[As you can probably tell from the map, there is another option: take the Tarbert-Killimer ferry across the Shannon estuary near Kilrush. This is fun, but you have to be very sure you time your drive so that you arrive in time, otherwise you can spend precious time waiting for the ferry. But, this option would open up West Clare to you, including Ailwee Caves and the Cliffs of Moher]
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Drive up through North Kerry, pass Limerick, and you will pass by Adare which is a small village with pretty thatched cottages. There is also a very posh hotel nearby. Drive on past Limerick into Clare and you are then in Ireland's "Mid West". Then stop at Bunratty Castle. The nearby Durty Nellie's pub/restaurant is a good place to have lunch (despite the offputting name!). Bunratty Castle is definitely worth visiting, and you can see the dungeon and climb up narrow stairs to the lookouts at the top of the tower. Here is some information about the history of Bunratty Castle, on the "A Postcard a day" blog.
Bunratty Folk Park includes a number of traditional houses which were moved when a runway at Shannon Airport was built. You can walk through the houses, see bread being made, and buy scarfs and other craft items which are made right there.
After Bunratty, I recommend a side-trip to Cragganowen, which is a complex of recreated old (1000 years+) Irish dwellings and a more recent castle (which is still pretty old, of course). The Cragganowen complex includes the Crannog lake-dwelling shown in the photo below. It also includes a Ring Fort complete with a partially hidden escape tunnel, great for kids.
Then I recommend driving around by the Burren and stopping at Ailwee Caves near Ballyvaughan. Then, on to Galway to stay the night there. If it's not too late, then visit the Quays Pub in Galway for some traditional Irish music.
More Irish Road Trip recommendations
- Ireland Road Trip Day 1: Dublin to Kinsale, County Cork
- Ireland Road Trip Day 2: Kinsale to Killarney
- Ireland Road Trip Day 4: Galway to Dublin
And for another take on the Killarney-to-Galway trip, visit the Angry Piper's Blog