Nestled on a quiet stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way in County Clare, the small village of Doolin is a popular stop on an Ireland adventure. With so many fun things to do in Doolin, our visits have always been a memorable experience.
We’ve put together this list of the best things to do in Doolin, including the best places to eat and drink and some hidden gems!
1 | Doolin Cliff Walk
The Doolin Cliff Walk is a 3-hour hike from Doolin Village to the Cliffs of Moher Visitors Centre. It’s one of the most spectacular hikes in Ireland as it winds along the sea cliffs from Doolin up to the Cliffs of Moher.
The views along the walk are really stunning and on a clear day it’s possible to see for miles along the coast and the Aran Islands are visible just off the coast.
The trail itself is gravel and well marked with signs marking the entire route to the Visitors Center. We don’t find the hike too strenuous as it gradually ascends the cliffs, however, those who are afraid of heights may not like some sections as the trail passes pretty close to the cliff edge.
After around 3 hours you’ll reach the top of the Cliffs of Moher where there are bus options for the return trip to Doolin. We decided to hike back down the trail to Doolin and the views were incredible in this direction too.
Things to do in Doolin tip: the final section of the Doolin Cliff walk is particularly tricky as it passes up the cliffs to the Cliffs. There has recently been barriers erected along this section of the trail to help walked avoid the dangerous spots so don’t cross the barriers here!
2 | Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher is one of the best-known and most popular tourist destinations in Ireland and is easily visited from the village of Doolin. The easiest way to visit the Cliffs is by driving to the parking lot at the Visitors Center which is a few kilometers from Doolin Village.
There is a safe paved walkway along the edge of the cliffs that offers incredible views of the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean below.
Things to do in Doolin tip: It is possible to save money by booking tickets in advance. Unbooked tickets are €10 per adult and during peak times, but pre-booked tickets for off-peak are €7 to €8. Up to date ticket prices can be seen at the Cliffs of Moher site here.
Visit the Cliffs of Moher for Free
It is possible to hike from Doolin village up to the Cliffs of Moher via the aforementioned Doolin Cliff Walk and you can visit for free. The route is truly beautiful with epic views of the Atlantic and the Aran Islands in the distance. The hike takes around 2-2.5 hours each way but there is a bus shuttle from the Visitor Center back to Doolin.
3 | Cliffs of Moher Cruise
One of the most popular things to do in Doolin is a cruise to get up close and personal with the Cliffs of Moher. We’ve taken the cruise to the base of the cliffs numerous times and each trip was breathtaking – it’s easy to see why it is one of the best things to do in Doolin.
Visitors can get a real sense of the scale and beauty of the Cliffs of Moher and the sounds and sights of the thousands of nesting birds that live along the base of the cliffs are amazing. Cruises last around 1 hour and start/finish at Doolin Pier.
A number of cruise companies operate cruises to the Cliffs of Moher from Doolin Pier. We’ve used Doolin2Aran for our cruises and trips to the Aran Islands in the past and they’ve always been excellent with great staff – check prices now!
Things to do in Doolin tip: At peak times we highly recommend booking your cruise in advance as spaces are limited and the cruises tend to sell out. There is a large parking lot at Doolin pier, however it can get really busy during peak times so allow at least 20 minutes to get parking before your crusie departure time.
4 | Visit the Aran Islands
The Aran Islands are a set of three small islands located just off the coast of Doolin in Galway Bay. Although technically part of Galway, trips to the Aran Islands are very popular from Doolin as the islands are easily accessible – it’s only a 15-minute ferry to the smallest island Inisheer (Inis Oirr).
There are three Aran Islands: Inishmor (the largest of the three and furthest from Doolin), Inismaan (the middle island and least visited of the islands), and Inisheer (the island closest to Doolin and probably our favorite, especially if you are traveling with kids).
Doolin2Aran Ferries – again we’ve used Doolin2Aran for our trips in the past and they’ve been a lot of fun. This cruise to Inisheer (Inis Oirr) includes a trip past the base of the Cliffs of Moher so it’s great value – check prices now!
For trips to Inismor, you can buy your tickets here – check prices now!
5 | Stroll along the traditional Doolin main street
The village of Doolin is usually packed with tourists and visitors heading to/from the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. However, there is something about this little stretch of road that is quaint and perfectly Irish.
It’s got everything for a few hours of relaxation, with locaal shops (including the famous pink Sweater Shop where you can pick up an Aran jumper), great food at the Ivy Cottage and lots of craic, pints, and music at Gus O’Connor’s pub. The staff in Doolin are all incredibly friendly which just adds to the atmosphere.
Although a very small village, you can find yourself spending hours in Doolin – it can be a hard place to leave!
6 | Food: The Ivy Cottage / Gus O’Connors Pub
There are some great food and drinks on offer in Doolin Village. Our favorite spot for food is the quaint Ivy Cottage which is the first building you see as you cross the old bridge into Doolin village.
There’s always a great buzz in Gus O’Connors Pub and on a beautiful summer’s evening there’s no other place in Ireland we’d rather enjoy a few drinks watching the sun go down over the Atlantic.
7 | Doonagore Castle
Doonagore Castle is one of the most distinctive structures along the Clare coastline. Nestled on the hill above Doolin, Doonagore Castle is visible for miles around. The castle was built sometime in the 14th century by Tadhg MacTurlough MacCon O’Connor, with the current sandstone structure dating from the 16th century.
The view from above Doonagore Castle is one of the iconic images of Ireland and definitely not to be missed. It’s one of our favourite views on the Wild Atlantic Way and is easily reached from Doolin village by car or an enjoyable walk up the road!
Things to do in Doolin tip: the best view of Doonagore castle is from the road above the castle as you drive out of Doolin. There are a few small pull-in areas where visitors can stop briefly for a better view of the castle
Things to do in Doolin tip: Despite its beauty the castle has a very dark past. When the Spanish Armada was wrecked in a storm just off the coast of Doolin in the 16th century, 170 survivors were reportedly hanged at Doonagore Castle by the local sheriff.
8 | Doolin Cave
Doolin Cave is a short drive north of Doolin village and one of the most popular things to do in Doolin. Visitors must take part in a tour to visit the cave, which lasts around 45 minutes. Guests descend almost 80 meters under the ground to see the huge stalactite that Doolin Cave is famous for. At 7.3 metres in length, the massive stalactite in Doolin Cave is the longest free-hanging stalactite in Europe.
Doolin Cave is open from 10am-6pm daily and tickets should be booked in advance here.
9 | Take a dip in Doolin Pier Swimming Hole
This is a little bit of a hidden gem in Doolin! There is a small man-made seawater swimming hole located on the rocks just down from Doolin Pier. The pool fills at high tides so the water is nice and fresh. It’s the perfect place to cool off on a hot day after you get off the ferry from the Aran Islands.
We’ve seen lots of people taking a dip here but most visitors simply drive by without realising its there!
10 | Burren Coast Scenic Drive
The best way to experience the unique Burren landscape of North Clare is on the Burren Coast Scenic Drive. Heading north from Doolin, visitors will see the landscape change drastically from the typical Irish green fields and trees to the beauty of the unique karst landscape of the Burren.
The coast road goes north from Doolin to Black Head and continues on to Balyvaughan. It is one of the most beautiful drives in Ireland and you’ll find yourself stopping at every pull-in to take in the views and snap some photos!
11 | Fanore Beach
If you’re driving the Burren Coast Drive then make sure to stop at Fanore Beach in Fanore, Clare. Fanore Beach is hands down one of the best beaches in Clare, if not the entire country. This beautiful stretch of the Atlantic is one of our favourite beaches in Ireland and is a designated Blue flag beach for its water quality.
The beach is very popular as a surfing spot due to the reliable waves that crash off the beach. There is lots of parking available just up from the beach, with an outdoor shower to wash off after your swim and a block with toilets.
Things to do in Doolin tip: Due to it’s location Fanore Beach is prone to jellyfish washing up on it’s shore during high tides. In particular the infamous Lions Mane Jellyfish is a regular visitor, which can give a nasty sting so it’s worth keeping an eye out for them.
12 | Take A Burren Walk
The vast limestone surface of the Burren is one of the most unique landscapes in Ireland. It is home to a wide range of rare wildflowers, including Arctic, Alpine and Mediterranean, and many herbs.
Guided walks are a popular way to experience the Burren. One of the most popular guided walks is with Kinvara Walks. Walks last around 3-4 hours and visitors will learn everything about the Burren, from how the landscape was formed and evolved, to the many species of plants that can be found within – check prices now!
Things to do near Doolin
There are a host of things to see and do near Doolin:
13 | Caher Bridge Gardens
Caher Bridge Gardens is one of the true hidden gems of Clare and anyone visiting Doolin should make sure to try and get a spot on their tour. Located close to Fanore Beach in the heart of the Burren, Caher Bridge Gardens is a privately owned garden run by Carl Wright.
The gardens have won numerous awards and visits are by appointment so make sure to book your place in advance. The best method of contact is to check their Facebook page for updates on availability and to book a spot.
14 | St. Brigid’s Well
There are many holy wells located throughout Ireland, many of which are rumored to have healing powers. St. Brigids well is one of the best known and is a short drive south of the Cliffs of Moher.
The walls of the grotto are adorned with prayers, memorials and rosary beads that have been left by visitors. St. Brigids Well is located roadside and is always open so you can enter the grotto at any time.
15 | Spectacle Bridge
Located between Doolin and Lisdoonvarna, many visitors to Doolin drive across Spectacle Bridge and don’t even realise they’ve crossed it! Named due to its unique appearance, Spectacle Bridge was designed by a County Clare engineer to span the deep gorge of the Aille River.
Due to the depth of the gorge and the need to reduce weight, the design incorporated a circular hole above the arch which gives the bridge its likeness to pair of glasses.
16 | Corkscrew Hill
No visit to Clare is complete without driving Corkscrew Hill. This winding stretch of road is located around 8km south of Ballyvaughan on the N67. On a clear day the view from the top of Corkscrew is incredible, with sweeping views of the Burren landscape with Galway Bay visible on the horizon.
17 | Aliwee Cave
The Aliwee Cave is among the most famous caves in Ireland and offer tours into the cave to explore the unique underground Burren landscape. The tour lasts around 30 minutes and gives an amazing view of the ground beneath the Burren.
Things to do in Doolin tip: Make sure to check out the Birds of Prety Centre located beside the Aliwee Cave. The centre is home to eagles, falcons, hawks and owls from around the world that have flying displays each day.
18 | The Burren Perfumery
Located in the heart of the Burren, the Burren Perfumery is a picturesque 30-minute drive east of Doolin. The Burren Perfumery makes perfumes and organic cosmetics, with everything handmade on-site at the perfumery.
The staff are extremely helpful and knowledgeable and are on hand to explain to visitors how the perfumes and other cosmetics are made.
One of the hidden gems of the Burren Perfumery is the beautiful herb garden that is located out the back of the perfumery buildings. We enjoyed a snack from the tea rooms in the herb garden and it was like escaping into another world.
19 | Poulnabrone Dolmen
If you make it to the Ailwee Cave then be sure to make a quick stop at the impressive Poulnabrone Dolmen. The dolmen/passage tour is located on an open piece of karst landscape just off the road to Ballyvaughan.
The dolmen is a short walk over rocky terrain and it protected by a simple roped barrier. Visitors can get up close to one of Ireland best known and largest dolmens and it’s one of our favorite things to do in Clare.