There is nothing like a little bit of local knowledge to help you to get to know a place. And, if you plan to do some local exploring during your stay at Fanningstown Castle, why not engage the services of a local guide?
Cliffs of Moher
Just over an hour’s drive away from Fanningstown Castle lies Ireland’s most visited natural attraction – the majestic Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. Stretching for 8 km (5 miles) along the Atlantic coast, the cliffs reach 214m (702 feet) at their highest point and provide spectacular panoramic views of the Wild Atlantic Way coastline – looking west, you can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay; looking North, you can see the Twelve Pins and the Maam Turk Mountains in Connemara; and looking south you can see Loop Head and beyond, right down to the Kerry mountains.
The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience is the starting point for visitors. It comprises a state-of-the-art visitor centre, pathways, steps and viewing platforms.
Take to the water
For an entirely different view of the Cliffs of Moher, why not take a one-hour Cliffs of Moher Cruise from Doolin Pier (the ferry departs from Liscannor during March – November)? The cruise takes you on a breath-taking trip underneath the Cliffs of Moher to just below their highest point near O’Brien’s Tower at the Bhreannan Mór Seastack. Make sure you look out for the resident puffins!
Often referred to as ‘A Living Landscape’, The Burren is one of the world’s most unique places comprising 259 km2 of dramatic karst landscape sculpted over the last two million years by the elements and the plate movements of the earth.
Due to its unique situation long the Atlantic coast, and micro-climate, the Burren boasts an array of plants and wildflowers, with more than 70% of Ireland’s 900 native plant species growing here.
The Burren Centre
A popular starting point for many visitors to the area, The Burren Centre comprises an exhibition and audio-visual display; craft shop and tea rooms; and The Kilfenora Ceili Band Parlour which features musical instruments, photographs, historical artefacts and interactive displays that give an insight into the Kilfenora Ceili Band’s 100 year history.
Adjacent to The Burren Centre lies the medieval Kilfenora Cathedral. Built in about 1189 on the site of an early monastery, the cathedral is dedicated to St. Fachtnan. Kilfenora Cathedral is of special architectural interest and contains many fine carvings.
Kilfenora is known as ‘The City of the Seven Crosses’ and boasts one of the greatest concentrations of high crosses in Ireland – including the famed ‘Doorty Cross’.
The Burren National Park
The Burren National Park at 15 km2 in size is Ireland’s fifth and smallest National Park. It is divided into eight areas with the main body of the park lying within the townlands of Glenquin, Gortlecka, Knockaunroe, Cooloorta and Creehaun to the north-east of the villages of Corofin and Killinaboy.
There are seven way-marked walking trails in the Burren National Park. Five trails start from Gortlecka Crossroads (Mullaghmore Crossroads) and two trails start from Slieve Carran (Keelhilla Nature Reserve). The walks vary from a short half-hour loop walk to a three-hour hike over limestone mountains. Detailed route maps are available on the Burren National Park website.
Between the months of April and August, there are free guided walks along the trails throughout the Burren National Park which cover topics such as Burren flora and fauna, geology and management practices. Advance booking is highly recommended.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service also provides a free shuttle-bus service from May to August that operates daily from the Information Point in Corofin through the National park. The bus runs seven times a day and services the five way-marked walking trails in the Burren National Park.
The Burren Smokehouse
Lovers of smoked salmon are in for a treat at the family run Burren Smokehouse. Located just 15 minutes away from The Cliffs of Moher, The Burren Smokehouse marries the influences of the traditional Irish with the Scandinavian way of smoking.
It comprises a visitor centre which explains the smoking process and also houses the first kiln Birgitta and Peter Curtin used to smoke salmon. There are plenty of tastings of Burren Smoked Salmon for your to enjoy and, if you would like to continue to enjoy Burren Smoked Salmon during your stay at Fanningstown Castle, make sure you stop at the Smokehouse on-site Gourmet Store.
The Burren Perfumery
Described as the oldest working perfumery in Ireland, The Burren Perfumery is a small-scale family business that produces perfumes and cosmetics inspired by the local landscape.
Visitors are able to learn more about how The Burren Perfumery makes its organic creams, balms and soaps are made in small batches and wander around the perfumery herb garden which is home to many examples of native herbs, learning about their traditional usage along the way.
There is also an audio-visual presentation on the flora and fauna of The Burren and a wonderful tea-room serving home-baked goodies and other locally produced delights.
Wild Atlantic Way
The Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s first long distance touring route which stretches 2,500 km along the west coast from Donegal to Cork.
Close to Fanningstown Castle lies the Clare to Kerry section comprising 541 km of spectacular coastal scenery and many points of interest along the way.
Find out more at www.wildatlanticway.com
Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum
Foynes, which is a village and port situated on the Shannon Estuary, was one of the biggest civilian airports in Europe during World War II and the place from which the first transatlantic flights were operated by Pan Am.
The popular Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum tells the story of Foynes’ aviation history and that of the estuary. It is the only aviation museum in Ireland and the only dedicated flying boat museum in the world with the only Boeing B314 Flying Boat replica in the world! The museum also celebrates the world-famous Irish first invented at Foynes Airport.
Ring of Kerry
The starting point of the world-famous Ring of Kerry is just an hour’s drive away from Fanningstown Castle.
The Ring of Kerry is a 179 km long circular driving route which is travelled clockwise from Killarney following the N71 to Kenmare, then the N70 around the Iveragh Peninsula to Killorglin, passing through the picturesque villages of Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Glenbeigh, before returning to Killarney.
We recommend an early start to make the most of this route, stopping off in Sneem for a traditional Irish pub lunch. Much of the Ring of Kerry hugs the Atlantic coastline and offers spectacular views of the ocean and Kerry mountains. As well as other cars and tourist busses, you are sure to meet the route’s resident sheep somewhere along the way!
Why not follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria and spend a day in the beautiful town of Killarney, located just an hour’s drive away from Fanningstown Castle. The bustling village is the gateway to the Ring of Kerry and offers plenty to see and do. Why not visit Muckross House, home to Queen Victoria when she visited Killarney for eight days in 1861 or take in the beautiful lakes of Killarney, Torc Waterfall, Ladies View, Ross Castle or Innisfallen Island?
Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel is not in fact a rock, but a magnificent group of Medieval buildings set on an outcrop of limestone comprising a 12th century round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, a 13th century Gothic cathedral, 15th century castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral. There is also an audio-visual show and exhibition on site. The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several years prior to the Norman invasion.
Legend has it that kissing the Blarney Stone provides the kisser with the gift of the gab. And, over the last few hundred years, millions of pilgrims have climbed the steps to kiss the stone in search of the ability to never be lost for words.
Now a world landmark and one of Ireland’s greatest treasures, Blarney Castle (which contains the Blarney Stone) as it currently stands, is the third castle to have been erected on the site. The first building was a wooden structure built in the 10th century which was followed in 1210 by a stone structure which had its entrance some 20 feet above the ground on the north face. This was demolished for foundations and replaced in 1446 by the third castle which was built by Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, of which the keep still remains standing.
The Blarney Stone is set in the wall below the battlements and to kiss it, visitors have to hold on to an iron railing while leaning backwards from the parapet walk.
The castle is set in more than 60 acres of parklands which include gardens, avenues, arboretums and waterways. It is also home to one of the few Poison Gardens in Ireland where dangerous toxic plants are grown in large cage-like structures, many of which are labelled with information about their toxicity and traditional and modern uses.
Ireland’s second largest city, Cork (known locally as the Rebel City), is a one-and-a-half hour drive from Fanningstown Castle and well worth visiting for a day. There is always something happening in Cork, whether it be a music festival or major public event. No matter what the weather there is plenty to see as the city is packed full of museums, galleries, pubs and cafes, shops and markets. Be sure to visit the 18th century English Market, visited by Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Ireland in 2011 – it’s a delicious showcase of Co. Cork local food produce which celebrated chef Rick Stein has declared to be the best covered market in the UK and Ireland. Praise indeed!