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Shannon Region Mini Guide
Shannon Airport lies at the heart of the Shannon Region (South Offaly, Limerick, North Tipperary and Clare). Shannon is Ireland’s second busiest airport, handling mostly transatlantic flights and flights to Britain.
The Shannon Region is more than just a stopover however, being home to a bounty of forests, lakes, and un-crowded blue flag beaches. The Shannon region is also home to the breathtaking, mystical Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, the Ailwee Cave and of course the Shannon river.
Most of these attractions offer guided tours at very reasonable prices and with discount family rates. For such an easily drivable area (you can get from one end to the other in under an hour and a half), the Shannon region has an astonishing amount of distinctive and equally magnificent natural attractions for you to visit in your rental car.
One of the comparatively less spectacular features of the area is the Shannon River, yet what the river lacks in spectacle it more than makes up for in the wealth of activities it offers tourists. A simple boat trip is an absolute pleasure, in fact many people spend days or even weeks of their holiday sailing the river. Boats can be hired from a number of different operators and to suit different budgets, and you will pay less to hire in off-peak times.
Things to See/Do in the Shannon Region:
The Shannon region has a number of heritage centers and sites of historical importance that may be of interest, including the Brian Ború Centre and the De Valera Museum. For those interested in learning about the region’s fascinating history, European Heritage Week (usually towards the end of August) can be a great time to visit the area, with lots of extra events organized. Admission is generally quite cheap to visit the centers, with the low cost that is in place being used chiefly for maintaining the centers.
Some of the other activities available in the Shannon region include:
– dolphin watching
– horse riding
Accommodation throughout the region is generally of a high standard, as is dining. It is possible to find good value, low cost restaurants and b&b;’s throughout the Shannon region, and you will pay less here than in some of Ireland’s more expensive areas.
While visiting the Shannon Region of Ireland, you will discover that there are a great many ‘must-see’ attractions – natural phenomena, heritage sights and the rest. For anyone with the motivation and the means, an activity-packed trip is most definitely on the cards. With a rental car, you already have the means – the motivation part is up to you! But to help you along the way, here are four of the best attractions (for every budget) to be found in the Shannon Region.
The Burren is a karstic (limestone) plateau stretching as far as the eye can see. While quite flat and without much large vegetation or woodland, the Burren is anything but barren. In fact, it is home to a sizeable array of rare and beautiful plants and ferns – the area, although covering just 1% of Irelands surface, is host to 75% of the country’s native species.
These plants and shrubs decorate what is already a beautiful and unique landscape – the expansive rural floor is rich with extraordinary geological features (disappearing lakes or turloughs, glacial erratics, and massive slabs of limestone) and furnished with some marvelous Megalithic and Neolithic remnants. Wedge tombs, cist graves and ancient cooking sites or fulacht fiadh are widespread, and one of the Burren’s most recognizable features – the Poulnabrone Dolmen – should not be missed.
The Cliffs of Moher
The single most popular scenic attraction for visitors in the Shannon region, and with good reason, is the awe inspiring and mystical range of cliffs at Moher. A short drive from the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher are humbling to behold and will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression. Another budget friendly Shannon attraction, an excursion to the Cliffs of Moher will prove to be a cheap day out with a value that far exceeds what money you may spend. As with the Burren, special rates and cheap deals are available for families and groups.
Stretching 8 kilometers along Irelands western coast, a walk along the cliff tops will invigorate and enthrall you. With the spray from the cold Atlantic soaking you as the waves crash furiously against the cliffs below, there is no doubt that the experience will blow the cobwebs away.
All that sea air is sure to rouse a roaring appetite, and luckily just 5 miles away from the Cliffs you will find the charming village of Doolin. Here you can warm yourself and satisfy your hunger (usually to a soundtrack of traditional Irish music) in one of the lovely pubs serving low cost and very comforting Irish grub.
Transport yourself to medieval Ireland with a visit to Bunratty Castle and the nearby Folk Park. The castle is a fabulous slice of Irish history and provides an insight into an Ireland from centuries ago. It is the Folk Park, however, that will probably keep you busy for most of the day. A superb recreation of both rural and urban life in Victorian Ireland, the park is crammed with representations of life back then – from buildings to businesses, and even costumed ‘villagers’. Bread baking, pottery crafts and weaving can all be seen, and for a wonderful dining experience, sign up for the Earl’s Banquet – a wonderfully thematic feast with entertainment that will provide a great end to a great day. Lasting two and a half hours, the experience is great value for money, and well worth factoring into your budget.
Admission to the castle and folk park is low cost when the whole experience is taken into consideration, at €14 for adults with discount prices for students, OAPs and children. The banquet is also cheap, setting you back just another €8.50.
For surfing, golfing, fishing, hiking or just eating and drinking, Lahinch is a superb and lively tourist destination. Many people travel here to play a round on the towns two famous coastal links courses, while the more daring sportsmen visit Lahinch to brave the icy Atlantic and enjoy the excellent surfing conditions. Novices can take lessons at the Lahinch Surf School, but be warned, these are not warm Australian or Californian conditions – prepare to shiver. Prices for lessons are quite reasonable, with discounts available for multiple lessons.
The Seaworld Sea-life and Leisure Centre is a great place for a family day out. The Aquarium has sharks, conger eels, rays, and all manner of Atlantic aquatic life on display.
Particularly appealing about Lahinch is the lively atmosphere and energetic nightlife. At weekends, the local pubs are invariably crammed with people enjoying pints of Guinness, traditional Irish music and traditional Irish banter.