Follow the coast north to bed down for a few nights in the 97-room Dromoland Castle, a fortress originally owned by local royal families that today operates as a five-star hotel. Bono, Nelson Mandela, and former Spanish king Juan Carlos I have all slept beneath its turrets, and in a bid for local sustainability, the 450-acre estate maintains woodland trails, a tree-planting program, an on-site apiary, and even a fleet of electric buggies for zipping around the golf course.
A short drive from Dromoland brings you to Kildysart in County Clare, a village on the banks of the Shannon Estuary. (The name “Kildysart” comes from the Irish cill an dísirt, which means “church of the wilderness.”) From there, ditch the car for a couple of hours and take a short ferry ride to the uninhabited Scattery Island, where you can explore old churches, a medieval tower, a holy well, and a still-functioning lighthouse (now using electricity).
Located on the very western tip of County Clare, the finger-shaped Loop Head Peninsula offers stunning cliffside views and seaside air. The Loop Head Peninsula’s cliffs tower more than 260 feet over the Atlantic. Visitors can hike along coastal trails and visit the iconic lighthouse, built in 1802, of Kilcredaun village, and the natural Bridges of Ross near the town of Kilbaha. In Carrigaholt, stop by The Long Dock for lunch (reservations are required). Sample homemade brown soda bread and seafood dishes such as chowder, crab tarts, and whitefish pie.
An hour up the coast, you’ll find Spanish Point, a beach named for the Spanish warships that sank here in 1588. Blown in from the blustery shore, travelers to the nearby Lahinch village will find warm comfort – summer temperatures hover around the mid 60s Fahrenheit – the resort town has several shops selling clothing made with premium Irish wool. (We recommend Kenny Woollen Mills shop for the most comfortable, hand-made Irish wool sweaters you’ll ever wear.) Fifteen miles west is The Burren, a national park with low-rolling, limestone-crowned hills and accessible stalactite-spiked caves.