Ennis or Inís, meaning ‘Island’ is the largest town in Co. Clare and the 12th largest in Ireland. This thriving market town is well worth a visit and there are lots of things to see and do in Ennis. With a flagship arts centre and venue (that’s us!), lots of historical attractions, great cafés and pubs, live music and impromptu sessions, beautiful walking trails and some of the best shopping in Ireland, what’s not to love about Ennis!
A wander around glór’s gallery is a good way to start your Ennis tour. The gallery is open Monday to Saturday till 3pm and is a great spot for all the family to check out the latest exhibition of work from local and national artists. glór is also home to a great café, serving a delicious menu of tasty and healthy food, made with locally sourced produce.
Next stop is a trip through history as you ramble around the historical streets of Ennis. The town was founded in the 13th Century by the O’Brien Kings of Thomand, who built a royal fort at Clonroad. In 1240, the foundations of the Franciscan Friary were laid, the ruins of which still stand in the centre of the town which grew up around it. The Friary developed over the next four-hundred years to become a major religious centre. Today you can still see medieval carvings in the church and limestone cloisters.
A leisurely stroll around the gorgeous mediaeval streets and bow-ways of Ennis, reveals a town rich in history and folklore. ‘Bow-way’ is a term unique to Ennis which describes the covered pedestrian passageways which would have linked the main streets to busy tenement areas behind. On your journey, keep an eye out for Ennis’ Jostle Stones’ which were a necessity in nineteenth century Ennis as horses and carts wound their way around the narrow streets of the town.
A short drive will take you to Clare Abbey, founded some time prior to 1189 on the banks of the river Fergus. The abbey’s extensive possessions plus its location in O’Brien territories, ensured its status as one of the most important monasteries in the diocese. Nearby Bunratty Castle is built on a site which was originally a Viking trading camp in 970, and the present structure incorporating the folk park is the last of four castles to be built there. Today, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is a must do day out for families and kids will love the on-site playground and fairy trail.
Clare Museum is a rich source of further information on the history and archaeology of this bustling market town and is worth a visit just to see DeValera’s 1947 Dodge Limousine!
No other county does scenic quite like Clare and a visit to Ballyalla Lake in Ennis is a great day out for all the family where you can enjoy plenty of water sports and boat trips. Dromore Woods Nature Reserve and The Burren National Park offer many accessible walking trails to suit all abilities whilst Derg Isle offers an exceptional outdoor experience with kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, water zorbing and many land based activities along the obstacle course, climbing wall, archery, or zip lines.
Plan a trip to Loop Head, one of the Wild Atlantic Way’s most dramatic headlands and climb to the top of Loop Head Lighthouse, built in 1854 to marvel at the panoramic views stretching to Connemara in Co. Galway and to The Blaskets of Co. Kerry. While you’re in Clare, a surfing experience in Lahinch or on Fanore beach will blow off the cobwebs, with lessons offered for young and older. Of course, the Cliffs of Moher are breathtakingly beautiful at any time of the year and since 2011 the Cliffs and the surrounding Burren landscape form Ireland’s newest UNESCO Geopark.
Don’t worry if it’s wet, Ennis and nearby locations have plenty of spots to have fun out of the showers. The Planet Entertainment Centre is a fantastic all weather entertainment centre located within 10 minutes’ walk of Ennis Town centre and offers bowling, soft play, laser tag and lots more. Lahinch Seaworld overlooks the promenade and has a pool and inflatable obstacle course for the kids. Aillwee and Doolin caves offer a fascinating insight into how the Burren’s landscape was formed 350 million years ago.
Ennis has developed quite a reputation as Ireland’s boutique town, and you’ll find plenty of independent boutiques and shops, selling designer clothes, locally made crafts and jewellery and delicious artisan food products made by some of Clare’s very many artisan producers.
And finally, you can’t beat the hospitality in Clare. Ennis is packed with lovely old-fashioned pubs where you can enjoy a pint, a cocktail or a good ol’ pub lunch and settle yourself to enjoy some of Clare’s world-famous trad music. Time to book a trip to our lovely town and county!