A boomtown built around Ireland’s third busiest airport, Shannon is the gateway to unspoiled County Clare and its main town of Ennis, as well as the major tourist destinations of Galway and Limerick.
Ennis is a pretty, riverside market town – the largest in County Clare – known for its annual Irish music festival and notable live scene all year round.
You probably didn’t know
Shannon Free Zone, a tax-friendly hub of multinationals in place since 1959, was the first of its kind in the world.
Shannon Airport, a Unique Story of Survival (Valerie Sweeney, 2004).
Things to do in and nearby Shannon
In the shadow of the 15th-century Bunratty Castle, award-winning Gallagher’s is the best seafood restaurant for miles around. Stand-out choices include the house platter of three types of fish (fresh that day from the market), steamed Wild Atlantic mussels, and Irish rock oysters served with Guinness. Rustic surroundings provide atmosphere and a roaring fire gives winter warmth. The restaurant runs evenings and Sunday lunchtimes only – at the same site, JP Clarke’s pub has its own bar menu.
A long-established gastropub at the Shannon Springs Hotel, the Old Lodge is a destination restaurant in its own right thanks to award-winning head chef Anthony Walsh. Fresh, mainly locally sourced ingredients feature throughout, not least in the braised lamb shank with honey-roast root vegetables and sirloin steak with flat-cap mushrooms currently featured in the three-course Wine & Dine menu at €25.
Sophie’s Bar & Bistro
Under head chef Martin Cronin, the recently renovated Sophie’s Bar & Bistro at the Oakwood Hotel has also upped its game in the kitchen, its menu now featuring dishes like house smoked salmon salad, Irish Hereford rib-eye steak and pan-fried fillet of sea bass. Also look out for the daily changing chef’s specials and desserts such as warm apple and wild-berry crumble, and sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce.
The Dining Room
For memorable cuisine in Ennis, The Dining Room on Market Street is the place to come, with its locally sourced Burren lamb slow-roasted and served with pesto mash and pan-fried duck breast with smoked-bacon rösti. The weekday lunch menu is a steal – try the Clare Coast fish and shellfish linguine.
Named after a bridgekeeper of hard-drinking legend, Durty Nelly’s at Bunratty is Shannon’s main venue for live music. Seven nights a week – four in winter – fiddlers, guitarists, singers and piano players gather for sessions of traditional sounds at this multi-bar complex. It also plays host to the Annual Bunratty Banjo Pickers Festival and January’s Shannonside Winter Music Festival. Durty Nelly’s is ideally located, with its loft terrace overlooking the river Ratty and Clare Hills beyond. Downstairs, the Oyster Restaurant, serves shellfish amid old wooden beams and a flagstone floor.
The only nightclub in town is part of the long-established Shannon Knights entertainment complex, which has two bars, a bistro, and this dance spot called Evolution. With a state-of-the-art LED video wall as its backdrop, Evolution runs until 3am from Thursdays to Sundays. The best DJs from the west of Ireland come to spin classic hits and dancefloor favourites. Get gussied up because smart dress is required.
Catering to over-23s, Halo in Galway is a stylish, sophisticated nightspot, made up of five bars and two dancefloors spread over two floors. There’s also table service if you need to entertain clients. The champagne is Moët, the vodka Grey Goose and the location right in the heart of town, by the Oscar Wilde statue.
Shannon Farmers’ Market
Every Friday at the SkyCourt shopping centre in town, the Shannon Farmers’ Market is lined with stalls offering artisanal cheeses, home-baked breads, preserves, flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables brought in by small-batch producers across County Clare and beyond. Sundry crafts and souvenirs also feature.
Hand-poured, hand-finished, and made of top-quality paraffin wax and cotton wicks, Bunratty Candles are personalised and unique. Items can be produced in all shapes, styles and sizes – art-deco, sugar-loaf like a wedding cake or formed like a church door for anniversaries – to suit the occasion. A workshop operates on Wednesdays. You’ll find it at the Ballycasey Craft and Design Centre at the edge of town.
Bunratty Folk Park
Just outside Shannon are two attractions in one: Bunratty Castle and the surrounding Folk Park. Set over 26 acres, the Folk Park recreates the village life of 19th-century Ireland, with a print works, post office, pub and pawnbrokers among the 30 buildings. Costumed characters help bring the illusion to life. There’s also a fairy village and walled garden. Castle and park are the setting for annual events such as the Easter fair, Christmas grotto and battle re-enactments.
LIT Millennium Theatre
Behind a stunning façade of glass and steel, Limerick’s contemporary LIT Millennium Theatre stages drama, dance, opera, ballet and comedy. Opened in 2003, LIT even has its own production company for small-scale shows and community presentations.
- Shannonside Winter Music Festival (January)
- St Patrick’s Day parades (March)
- Fresh Film Festival, Limerick (March/April)
- Easter at Bunratty Castle (Easter)
- Fleadh Nua, Ennis (May)
- Galway International Arts Festival (July)
- Limerick Pride (July)
- Scariff Harbour Festival (July)
- Limerick Jazz Festival (September)
- Bunratty Bluegrass Festival (October)
- Galway Comedy Festival (October)
- Ennis Trad Fest (November)
- Santa at Bunratty (November/December)
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