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Co Clare: one walk, one run, one hike, one swim, one cycle, one park and one outdoor gym

Your essential, outdoor, family-friendly guide to Co Clare

When the weather is good, there is so much to do outdoors in Ireland – solo, or with family or friends. Here are seven activities - with locations, descriptions, tips and some maps for a general guide.

Below you can read John O'Dwyer's pick for a great walking path, Conor O'Keeffe on a running route, Rozanna Purcell recommends a hiking trail, Mary McCarthy on an outdoor swimming location, Ian O'Riordan picks a cycle trip, Sylvia Thompson on a family-friendly park and Fiona Alston selects a popular outdoor gym.

And remember, whatever you do and wherever you go, please be safe. And enjoy.

Wood Loop walk, starting from Ballyvaughan, offers splendid views of the Burren’s folded limestone layers and terraced hills.

Name Wood Loop
Distance 8km
Approximate duration 2 hours
Difficulty Easy
Starting point Google Maps Ballyvaughan (grid reference M 229 079)
Amenities Parking, pubs and restaurants
If you want to get up close and personal with the Burren without crossing unforgiving limestone, this walk traverses minor roads, green lanes, woodland tracks and small fields and is just for you. It offers splendid views of the Burren's folded limestone layers and terraced hills.


Name: O'Briensbridge – Old Barge Loop
Length: 11.4km
Elevation gain: 292m
Route type: Loop
Footwear: Road Runners
Background: The village of O'Briensbridge stands on the eastern verge of Co Clare, on the bank of the river Shannon – the longest river in Ireland. The bridge which gives its name to the village stands across the Shannon, and has at its east end, in Co. Limerick, the village of Montpelier. The section of the river downstream from O'Briensbridge is noted for angling and watersports. Upstream at Parteen the flow of the Shannon is diverted into a man-made canal (called the Shannon Headrace) for a hydroelectric station at Ardnacrusha. The Errinagh Canal was built to allow navigation of boats and barges to the city of Limerick. Today, the canal is being developed as a recreational amenity (fishing, watersports, etc) – the loop uses what was the towpath for horses as they pulled barges in previous times. This loop comprises the riverbank and towpaths from O'Briensbridge to Clonlara and returns via the headrace embankment.

Route Information: Starting from the riverside car park, follow the pathway along the River Shannon moving away from the village. Remember you are following the red arrows on the waymarkers but there are also blue arrows (for the shorter Errinagh Bridge Loop which you will leave) and the yellow arrows of the Lough Derg Way (a long-distance walking route which goes from Limerick City to Killaloe). You can use either of these route to either shorten or lengthen your run. Play around with the different routes and find the one that works for you best. This gives a lot of versatility to the area in terms of training. The pathway soon enters an area of beautiful natural woodland along the bank of the river this stunning scene was the old towpath. After about 1km the route veers right as you join the Errinagh Canal.

Continue to follow the canal bank to reach the Errinagh Bridge. Go under the bridge, and on your exit, climb the embankment and turn left following the red and yellow arrows. (Notice that the blue loop turns right at this point as it makes its way back to O'Briensbridge.) Take the blue route if you would like to shorten the run at this point. Follow the red and yellow arrows along a mix of towpath and sandy roadways. You will pass a canal lock on the way. At the end of this section you will join a tarred road where you turn right and, after 200m enter Clonlara Village. In the village, turn right onto a roadway. Follow the roadway onto the embankment of the Shannon Headrace and follow it for 5km (picking up the blue loop on the way) to exit via a stile at the end of forestry and onto a roadway. Continue straight here. After 300m enter the village again, turning right as you join the tarred road. Follow the road through the village – enjoying the 200m back to the trailhead. (Aided by: Coillte)

O’Briensbridge – Old Barge Loop.

Hike name Cliffs Of Moher Coastal Trail
Distance 25km
Elevation gain 852m
Approximate duration 5-5.5 hours
Difficulty Moderate
Route type Out and back
GPS starting point Doolin Village is the best place to park and set off from. It's a 10- or 15-minute walk to the starting point, which is a gate leading to the path. See AllTrails Cliffs of Moher Coastal Trail
Amenities Plenty of pubs, cafes and shops in Doolin village, and toilets in the visitor centre which you will pass along the trail (about 8km or 9km in)
Dog-friendly? No
Tips This is an out-and-back, so if the 25km is daunting, remember you can turn back whenever suits your level


Name: Fanore Beach
Location: Google Map: Fanore More
Brief description:
Sandy beach underlain by gently sloping stepped limestone, which is exposed at low tide
Amenities: Blue flag. Toilets and parking
Lifeguard: Summer months
Water quality: Excellent – Clare County Council January 2020
Tips: Fantastic views of Galway Bay and the Arans while you tread. Atlantic waves can be choppy but otherwise it's peaceful as motorised watercraft/ surfing/canoes and kayaks prohibited near swimmers.

Name: Loop Head Peninsula
Start location: Kilkee
After interviewing Greg LeMond at the Doonbeg Hotel one time, we headed out for a cycle in this direction, taking the N67 into Kilkee, then hugging the coastal route through Newtown until Loop Head Lighthouse comes into view, coming back via Kilbaha and Doonaha
Distance: 60km
Time: 3-3.5 hours
Highlights: The repeatedly impressive cliff top views heading out and back.
Look out for: The sight of Bishop's Island not far down the coast from Kilkee.
Tips: The road surface is poor in places, so bring a pump and spare tube just in case.

Park name: Dromore Wood Nature Reserve, Ruan
Amenities: Part of the Burren National Park, this 1,000 acre wood was designated a nature reserve in 1985. The natural features include rivers, lakes, turloughs, callows, limestone pavement, reed and rush beds, peatlands and woodland.
Special features: Plenty of historical and archeological interest including the 17th Century O'Brien castle, two ring forts, a limekiln and a children's burial ground.
Access: car parking and free drop off and pick up on the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk shuttle bus. Google Map "Dromore Wood trailhead".
Dogs: Yes, it's great place for dog walking.
Tip: Download maps on to plan looped walks in advance. Consider asking for a free guided walk of the flora, fauna and geology of the Burren.

Name: Tim Smythe Park, Ennis
Equipment: Chin-up and dip bars, chest press, squat, shoulder press, steps ups, pull-ups, core bench.
Location: Google Maps
Information: Includes a 400m running track and multi-use games area.

Get Active Series
- 32 great walking routes in Ireland - one in each county
- 32 great hikes in Ireland
- 32 great running routes
- 32 great outdoor swim locations
- 32 great cycling routes
- 32 great parks
- 32 great outdoor gyms