I have two contradictory views of Doolin, Ireland. One version of it in my mind is that its what Disney designed to give tourists an Irish seaside town to visit that fits everything in your head about small towns in Ireland. Rolling green hills with stone walls; squat, quaint homes with horses or cattle roaming nearby; colorful village streets with shops selling all manner of items made from wool, and traditional Irish pubs filled with live music.
This is very much what Doolin is. Home to what we think of as Irish music, and home to the Doolin Folk Festival. Doolin is also home to a rather new resort sort of feeling development that helps to drive this Disney-esque feeling.
That said, it is all of these things. It is also just north of the Cliffs of Moher, just south of the Burren National Park, and the ferry departure point for the Aran Islands. It makes a great base point for all of these things because of all the restaurants, pubs, music, shops and places to stay. Plus it’s just exactly what you think the Irish countryside looks like.
While there I did the cliff walk to the Cliffs of Moher with Pat Sweeney. It’s the walk you will find if you google and it’s so completely worth it! This is actually why I went to Doolin. I wanted to see the cliff and I wanted to have this experience of the walk to them.
I am so glad I didn’t just take the bus to the Cliffs visitors center – the walk shows you much better views, especially since the visitors center is right up on it.
I thought I was in shape when I signed up for the walk. I did not feel like I was in shape during the walk. Parts of it are really steep, and the Irish don’t do switchbacks. They dig stairs into a hill instead.
You can do the cliff walk on your own – it’s pretty clearly marked. I was glad to be in a group, mostly for those spots where you are walking across stone bridges that have no railings and were kind of wet and slippery.
Pat gives you the history of the area and makes sure to stop at some of the best views while pointing out points of interest from Star Wars and Harry Potter movies. Both have done some filming in the area.
I decided to give myself an extra day in Doolin to slow down my travel pace and help me relax a little. Slowing down and seeing fewer towns was recommended to me by locals because it’s a slower pace of life there and you need to slow down if you want to experience it. So I spent a day wandering the town. I walked up and down different roads, found myself in a medieval cemetery and church, and other ruins of Doolin House, which was burned by British forces.
Also nearby, Doolin caves, The Burren, Doolin Castle, Cliffs cruises, and ferries to the Aran Islands.
Doolin is home to three villages, so whatever part of the town you’re staying in, you’re easy walking distance to dinner in a pub.
The town is somewhat overrun with places to stay and has options for every budget. I stayed at the Aille River Hostel because it looked adorable. Turns out: it exactly as adorable if not more than the photos! I had my own room and en suite, but also a communal kitchen and living space complete with built-in banquets and cozy fireside seating. I was able to have my own space and privacy, but also met others staying there and went out to dinner a couple of times with new friends.
I had Guinness stew while there because I had to – it’s what you do. But I also had A LOT of mussels, and every single pot I ate was amazing.
Every hotel, B&B, and hostel in town has parking, and there are several stops in Doolin for Bus Eireann. It’s a short ride on the bus from Doolin to Ballyvaughan – where you can hike the Burren National Park, and just a little further is Galway.
My two sides of Doolin are both lovely, and both very real. It’s such a wonderful little town, and an excellent base to explore County Clare.