9 Reasons to Choose Shannon as Your Gateway to Ireland
Shannon Airport, located on Ireland’s west coast, is a hop, skip and a jump away from some of the island’s most spectacular scenery, culturally rich cities and enchanting coastal routes. Ideal for those who are short on time, Shannon also provides a perfect starting point to discover the magic, adventure and beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way. Got a trip to Ireland on the horizon? The following are 9 reasons to choose Shannon as your gateway for exploring some the island’s best loved attractions.
The Wild Atlantic Way
At 1,500 miles (2,500km), the Wild Atlantic Way is the world’s longest defined coastal touring route and there is plenty to see in less than a 3 hour drive from Shannon Airport.
Firstly, no Ireland bucket-list is complete without a trip to the Cliffs of Moher. Part of the UNESCO Global Geopark and Special Protection Area, these iconic cliffs soar to 702ft (214m) at their highest point. Walk along the cliff path stretching along 12.5 miles (20km) to get the best view of the huge, craggy precipices slashing through the rock as the coastline dips into the Atlantic. The route can be done in sections or in its entirety. Either way, you’ll experience breath-taking panoramic seascapes.
Just north of the cliffs lies The Burren; a sparse, sprawling landscape of limestone rock that sweeps across County Clare right down to the Atlantic Ocean. The best way to appreciate the Burren’s charms is to take a walk on its lunar-like surface. For artists and photographers, there is inspiration at every turn. Arctic alpine plants peak through cracks in the rock, rare orchids provide unexpected flashes of colour, while the deep blue ocean provides a constant, brooding back-drop.
Loop Head is located in west Clare, just an hour and a half by car from Shannon Airport. This is a whale-watcher’s paradise, complete with scenic peninsulas and dramatic coastal drives. Be sure to climb to the top of Loop Head Lighthouse for spectacular panoramic views. Can’t get enough of the rugged, windswept scenery? Extend your trip and stay overnight in the award-winning light keeper’s house.
Another easy pitstop is Derrigimlagh Bog; a wild and mysterious place formed by a patchwork of tiny lakes and peat crossed by a single narrow road. The best way to explore this stark, blanket bog is to hire a bicycle in Connemara’s ‘capital’, the picturesque town of Clifden just 6km (3 miles) away. Also, keep an eye out for the white aeroplane-wing shaped monument to Alcock and Brown, the pioneering pair who crash landed into Derrigimlagh bog in 1919, ending the world’s first nonstop flight across the Atlantic.
Experience Irish island life by taking a day trip to one of the three Aran Islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay, just over an hour’s drive from Shannon. You can explore the smallest, Inis Oirr, by bicycle (€10 per day) – or even better, by pony and trap. Under huge open skies you’ll trot along narrow lanes, past white sandy beaches and clover-covered hills. Ferries carry people to and from the island every day. Later, head back to Doolin, the Irish music centre of west Clare and enjoy a night on the town.
For an alternative island experience, take a boat to Skellig Michael from Portmagee. You may recognise the jagged crag from the latest Star Wars adventure: The Force Awakens. Climbing the steep steps to the summit, you’ll find a collection of remarkably well-preserved beehive-shaped monastic retreats built in the 6th century. Author George Bernard Shaw once described the site as “part of our dream world” and visitors have since described it as a life-changing experience. Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, consequently, trips to the island are limited and pre-booking is recommended. There are additional twice daily trips circling the islands and you can also hear the story of the monks who made Skellig Michael their home at the Skellig Experience on Valentia Island (connected to the mainland by bridge.)
The pretty seaside town of Lahinch is Ireland’s surfing capital. If you’ve never tried your hand at riding the waves, there are several surfing schools ready and willing to help you on your way. Back on dry land, there’s plenty more to keep you entertained. Play a round at one of Lahinch’s championship links golf courses or enjoy the craic at a traditional Irish music session.
With the west coast’s countryside in your rear-view mirror, head for the bright lights of Galway, located just over an hour from Shannon Airport. Compact, historic and friendly, Galway is known for its colourful streets filled with traditional Irish culture, art and music. Atmospheric pubs, old alleys, medieval history and lively summer festivals await. Catch a performance in Town Hall Theatre or Druid Theatre. Experience the food scene at award winning restaurants such as The Malt House Restaurant and check out the quirky cafés in the little seaside suburb of Salthill.
For more big city sights, head to Limerick. Just a half an hour’s drive from Shannon Airport, the city is home to a mix of faded Georgian grandeur, green belts including People’s Park and fairytale-esque landmarks such as King John’s Castle, where you’ll find a state-of-the-art interpretative centre. There is also a burgeoning festival scene and plenty of rainy day attractions including the excellent Hunt Museum and Limerick City Gallery of Art.