Visiting Shannon - What to See and Do
(Shannon Airport SNN, Ireland)
Many regular visitors to Ireland
put this region at the top of the list as regards superb natural beauty, and the 10,000 residents of the New Town of Shannon would certainly agree wholeheartedly. The town of Shannon itself was built in the 1960s, during the rush of governmental enthusiasm for constructing 20th-century versions of the 19th-century workers' towns beloved of Victorian philanthropists.
As with most of the UK's New Towns, Shannon has little to offer tourists in the way of attractions, culture or things to do, although there are a few good pubs, as well as an industrial estate. County Clare, however, makes up for this in a spectacular way with Ireland's most stunning scenery, and nearby Bunratty Village is home to the famous Bunratty Castle.
Activities in County Clare are many, ranging from river and sea cruises, fishing, concerts of traditional Irish music and dolphin watching off beautiful Galway Bay, to golfing, viewing ancient Celtic forts and Bronze Age villages, cliff-climbing, caving and Aran Islands boat trips, not forgetting eating and drinking. County Clare people are among the world's most welcoming and will make your holiday an unforgettable experience.
Ten things you must do in Shannon
- Exploring 15th-century Bunratty Castle is a highlight of any County Clare trip, as it is the most authentic, complete fortress attraction of its kind in Ireland. Its interior is decorated and furnished with period pieces, works of art and tapestries, giving a fascinating trip back in time to all who visit. Set in a Folk Park and with crofts and cottages nestling near its massive walls, Bunratty Castle is a must-see.
- Pubbing in County Clare is a totally traditional experience, with diverse pubs catering to all tastes and offering traditional Irish music, stout and whiskeys against a background of Irish jigs and reels. You won't be able to resist joining in.
- The River Shannon enters the Atlantic Ocean at the tip of a huge fjord with craggy cliffs, very reminiscent of Norwegian fjords in its sheer beauty. Walking trails along the cliffs guarantee the freshest of fresh air and the best inland ocean views in the region.
- The best way to marvel at the awesome Cliffs of Moher, the highest in Ireland, is by boat from nearby Doolin Pier. Carefully concealed at the clifftop is an educational facility which takes visitors through the geological structure of the cliffs and the area's wildlife.
- Dolphin watching is a favourite along the rugged Atlantic coastline and these playful mammals can be seen from Carrigaholt Pier, as well as by boat cruises around the mouth of the River Shannon's estuary. Cruises can also be taken to the famous Isles of Aran offshore from Galway Bay.
- History buffs and families will love Craggaunowen Castle and its enclosing heritage park, which contains carefully reconstructed Bronze Age dwellings from across Ireland, as well as a copy of a 4th-century Ring Fort, demonstrating the lives of peasants in those long-ago times.
- Within easy reach of Shannon and giving a unique topographical experience, the massive moonscape of the Burren limestone sheet covers much of northern County Clare. Few people live here, with those that do mostly speaking only Irish Gaelic and, amazingly, the oldest remnants of settlement in Ireland are found in its bleak acres.
- For more on the Burren and its ancient settlers, the Caherconnell Stone Fort is the place. A 2,500-year-old Celtic ring fort, it is one of the best-preserved and the site offers audio-visual tours of its uses and the other sites in the Burren. Nearby is the 5,600-year-old Poulnabrone Dolmen burial site.
- Beautiful Lough Derg is well worth a visit on its own and is home to a famous pilgrimage site still visited after 1,400 years - Holy Island. A famous centre of learning in the 7th century, the island is linked with St. Caiman, who died here in 653 AD. Historic buildings include six ruined churches, a holy well, a round tower, and an ancient 'bargaining stone' where marriage vows were made and renewed.
- If you are based in Shannon and in need of pampering, then head for Lisdoonvarna (roughly an hour to the north-west), famous for over 150 years for its mineral-rich spa waters. The Victorian Spa Complex and Health Centre is as popular now as it was then, offering spa baths, massages, health and wax treatments, and saunas. This attraction is also a base for botany and painting trips to the Burren.