County Clare is one of the most visited parts of Ireland because of the Cliffs of Moher but there are more to the county than just the Cliffs of Moher. One of the highlights is the town of Doolin. There are a surprising amount of things to do in Doolin so let’s dive right in to all the things you can see and do in the lovely coastal town.
Cliffs of Moher
If you’re visiting Doolin and Clare County then odds are that it’s because you’re visiting the Cliffs of Moher. They’re Ireland’s most visited site and one of the places you must visit on the West Coast of Ireland. A huge number of people come visit every year. They usually come for the cliffs and leave right away which is a mistake in my opinion as Doolin and county Clare has lots of other highlights to offer.
The most popular way to visit the Cliffs of Moher is by coach or by car. You can walk along the length of the cliffs and enjoy the visitor center which showcases a lot of the nature and fauna that the cliffs have to offer as well as some photo opportunities and some family friendly activties. There’s also a cafe that has some great snacks and drinks if you need to warm up from the winds on a particularly cold day.
If you’re looking to explore the Cliffs in a different way you can take a boat from the Doolin Pier which would take you along the bottom of the Cliffs of Moher.
Doolin Coastal Walk
All along the cliffs that make up the coast and the Cliffs of Moher you can find walking paths. There’s a total of 14 km of trails along the cliffs so it’s worth walking a portion of it regardless where you start. The trail runs from the town of Doolin to the town of Liscannor. You can also walk south and north from the visitors center at the Cliffs of Moher to experience a portion of the trail.
The Doolin Coastal Walk specifically refers to the path between Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher. It’s an 8 km walk that takes about 3 hours to walk. Once you reach the visitors center you can take a shuttle back to Doolin.
The Doolin Pier can be found at the very end of the main street of Doolin. It’s where you’ll take ferries to both the Aran Islands and along the Cliffs of Moher. The pier is worth a visit even if you’re not getting on a ferry. The rocks make for a great picture opportunity but do be careful because the waves are quite strong.
Visit the Aran Islands
The Aran Islands are 3 islands that are known for their historic sites. The islands belong to Galway County but are accessible from both Doolin and Galway. The 3 islands are Inis Mor Island, Inis Meain Island and Inis Orr Island. The Dun Aonghasa fort is one of the more well known sights and can be found on the largest of islands (Inis Mor). All 3 islands have 1200 residents combined so it’s definitely a bit of a smaller community but it’s great for a different aspect of Ireland. If you want to stay over night on the islands there’s definitely a few options for accommodation.
The Doolin Chocolate Shop
The Doolin Chocolate Shop can be found along the main street of Doolin and is one of the surprising things to do in Doolin. The shop is in a cute white painted little cottage filled with fully loaded shelves of different chocolates. We were walking past it on our way to the pub to grab lunch but I saw chocolate and immediately had to stop in.
The store is an outlet store for Wilde Irish Chocolates which produces handmade Irish chocolates. There’s a huge number of products and flavours like fudges, bars and spreads. Flavours range from Irish Stout to White Chocolate to Strawberry Sprinkle.
The Sweater Shop
The most instagrammable parts of Doolin is the pink cottage that houses the Sweater Shop. The store sells some beautiful sweaters which make for a great souvenir as well but you’re definitely going to want to stop by the front of the store to snap a picture of the pink store front.
Visit one of the pubs for lunch
Doolin has 3 pubs (O’Connors, McDermott’s and McGann’s) that all serve food and have live music. They do get really, really busy so go earlier in the day if you want food. We stopped by for lunch at Gus O’Connor’s Pub and had to wait about 20 minutes for our food but it was worth it as it was quite tasty. We opted for some quintessential Irish dishes like bangers & mash and clam chowder and Irish bread.
The live music happens in the evening so if you’re staying near by then popping by the pubs for dinner instead may be a better option.
Doonagore Castle is located up the hill about 2 km from the main road of Doolin. While the castle is not open to the public, the exterior provides a great photography spot to take in the county’s natural beauty with the castle as the focal point of the picture.
Doonagore Castle is originally from the 14th century with the tower being from the 16th century. It was restored in the 1970s for a family that still owns the castle. The main focal point is the tall tower that is surrounded by a courtyard that is fenced in by a defensive wall.
Doolin Cave is known for the largest stalactite in Europe (a whole 7.3 meters long!) which is the highlight of the caves. The cave is one of the bigger attractions in Doolin and does require a paid ticket to enter. You have to join a tour to enter the cave and the tours leave every hour on the hour between 10 am and 3 pm. The cave tour takes 45 minutes and adult tickets cost 15 euros (but you can save a few euros by prebooking online!). You can find more more information on tickets and the tours here.
The Doolin Cave is a proper attraction with a visitor center, a cafe and a trail around the area so you can easily dedicate a few hours of a day to the area. Make sure to bring your camera down with you!
Doolin Garden and Nursery
The Doolin Garden and Nursery is a hidden gem in Doolin. All of the plants in the garden can be purchased in the nursery and there’s hundreds of different species of plants on display. Admission to the garden is free and it’s open daily between 10 am and 6 pm except for Mondays when it’s closed. It can be easy to drive past it so look for the Doolin Church and you’ll know you’re close.
Visit The Clare Jam Company
If you’re going to bring anything back for friends/family or even yourself then the Clare Jam Company is where you’re going to want to head. Located on top of the hills above the main street of Doolin you’ll find the Clare Jam Company located in a little cottage that’ll look like you’re on private property. The store is in a little cottage right next to the main home. The store is quite small so if there’s people in there you may want to wait a moment to step in but the store is open every day of the week between 9 am and 6 pm so you’ll have plenty of chances to do your shopping.
You’ll find a great selection of jams, marmalade, jellies, chutneys and mustard. There are some really interesting flavours like strawberry and champagne jam, Irish whiskey marmalade and Guinness mustard! They come in different sizes and some flavours are available in sample sizes which are great for gifts that won’t put you over the weight limit of your luggage.
Exploring the Burren Region
The Burren Region is a rocky part of the Clare County that’s home to the Burren National Park. The national park is the smallest of the six national parks in the country and is located in the southeast corner of the Burren Region. There are a number of walking trails you can explore and depending on the season you can book guided walks as well.
You can of course explore the area by hiking but be careful to not get lost as cell connection was pretty poor when we were there. I personally recommend driving through the area to get a feel for it. It’s quite different from the rest of Ireland that tends to be very green. The Burren is quite rocky and almost looks like what you would picture the surface of the moon to look like!
Burren Perfumery & Tea Room
While still in County Clare, the Burren Perfumery & Tea Rooms is located about 35 minutes east of Doolin but it’s definitely worth a stop for a unique gift and tea experience. There’s a ton of parking on-site so it’s for sure worth the little detour!
It’s a locally run, family owned business so you can feel great about supporting local businesses while visiting as well!
The shop is split into two sections. The one building houses the perfumery while the other has a little cafe/tea shop. You don’t have to spend any money to look around but I ended up buying a lovely perfume as a souvenir for myself and we also sat down to have some tea and a super tasty scone.
Pay attention the opening hours as the cafe is only open seasonally. They open at 11 am and closes at 5 pm and is only open between mid-March and October. The perfumery is open year round (except for Christmas).
How long to spend in Doolin?
This honestly depends on your itinerary and how much time you have. We allocated majority of a full day to Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher and were able to see most things at a great pace but we didn’t take any of the ferry trips because of how windy it was. I’d imagine if you were taking the ferries you may feel a little stressed managing all of the things on the list in which case an overnight may be a great choice for yourself!
There you have it, my list of recommendations for things to do in Doolin. There are a number of activities in Doolin so let me know if I missed any of your favourites! If you’re headed to Doolin or Ireland pin this post to help plan your own upcoming trip!