along the Atlantic coastline, hitting a highest point of 214 metres. It’s one of Ireland’s biggest attractions, shaped by nature over 300 million years ago, and receives over 1.5 million visitors a year. The principal way to access to cliffs is at the visitor centre. This is open from 8am to 9pm, and the prices vary throughout the day. Visitors must book online here before coming. For those who travel by car there is a large parking facility.

First stop of a visit is the exhibition on the cliffs and the gift shop. But the cliffs are why you are here so don’t spend too long. That iconic view looking south along the cliffs is practically the first thing you see. This One…

At the high point of the cliffs you’ll see O’Brien’s Tower, which was built in 1835 as a lookout tower. The tower has been reopened and can be seen on some guided tours. From here, it’s up to you where you go. Trails go north towards Doolin, or south to Moher Tower built to keep an eye out for Napoleon. He never came. The castle that once stood here gave the cliffs its name. Bear in mind whichever way you go you’ll have to come back. You can guarantee though that all the way you’ll see some of Ireland’s best views.

It’s nearly always windy on the Cliffs of Moher (in my experience) so come prepared for that. And when I say windy I mean windy. Wrap up!

Cliffs of Moher- Things to do near Doolin

Doolin to Cliffs of Moher Walk

The cliffs of Moher can also be visited by walking the 8 kilometres from Doolin, along a spectacular route near the cliffs edge. You can do this by yourself by taking the R459 south from Doolin and joining the cliff path. Don’t fancy the coastal walk all on your own? Then join up with a small group walking tour with Ollie’s Tours, which runs daily at 10am from Doolin.

Cliffs of Moher

Bask in the Cliffs of Moher Sunset

If there’s one time of day that I love to be on the Cliffs of Moher it’s sunset. Be sure to arrive an hour before sunset to get out onto the cliffs to a place where you can appreciate it. Even though the car park closes at nine – don’t worry about that, you can still get out. So take your time and appreciate natures daily marvel. Every part of the cliffs provide a somewhat different angle, as the path drops and rises. My favourite is surely with O’Brien’s Tower as the foreground though.

County Clare
Cliffs of Moher sunset

Stroll through Doolin’s Colourful Village Centre, a foodie haven.

Doolin village is one built for postcards, especially that famed view from the bridge over the River Aille. The thatched cottage here is one of the most famous in Ireland, bright pink with a pair of dormer windows. It houses the sweater shop nowadays, a hint to what lies down the road at the pier (and over the ocean).

But the village is more than a cottage, and sprawls back up along both sides of the road, with more than enough restaurants, pubs and craft shops to keep any visitor content. Foodies will be delighted by Anthony’s, the Cheese Press, Russells Fish Shop, Glas, the Ivy Cottage Cafe, and the Stonewall Cafe, which serve the best in local and artisan produce.

What to do in Doolin.

Have a night out in Doolin Pubs and their traditional Irish music scene

Doolin is famed for its long association with traditional Irish Music and to this day it’s pubs continue that tradition. Some say Doolin is the home of Irish music (though Connemara might have a thing to say about that). The legacy centres on the Russell Brothers, Pakie, Micho, and Gussie, legends in their field. They were widely regarded as the best Irish musicians around, with Gussie in particular finding international fame and renown.

Their chosen venue in Doolin was Gus O’Connors pub which has been around since 1832. Though the Russell’s are sadly no longer with us, the pub and budding new musicians keep the sessions going. It’s hard to look past O’Connors when looking for a great night out in Doolin, and don’t plan an early start the following day. There’s always a session to be found elsewhere though and McGann’s, McDermotts and Fitzpatrick’s bars have live music several nights a week too.

*It’s worth noting that under current coronavirus restrictions, pubs aren’t permitted to have live music. Let’s hope we get the craic back soon.

O'Connors Pub Doolin
What to do in Doolin – A night out in O’Connors Pub

Go down 80 metres into Doolin cave to see Europe’s largest stalactite

So we’ve all been to show caves, and lets be honest now they aren’t too much different than each other. You might even have visited the far more popular Aillwee Caves down the road in the Burren. So why would you bother with the Doolin Cave you ask? Because it’s different. Doolin Cave is home to the Great Stalactite, which at 7.3 metres tall (are stalactites tall if they grow downwards?) is the largest free-hanging stalactite in Europe.

The caves are visited by guided tour between 10-6. Prices are €17.50 for an adult, or €8.50 for a child. The guided tour lasts an hour, and takes you down 120 steps and 80 metres to reach the cave, so remember this if you plan to visit. But if you think that’s hard imagine spelunkers who crawled for hours in the dark to find it. Now there’s a nice path, flanked by a subterranean river, which leads us through the caves features. There are some amazing fossils embedded in the cave walls, echoes of a time long gone. One crinoid is 360 million years old.

The tours main focus is the stalactite and its introduced in style. To preserve it, it usually sits in darkness, but of course that wouldn’t be much fun. So when the tour reaches it, the lights are flung on and it is unveiled in all its splendor. Yes it’s huge, overshadowing a large cavern. The path is carefully managed to allow us to appreciate it from all sides and learn about its development over 250,000 years. Then once more it returns to darkness and us to finish the tour.

Doolin cave
Just a 360 million year old fossil

Taste the best of Doolin food on a Food Tour

One of the best experiences in Doolin is taking the Doolin Food Tour with Ollie’s Tours. Full of banter and stories, and of course lots of great food. The tours are run by Ollie, a lad with Clare in his heart, who returned from Germany with a dream of showing Clare to visitors. With a strong seafood focus, the small group tour moves from Doolin to Lisdoonvarna, as we sample organic Irish Salmon, fish and chips, Irish cheeses, and coffee.

Of course it wouldn’t be Irish without a stop in a pub, and the tour does this. Twice. Firstly, the Burren Brewery presents it’s unique craft beers, before J.J. Corry whiskey bonders teach us about the art of blending whiskey. One assumes you’ve already figured the art of drinking it.

The tour is a must for foodies in Doolin, and we thoroughly enjoyed our experience with Ollie’s Tours. Have a read about it.

Ollie's Tours- The best things to do in Doolin
A tour with Ollie – Of all the things to do in Doolin, this in undoubtedly the most fun.
Ollie's Tours- The best things to do in Doolin

Take in the Doonagore Castle views

Located on a hill above the village of Doolin, is this fairytale-like castle. Sadly Doonagore Castle privately owned and not possible to visit the interior. So there’s no point visiting is there. Au contraire, there’s every point. Being only a few minutes walk or drive from Doolin, take the same route as you would to walk to the Cliffs of Moher. Instead of turning along the path to the cliffs, stick to the road and the climb to the castle. This is the first of those wonderful views. The second is when you round the corner and the castle, coastline and Atlantic Ocean stretch out before you. Beautiful.

Take care if you are driving up as parking spaces are non existent. For safety’s sake stay away from the bend and pull in further along the road. Pedestrians keep an eye out for cars on this narrow single lane road.

The Castle is a round tower house, about 450 years old and was built by the O’Connors or the O’Briens. They were two of the more powerful families in the area. It’s darkest history came in 1588 when 170 soldiers from a ship of the liberating Spanish Armada landed here. Their journey ended here with the hangman’s noose, and the armadas mission ended in failure.

Doonagore castle
The drive home for one lucky soul
Doonagore castle
This view – one of the best things to do near Doolin

Cliffs of Moher cruise

Not that I’m hung up on the Cliffs of Moher (and you shouldn’t be either as its the best things to do in Doolin) but there is one more way to see the Cliffs of Moher. Why not see them from the other side. The bottom. Doolin 2 Aran Ferries offer boat tours of the cliffs through the Atlantic Ocean.

If the excitement of seeing the cliffs from the bottom isn’t enough, let me throw in some puffins. From April to July the clowns of the sea nest in the rocks here. Along with some 20,000 other birds including razorbills, shags, and all manner of gulls. The 50 minute tour can be booked on the website. Better still it can be combined with a trip to the Aran Islands.

Aran islands – The best things to do in Doolin, which isn’t in Doolin

The Aran Islands have some of the wildest landscapes in the country, and are easily recognised by the stone walls that zigzag from coast to coast. Doolin 2 Aran ferries offer a number of sailings each day to all three islands from Doolin pier. Each of them is easily visited on a day trip from Doolin. The largest of the islands is Inis Mor, and it’s also the most visited. Of the other two Inis Oirr is the more popular, with the Plassey Shipwreck a big draw.

For those short on time, Inis Mor is the best option. A 10 am sailing will give 5 hours on the island before a return boat at 4pm. Once there, it’s worth noting that the only cars on the island are owned by locals, so there are 3 ways to get around, by bus tour, horse and carriage or renting a bike. The most liberating is the bike tour and with Aran Bike Hire located just as you get off the boat, the easiest also. They’ll give you a handy map of the island to get around with too.

A bike lets you see the island as you would want. Take one of the old narrow farm tracks as we did. You can’t get lost really, it’s a small island. Lost in your own happiness maybe. There are some sights you might want to visit, such the church at Teampaill Bheanain, beehive huts at Clochan na Carraige, and Kilmurvey Beach.

But Inis Mor’s main draw are the 3000 year old stone forts Dun Duchathair and Dun Aonghasa. The latter in particular is very impressive sitting at the top of 87 metre cliffs, and exposed to the wild Atlantic. From its elevated portion Inis Mor’s barren landscape stretches out, a stark reminder of what life might have been like here a few millennia ago. Take care on the cliff edge, nothing separates you from the long drop to the ocean below.

Red Bull fans will have to seek out the Wormhole, an unusual rectangular hole, that looks like a natural swimming pool. Red Bull used it for a diving competition. It’s not as inviting as it look though, several people have had to be rescued from it, as they were nearly washed out to sea. Enjoy with your eyes is my advice.

Carrying cash on the Aran Islands is a must as some services such as the bike hire only accept it. A rain jacket is a must too, as there’s not much shelter out there, and this be Ireland. Of course there’s nothing better to overcome the wind here than a warm sweater, and this is Aran, home of the sweater. A trip to Aran isn’t complete without a stop into the Aran Sweater Shop in Kilronan.

Dun Aonghasa fort on the Aran Islands
The walls of the Dun Aonghasa fort
Aran Islands
View from Dun Aonghasa over Inis Mor

Stay and eat in the Doolin Inn

Looking for an overnight option in Doolin? Look no further than the Doolin Inn. It’s ranked among the top ten inns in the country. My first question was what’s the difference between an inn, a Hotel, and a B&B. I guess it lies somewhere in the middle. The Doolin Inn exceeded expectations, and would slot in easily as a very good four star hotel.

The staff were superb, room was comfortable and clean, and the food… The food was simply amazing. All served in Anthony’s restaurant, which takes its name from the owner. Breakfast nailed the recent inability to have a buffet by bringing a mini one to your table, and the pancakes, omelette and old full Irish were perfect. Dinner is just as amazing. Perfect was the prawns and chorizo. Options like Fillet steak, cod with couscous, risotto and halibut keep the consistency going into the mains. It’s a great one-stop-shop for your trip to Doolin.

Doolin Inn


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