Black Magic ➤ County Clare
The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s single biggest tourist attraction – and for good reason. Coupled with a trip around Black Head for the very best of the Burren, this itinerary is a must-do.
Check out Ireland.com’s for listing of the best accommodation in Doolin.
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Black Magic ➤ County Clare
Route Rating ➤ Moderate
Distance ➤ 81 km
Climbing ➤ 900 meters
‘And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter’
(Postscript, Seamus Heaney)
The Burren has a special place in our hearts. Junior Cert geography classes covered its clints and grikes but somehow the schoolbooks fail to capture the beauty of its eerily lunar landscape. For that, only Heaney will do.
This is a great group spin as it’s not too challenging but takes in some of the best scenery County Clare has to offer (and still throws a few nice climbs into the mix!)
Heading out from the Stonewall Café in lovely Doolin, the route follows the coast road around the western edge the Burren and strikes northwards towards Black Head, keeping the grey stone of the Burren on the right and the wild Atlantic on the left.
On a calm day, it’s magical. On a wild day… Well, put the head down and keep pedalling.
The road sweeps through Ballyvaughan, a pretty fishing village with nice cafés and views across Galway Bay. A right turn in the village brings you along the main road for 1.6km until a left turn signposted for Kilfenora and the Aillwee Caves takes you into the heart of the Burren itself. Eagle-eyed readers will notice this itinerary avoids Corkscrew Hill, the notorious Burren climb. There are two reasons for this: firstly, the Corkscrew is a tough, twisty climb and the road is narrow and busy with tourist traffic, making it dangerous for cyclists who might struggle with the gradient. Secondly, and more simply, the alternative route is absolutely stunning.
Head inland past Poulnabrone Dolmen (yes, it’s the one from Father Ted) towards Kilfenora and Ennistymon, where the Market House is a good lunch stop, and then it’s back to the coast via Lahinch another lunch option at O’Looney’s Bar and Liscannor where Vaughan’s Bar also does great seafood. There are plenty of options depending on hunger levels.
After Liscannor it’s a short, stiff spin to the Cliffs of Moher to round off the day. The Cliffs themselves are spectacular and the visitors’ centre is excellent and well worth a stop.
Finally, it’s an easy ride home to Doolin where the Stonewall Café is one of the best cyclists’ cafés in the country – free coffee for cyclists and delicious cakes too.