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FOUR DAY WEST COAST DRIVING TOUR - Limerick & Clare


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This is a proposed 4-day tour itinary covering the West Coast of Ireland and the River Shannon. The tour is optimised with four starting points which will enable you to begin your tour from you own location. This tour will allow you to follow a leisurely pace, seeing as much as possible of the area as your time allows. Many suggestions will be made for each area which will allow you to plan your activities.
Click on the for photos relating to the text.

Starting points:
Limerick   Galway   Sligo   Carrick-on-Shannon   Photo Gallery   Index

Starting Point 1 - Limerick

This tour starts in Limerick City and ends in Galway City, but of course you can join it from anywhere along the route. To see all the places of interest mentioned would take many days, so you will have to pick and choose. If you are south of the Shannon then use the Tarbet Ferry with sailings every 30 minutes to cross over to County Clare. This will cost less than $10 for a one-way trip per car and the crossing takes about twenty minutes. An alternate route not shown would be to take the main N18 from limerick to Ennis (passing Bunratty Castle) then the N68 to Kilrush.

Limerick City is Ireland's 3rd city, and will be covered in much greater detail later. There are many antiquities within the city and the following are recommended;

  • Treaty Stone, Limerick City: an block of limestone on which the 1691 Treaty of Limerick is traditionally supposed to have been signed.
  • King John's Castle, Limerick City: built in c.1210, its main purpose being to protect the crossing point of the river Shannon. Fine example of mediaval architecture with towers and curtain walls. Damaged by General Ginkel's guns during 1691 siege. Barracks built inside castle walls in 18th century greatly changed the Castle's structure.
  • City Walls, Limerick City: part of the original walls with two massive gateways said to be the town gate and the outer gate of the citadel.
  • Hunt collection, Limerick City: Situated in the NIHE Building, the collection includes Irish antiquities from the Bronze Age, some 18th century silver and medieval art.

    Just 10 miles form Limerick is Ireland's most picturesque village Adare. For many Adare embodies the traditional Ireland with it's main street lined by thatched cottages and its many ancient ruins. The superb 5* Adare Manor with its 18 hole golf course has welcomed many famous people and heads of state including the former US President Clinton. There is a very helpful tourist office located within the town and several craft shops. Food and refreshments are widely available. A few places to visit include;

  • Franciscan Friary, Adare: finest of Adare's monastic ruins. Dates from 15th century. Nave, choir and south transept of church remains. Graceful tower and well-preserved cloisters.
  • Desmond Castle, Adare: erected on the site of an ancient ring fort in the early 13th century. Extensive ruins consist of an inner ward, surrounded by a moat and enclosed by a spacious courtyard.
  • Church of St. Nicholas and Chantry Chapel, Adare; the Church is 11th century, the chapel dates from 1460-80.
  • Trinitarian Abbey, near Adare: Fitzgerald foundation of c.1230. Suppressed by Henry VIII in 1539. Remains include tower, nave and part of the original choir, incorporated into a 19th century church.
  • Augustinian Priory, near Adare: founded in 1315. Remains of tower, nave and part of choir, now restored as a church. Cloisters converted into Quin family mausoleum in 1822.

    A few miles further along the road is the town of Rathkeale where the remains of the Augustinian Priory, founded in the 13th century by Gilbert Harvey can be seen. Nearby is Castle Matrix, built in 1440 by the 9th Earl of Desmond. Associations with Spenser and Raleigh. Authentic furnishings, objects d'art and historic documents. If you divert from Rathkeale on the R518 you will come to the Askeaton (8 miles), where Askeaton Castle is located, principal residence of the Earls of Desmond during the 15th and 16th centuries. Ruins covering much of an inlet in the river Deel, including a 15th century tower, with the large Desmond Hall nearby. You can also visit the Franciscan Friary, founded in 1389 but later restored by James, Earl of Desmond in the 15th century. Nave, chancel and north trancept with well-preserved cloister arcade. some fine carvings and other remains within the friary. Turning east ( 4 miles) along the N69 towards Kildimo you will find the Curraghchase forest park, once a stately home, but now preserved with miles of marked scenic routes. If you travelled west from Askeaton (6 miles) you will arrive in Foynes. Once the centre of trans Atlantic aviation, there is now a museum celebrating that era when flying boats ruled the skys.

    More information on Co. Limerick

  • PLACES
    of
    INTEREST

    Co. Clare
  • Monastic Settlement, Scattery Island, Kilrush:
  • Bunratty Castle and Folk Park:
  • Knappogue Castle, Quin:
  • Cahermacnaghten Stone Fort, Ballyvaughan:
  • Cahercommaun Stone Fort, Burren:
  • Kilfenora Cathedral, Kilfenora:
  • Caherconnell Stone Fort, Lemaneigh:
  • Lemaneigh Castle:
  • Dysart O'Dea Church and Cross, Kilfenora:
  • Quin Abbey:
  • Franciscan Friary, Ennis:
  • Clare Abbey, Clarecastle:
  • Killone Abbey, Ennis:
  • St. Macreehy's Church, Liscannor:
  • Gleninagh Castle, Ballyvaughan:
  • Poulnabrone Dolmen, Burren:

    Co. Limerick

  • Treaty Stone, Limerick City:
  • King John's Castle, Limerick City:
  • City Walls, Limerick City:
  • Hunt collection, Limerick City:
  • Franciscan Friary, Adare:
  • Desmond Castle, Adare:
  • Church of St. Nicholas and Chantry Chapel, Adare:
  • Trinitarian Abbey, near Adare:
  • Augustinian Priory, near Adare:
  • Augustinian Priory, Rathkeale:
  • Castle Matrix, Rathkeale:
  • Askeaton Castle, Askeaton:
  • Franciscan Friary, Askeaton:
  • Glin Castle, Glin:
  • TOWN ROUTE DISTANCE (miles) TIME hr/min ROUTE CHANGE
    Limerick City N20 0 0.00  
        6 0.13 N20 -> N21
    Adare N21 10 0.19  
    Rathkeale N21 18 0.31  
    Newcastle West N21 25 0.43  
    Abbeyfeale   37 1.02 N21 -> R524
    Athea R524 44 1.17  
    Glin   52 1.34 R524 -> N69
    Tarbert   56 1.41 N69 -> R550
    Tarbert-Killimer Ferry   Every 30 mins  
    Killimer N67 61 1.58  
    Kilrush N67 65 2.05  
    Kilkee N67 73 2.21  
    Doonbeg N67 79 2.33  
    Milltown Malbay (IRL)N67 N67 91 2.56  
    Lahinch N67 98 3.10  
    Liscannor R478 101 3.16 N67 -> R478
    Lisdoonvarna N67 110 3.37 R478 -> N67
    Kilfenora R467 116 3.49 N67 -> R476
    Ballyvaughan N67 126 4.14 R4786 -> R480
    Kilcolgan N18 143 4.49 N67 -> N18
    Oranmore N18 148 4.57  
    Galway City N6 154 5.13 N18 -> N6
    Distance & times are do not allow for stops
    or visiting areas of interest
      Site Index
    Back on the route, the next town is Newcastle West, nearby is the village of Ardagh where the world famous Ardagh Chalice was found. Continue on to Abbeyfeale and then turn north on the R524 through Athea to Glin, where you can visit Glin Castle, a Georgian Gothic Castle on lands held by the Knights of Glin since the 13th century. Interior features include neo-classical plasterwork, a unique 'flying' staircase and collection of 18th century Irish furniture and paintings. Gate shop in Gothic Style. A few minutes further on you will reach the Tarbet Car Ferry to cross the river Shannon.

    On arriving in Clare take the N67 through Kilrush -(nearby is the monastic settlement on Scattery Island, 2 miles from Cappagh Pier. St. Senan founded the 6th century monastery. Remains of six churches and a well-preserved round tower, the tallest in Ireland. ) - and on to the seaside town of Kilkee. Kilkee has a fine crescent shaped golden beach and there are several fine restaurants overlooking the ocean which makes the town an ideal stopping point for a quick snack or lunch; there is an 18-hole Championship Golf Course. Click here for alternate route to Kilrush

    Continue on the N67 to the village of Doonbeg where permission has just been granted for the development of one of Europe's finest golf courses, and on to Milltown Malbay. The road follows the coast with beaches such as White Strand, less than a mile from the main road and easily accessible by car. Milltown Malbay is a typical Irish town with a large picturesque weirs on the river just off the main street. The road still follows the coast to Lahinch with another fine beach and golf course.

    From Lahinch take the R478 through Liscannor (St. Macreehy's Church, built in the early 12th century on the site of St. Macreehy's 6th century church.) to the Cliffs of Moher. These 700 ft. vertical cliffs are some of the most spectacular in Europe. Looking west across South Sound you can see Inisheer, on of the Aran Islands in the distance. Follow the R478 to the village of Lisdoonvarna, where every year the famous Batchelors Festival is held.

    From Lisdoonvarna there are several routes through the Burren and we would recommend the following and, if time allows, follow some of the by-roads into the more remote areas before coming back to the main road. The Burren is a Limestone "karst" or pavement. This is a wonderland of bare rock with many antiquities such as dolmens (megalithic tombs). Poulnabrone Dolmen is an outstanding example. Throughout the year, the area is irrisitible to botanists due the wide range of delicate and rare flora that grows between the slabs of limestone. A good pair of walking boots is highly recommended for walking across the Burren.

    Take the R476 from Lisdoonvarna past Kilfenora - (Kilfenora Cathedral stands on the site of an ancient monastery. The roofless chancel has some interesting features. Some carved stone crosses stand nearby. On the Kilfenora - Corofin road stands Dysart O'Dea Church and Cross, the nave and chancel of this Romanesque church date from the 12th century. The Cross of Tola is a fine example of 12th century stone carving Nearby are remains of a round tower) - to Leamaneh Castle the remains of this O'Brien castle include a 15th century residential tower and an early 17th century fortified house. Continue north on the R480 past stone forts ( Cahercommaun Stone Fort: one of the Burren's most elaborate stone forts also Cahermacnaghten Stone Fort: about 5 miles (8km) from Ballyvaughan, this round fort has a diameter of about 100 ft.) and megalithic tombs near Caherconnell, (Caherconnell Stone Fort is a well-preserved fort on Lemaneigh-Ballyvaughan road), the Aillwee Caves (well worth a visit) are just before you join back on the main road at Ballyvaughan.

    In Ballyvaughan can be seen Gleninagh Castle, a 16th century tower, consisting of four storeys with underground vault. From here the N67 turns and twists along the coast through several small villages (Dongory Castle) . From several locations there are ideal vantage points from where to overlook Galway Bay. This is at it's most spectacular at sunset. The N67 joins the N18 at Kilcolgan and from there Galway City is 20 minute drive.

    More information on Co. Clare

    ALTERNATE ROUTE:
    This route follows the main N18 to Ennis, passing Bunratty Castle
    and Folk Park, ancient stronghold of the Princes of Thomond at Bunratty, Co. Clare. Faithfully restored to convey a picture of life in the 15th and 16th centuries. Contains collection of early furniture, tapestries and works of art. Folk Park in grounds has farmhouses and craft shops re-erected and furnished as part of a display of 19th century Irish life.

    Clare Abbey, situated at Clarecastle, near Ennis, is a 12th century Augustinian priory was founded by Donal O'Brien, last King of Munster. Nearby at Quin (4 miles) can be found Quin Abbey a Franciscan friary built in 1402 on the site of a 13th century monastery. Incorporates part of a large Anglo-Norman castle. Many interesting features including tombs and altars and Knappogue Castle built in 1467. Georgian and Regency portions added to original Norman structure in 1856. Banquet halls, reception rooms and stairways have been restored and refurnished.

    There is a Franciscan Friary and Abby near Ennis. The Friary originally constructed in 1241, was much altered during succeeding centuries. Magnificent east window. Some interesting figure carvings. Killone Abbey: 3 miles (5km) from Ennis, was an Augustinian nunnery dedicated to St. John. Founded in 1180 by Donal O'Brien. From Ennis follow the N68 on to Kilrush.

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