Limerick’s countryside pales in comparison to its neighbours Kerry and Clare, consisting of ribbon industrial development alongside the Shannon and a rich but bland agricultural hinterland: consequently, it is often passed through rapidly by tourists. Limerick city, however, does have its lures, notably a vibrant cultural life and the superb Hunt Museum, housing the Republic’s richest art and antiquities collection outside Dublin. Away from here, the beautiful Neolithic sites of Lough Gur and the quaint, historic village of Adare are the main reason to get out into the county.
In utter contrast, the neighbouring county of Clare, across the broad River Shannon, has a wealth of scenic attractions and is renowned worldwide for its vibrant musical traditions. Its coastline all the way from Kilkee to Fanore is dotted with golden beaches, sometimes of breathtaking quality. Near the village of Doolin, famed for its year-long, tourist-driven diet of traditional music, stand the awesome Cliffs of Moher, while the county’s northern interior is characterized by the craggy, barren landscape of The Burren, home to numerous prehistoric sites. Its county town, Ennis, is an animated place with many excellent music pubs and some atmospheric religious remains, further examples of which are dotted around the countryside, such as at Quin Abbey, Dysert O’Dea and the settlement on Scattery Island. The castles and tower houses of Clare’s erstwhile dynasties, the O’Briens and MacNamaras, inform the landscape too, notably at Bunratty and Leamaneh. At Clare’s eastern extremity lies the expansive Lough Derg, whose waters are best explored by renting your own boat or taking a cruise.