Planning a staycation in Co Clare? Blogger Janet Newenham tells us the best sites, scenic drives and things to do
01st Oct 2020
Cork native and travel blogger Janet Newenham took her Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra on her staycation in Co Clare, documenting her journey and best finds along the way.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” — a quote drilled into me as a child and one that felt very apt on a wet weekend in August as two friends and I headed off to the West Coast on a little staycation. The destination? Beautiful Co. Clare on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
Having already travelled quite a bit around Ireland during the summer, I was excited to check out the Gym+Coffee Make Life Richer Map and discover a few gems I didn’t know about.
Wild Kilkee cliffs
Our weekend started at the Kilkee Cliffs, where the sun tried its hardest to peek out from behind the clouds as we went for a long walk along by the cliffs, in awe at the views, the deep blue of the water and the fact that we were the only tourists there.
Unlike the Cliffs of Moher, the Kilkee Cliffs are free to visit, feel a little wilder in places and you can either walk them or drive and stop off at the best viewpoints.
The cliffs run right alongside the road, making for quite the adventurous and spectacular road trip. There’s a scattering of sea arches, sea stacks and caves to be discovered – just stay alert and, whatever you do, don’t go too close to the edge.
While the drive up from Cork to Clare wasn’t too long, it was time for a quick bite to eat and perhaps a pick-me-up coffee so we headed into Lahinch for a takeaway lunch from Dodi Cafe.
Due to current restrictions it’s take-out only, but it suited us fine as we took out chicken baps and lattes and sat by Lahinch beach watching both beginner and talented surfers carve up the waves.
The sun yet again decided to peep through the clouds and we were quite content to sit there for an hour soaking up the atmosphere of this fun seaside town. Got to hand it to G+C, they know how to pick a good coffee spot!
Next, it was on to colourful Doolin, one of my favourite villages in all of Ireland. It’s the kind of place that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy every time you turn the corner on the approach to that small stone bridge that crosses over to the famous pink, thatched cottage.
That feeling that you have “arrived” and go full-on into holiday mode. Doolin might be small, but I doubt there isn’t a person in Ireland who hasn’t visited and I doubt there’s an international visitor that hasn’t had it on their Irish bucket list for years before coming to the Emerald Isle.
On past trips to Doolin, I’ve done one of two things — bee-lined for O’Connors Pub for afternoon pints in the sunshine or drove past the village entirely on my way to catch the ferry out to the Aran Islands. On this beautiful, surprisingly sunny evening in August however, we were on a mission to rent bikes and explore Clare by bike. We headed into the Doolin Bike shops and rented some bikes for the afternoon. Push Bikes may I add, we’re no cheaters!
We set off out of the village and up a very ambitious hill towards Doonagore Castle, the first of many photo stops on our two-wheeled adventure. While this 16th-century tower house castle is not open to the public, it’s the views of the castle with the town of Doolin and the Aran Islands in the background that you’re really looking for.
It’s nothing short of breathtaking. We struggled on up the wickedly steep hill and made the first big error of our weekend trip, we decided to veer left instead of right, missing out on the Cliffs of Moher, confident we would see them in all their glory the next morning.
If I’ve learned anything from this summer in Ireland, it’s to never put faith in the weather, especially if your activity is dependent on it. Anyway off we cycled, speeding downhill in the direction of Lisdoonvarna, a town famous for its annual Matchmaking Festival and numerous fun pubs and bars. We swung a left to discover the countryside outside of Doolin and somehow ended up in a field by the sea, fearful of the “Beware of the Bull” sign but loving the panoramic views of the Aran Islands.
After two hours, we headed back towards Doolin and on to the Cliffs of Moher Hotel in Liscannor, where we were pleasantly surprised to find live music and fresh fish and chips on the menu, waiting for us to devour. After our full day of adventure, the three of us slept like babies that night, only awakened by a text message from my dad at around 7am. “You’re in the eye of the storm. If you want to see anything get up now!”
Eye of the storm
“What storm?!”, we all asked. Unaware of any storm due. We cautiously opened the curtains of our hotel window, to see everything eerily quiet outside. There was a lot of low lying cloud and mist, but there was an opening in the clouds over the water in Lahinch where the sun’s rays were shining down.
My dad is never wrong about the weather, as much as I wish he was, so we quickly got dressed, grabbed a to-go coffee and drove up a winding, narrow road towards a small private car park that leads to the Liscannor to Cliffs of Moher Coastal Path. From the moment we sat into the car that morning, to the moment we admitted defeat in the late afternoon, it did not stop raining.
And I’m not talking about a light drizzle. I’m talking gale force winds, torrential downpours, floods on the road, “we’re all going to freeze” rain. We weren’t to know so we powered on through and decided once we wrapped up warm in our Gym+Coffee gear plus rain
jackets we’d be grand.
We kept our heads down, fighting with the wind, and eventually made our way to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher. Or at least they would have been spectacular if we could see them. On top of the wind and the rain, a heavy mist and coastal fog had obscured the cliffs from view, so after a few fun “bad hair day” pictures, we fought the winds and headed back to the car. “I’m sure it will clear up in no time!”, we laughed, secretly checking weather apps and realizing we were now smack bang in the middle of Storm Francis.
Burren Way and Lighthouse Walk
We drove on to a very winding Fanore Beach and attempted to walk part of the Burren Way and Lighthouse Walk before finally admitting defeat. As much as you can dress for the weather in Ireland, hiking in a storm is never going to be fun.
We stopped off at the nearest coffee shop we could find, clothes and masks soaked to the core, and consoled ourselves with hot chocolates overflowing with mini marshmallows and feed of a full Irish breakfast to warm our souls.
When it comes to a staycation in Ireland, it’s best to prepare for the worst, hope for the best and be happy with anything in between. We still had a lot of fun, kept a smile on our faces the majority of the time and I’m pretty sure we’ll be back to this part of Ireland again…just not in the middle of an Irish summer storm.
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