Brian Boru'S TRAIL
Begin your 3-day adventure through Clare and Tipperary by exploring the Wild Atlantic Way and Cliff Coast. Start with a visit to one of Ireland’s most visited attractions, The Cliffs of Moher, for a walk along this iconic cliff edge with its great views looking over the Atlantic Ocean. Visit the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre where you can find out more about the history and animal life in the area. Take time to visit O’Brien’s Tower at the Cliffs of Moher, one of the most photographed locations in County Clare. The tower was built in 1835 by Cornelius O’Brien, a descendant of the legendary Brian Boru.
Follow your cliff walk with a short trip north to the town of Doolin, considered the traditional music capital of Ireland. Here you can grab a bite to eat in one of the town’s pubs before hopping on a ferry from the pier to the nearby Aran Islands. The O’Brien family who run the ferry are also likely to be descendants of Brian Boru. Another must-see attraction when visiting Doolin is Doolin Cave, home of the Great Stalactite.
Make the stunning Burren region your next destination. The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark is a UNESCO Geopark with so many great areas that could easily fill up a whole day. Attractions worth exploring in the Burren are Flaggy Shore, Ailwee Cave, Lisdoonvarna Spa Wells and Poulnabrone Dolmen, a 6,000-year-old tomb that is Clare’s second most visited tourist attraction. There are several tours you can take including the Burren Food Trail and Cycle the Burren.
While visiting the Burren region, take time to visit the idyllic town of Lisdoonvarna. Home to Ireland’s first Michelin-Star pub (Wild Honey Inn) and the famous Burren Smokehouse, this is a must for foodies. From Lisdoonvarna, head east towards the village of Kilnaboy and on to Cloon where there are opportunities to see scenes from the popular Father Ted TV series. If you’re keen to see more of the vast limestone dominated Burren landscape, take a drive through Burren National Park, where there are several viewing points and opportunities to soak up more.
If time allows, make your way south for a final stop at Loop Head Peninsula. Visit the popular coastal town of Lahinch, where surfing and golf are among the popular past times.
Once voted the best place to holiday in Ireland by Irish Times readers, there is so much to see and do in the Loop Head Peninsula, including a visit to the 15th-century Carrigaholt Castle and iconic Loop Head Lighthouse. The town of Kilkee is the main town in the area and a good place to call it a night, with many great accommodation options to consider. Finish your first day in Clare by relaxing at Kilkee Beach or enjoying a walk along Kilkee Cliffs.
Begin your second day exploring Clare by visiting Carrigaholt, home to Europe’s largest collections of bottle-nose dolphins. If you’re a fan of water, Duggerna Reef in Kilkee is one of the most popular scuba destinations in Ireland and considered one of the best diving spots in Europe. As you travel along the south coast of Clare, visit Slattery Island off the coast of Kilrush. Slattery Island was rescued from the Vikings by Brian Boru, and it was here in 977 that he defeated King Ivar of Limerick. From here make your way to the town of Bunratty where you can discover more about the history and culture of Clare at the 15th-century Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.
From Bunratty head north towards the ancient capital of Ireland, and the birthplace of Brian Boru, Killaloe. Located on the Tipperary border and the shores of Lough Derg, Killaloe is a picturesque village that is twinned with Ballina in Tipperary. Before arriving in Killaloe, make a short stop in Clare’s main town of Ennis, where a visit to the Clare County Museum will help you develop an even greater understanding of the rich history of this land, and the impact and legacy created by Brian Boru.
Begin your Killaloe adventure at Beal Boru, the ancient fort of Brian Boru. Located on the banks of Lough Derg, Beal Boru is a small mound, but an area of huge significance in Irish history. While visiting Killaloe be sure to check out the 12th-Century St Flannan’s Cathedral and St. Lua’s Oratory, an oratory that dates back to Brian’s time as King of Ireland.
Killaloe provides the perfect base to explore the shores of Lough Derg. Lough Derg has a popular driving route – Lough Derg Drive – while the area is also a popular spot for boat tours. When exploring Lough Derg take time to visit Inis Cealtra, better known as Holy Island. This monastic site dates back to the 6th century and was the location of many Viking raids from the 7th to 10th century. Brian Boru’s brother, Macran was the Abbot of Holy Island, as well as being the Bishop of Killaloe, and following his death in 1009, Brian rebuilt the monastery. Today, much of the island is in ruins, although the Round Tower and several ruined churches attract visitors throughout the year. Holy Island is only accessible by boat.
A driving tour of Lough Derg can take anything from two hours to a full day depending on the sites that you wish to visit along the way. Some key destinations to consider visiting as you explore Lough Derg include Tountinna in the Arra Mountains, Portumna Forest, Portumna Castle, Terryglass Village and Harbour and Nenagh Castle. Start and end your trip around Lough Derg in the town of Killaloe, leaving you well placed to explore Tipperary. The twinned town of Killaloe / Ballina holds an annual festival called Feile Brian Boru, which takes place every July.
As you leave the Lough Derg region, make your first stop the nearby town of Nenagh, and the imposing 12th-century Nenagh Castle. Tipperary is famous for its castles, with many wonderful structures daying back from hundreds of years dotted around the county. Some of the castles worth trying to get along to as you explore Tipperary include Grallagh Castle, Ballynahow Castle, Farney Castle, Cahir Castle, Lackeen Castle and Roscrea Castle.
As you depart from Nenagh, the historic town of Cashel will become a key stop on your journey through Tipperary, and as you head south be sure to visit the town of Holycross and Holycross Abbey on your travels. While the abbey is not directly connected to Brian Boru, this 12th-century abbey was founded by one of Brians descendants, Donal O’Brian (a great, great, great grandson of Boru), the King of Limerick in 1182, and will give you. Take a guided tour of both the abbey and the village of Holycross to get an insight into the history of this area.
From Holycross, make your way towards the town of Cashel, and the undoubted jewel in the Tipperary crown, the Rock of Cashel. The Rock of Cashel has many ancient buildings and dominates the Tipperary skyline for miles. The Rock of Cashel was ruled by the Vikings in the 10th century, but Brian Boru and his brother Mahon managed to capture it back from the Vikings in 968 and it became one of his key strategic locations in ruling both Munster and Ireland. The Rock of Cashel is also said to be the site at which St Patrick converted Aenghus the King of Munster to Christianity back in the 5th Century.
When you’ve finished exploring the Rock of Cashel make a quick pitstop in the town of Cashel itself, where you will have plenty of choice when it comes to bars and cafes. You’ll even find The Brian Boru bar located in the heart of the town, a popular spot for food and drink with both locals and tourists alike. If you’re planning on spending a few days in Cashel, check out the upcoming events at Brú Ború, a centre for cultural events and programmes named after the great man himself. Other popular attractions in Cashel include Dominic’s Abbey, Cashel Folk Village, Hore Abbey and Cashel Palace.
While Boru and his many descendants have had a huge influence on Munster over the centuries – in particular, Clare, Limerick and Tipperary – another family dynasty has had a huge impact on County Tipperary over the last 800-years and that is the Butler family. Embark on a voyage of discovery to find out how this dynasty shaped much of Tipperary (and in particular South Tipperary) in the years following the end of Irish kingship.
The Butler Trail is spread across the towns of Cahir, Carrick-on-Sur and Clonmel showcasing the impact the Butler family had on the physical, social and economic fabric of these Tipperary towns and their communities, and the legacy that they left behind. From buildings like the 12th-century Cahir Castle and the 15th-century Ormond Castle to the stunning Swiss Cottage in Cahir, drive the Butler Trail to get a real sense of how this one family had such a lasting impact on the surrounding area.
Tipperary has some wonderful towns to visit as you explore the deep history of this impressive land, while the Galtee Mountains also provide plenty of options should you wish to get out and enjoy the great outdoors on foot. Take time to plan your route and get to know more about the impact that Brian Boru had in the county, and indeed the wider province of Munster.