Planning Your Time

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Planning Your Time

There's much to see between Clare and Galway, so prioritizing your time means prioritizing your interests: if you want quintessential Irish castles, scenery, music, and history, spend all three days in Clare, allowing yourself time to stop and explore everything from Bunratty to the Burren and Craggaunowen to the Cliffs, as well as a night on the Aran Islands. If you want a little city buzz with your scenery, save the third day for Galway City—a vibrant city, rich in history and buzzing with artistic activity and festivals—and plan to spend the night so that you can sample the lively pub and music scene.

If You Have 3 Days

Dedicate your first day to castles, crannógs (early Celtic dwellings), and craic (a good time). Begin with the magnificently restored Bunratty Castle, flanked by a lively folk village and a famous old riverside pub, Durty Nelly's. Allow a few hours to visit nearby Craggaunowen, where you'll find a medieval castle, a ring fort, Crannóg, and the Brendan Boat—a leather hulled boat built to reenact the voyage of St. Brendan, an early Christian monk said to have discovered America centuries before Columbus. Then, continue the castle theme with a quick visit to Knappogue Castle, a restored medieval manor, home to medieval banquets and beautiful walled gardens—perfect for a pre-dinner stroll. Finally, end the day in Ennis, with a hearty dinner, live music, and a well-earned pint.

Go coastal on Day 2 with an early start and a scenic drive that hugs the coastline of West Clare, taking in the seaside villages of Spanish Point, Lahinch, and Liscannor; the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher; the musical hot spot of Doolin; the beach of Fanore (noted for its edible seaweed); and the megalithic remains and limestone landscape of the Burren. The drive along the coast from Doolin to Ballyvaughan (past Fanore and Black Head) is a favorite Sunday drive for Clare locals and especially lovely. If you're looking for a lively music scene, spend the night in a B&B in Doolin or Ballyvaughan. Otherwise, consider spending the night on the Aran Islands where you'll experience a taste of old Ireland—slow and peaceful. Take the ferry from Doolin; you can book a B&B with your ferry ticket.

Day three depends on your interests; if you want more of the raw quiet and countryside that inspired Irish writers like J. M. Synge, Liam O'Flaherty, and Máirtín Ó Díreíin, explore the forts and folklore of the Aran Islands. If you're ready for a little noise and excitement, head for Galway City, park the car, and take in the buzz on the streets. If you can, spend the night to sample Galway's lively and informal fine dining and music scene.

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