Although some may not know, County Clare is the historic epicentre of Ireland, given that it hosts the oldest known evidence of human activity on the entire island. There are traces of civilization to be found in this county that go as far back as 10,500 BC, in the form of a Paleolithic hunting site located in the Alice and Gwendoline Cave.
With such a long and rich history, it’s no surprise that County Clare is a magnet for tourists and history buffs the world over and that our humble country boasts some of the most treasured and significant sites in all of Europe. Here’s our round-up of the top historical sites to visit in County Clare.
This ruined castle near the village of Corofin serves as a potent reminder of Ireland’s bloody and sorrowful history and remains steeped in significance to this very day. The castle was first built as a manor house for a local lord in the 1500s, before being inherited by the infamous “Red Mary”during the era of the English Civil War. Mary and her husband were active rebels who participated in raids on English invaders, and she famously saved herself and the castle from elimination by agreeing to marry a Cromwellian officer. The castle remains an important site to this day.
One of the oldest freestanding structures in all of Europe, the Dolmen is a Stonehenge-esque tomb dated back to around 140AD, which was excavated in the 1980s, uncovering the bodies of dozens of men, women and children, many of their bones bearing scorch marks from fire. The tomb remains a highly spiritual site, with the curious flocking there to have their fortunes told and to experience tarot readings, as it is believed that the site is endowed with powers that will enable you to see your future. Definitely not a place for the faint of heart.
Inis Cathaigh is an island off the coast of Kilrush with a mournful history. Much of the island lies in ruins today, but the destroyed monasteries and lighthouses date back to the 8th century when a thriving monastic community was subject to brutal raids from the Vikings, who eventually wiped out the settlement. Today the entirety of the island is owned by the Office of Public Works and contains a visitors centre with well-equipped transport and tourism facilities.
O’Brien’s Tower is probably one of Ireland’s most famous landmarks, receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors every year from all over the world. This iconic castle-like structure was built in 1835 as an observation point for Victorian tourists and, given that it stands atop one of the highest points of the breath-taking Cliffs of Moher, the views are simply unforgettable.
If you think that there are some iconic historic sites in Clare that haven’t been included here but deserve a shout-out, let us know by commenting below! This county is packed with more ancient sites than almost anywhere else in the world, all of which deserve more recognition.