Ennis: 67km (42 miles) S of Galway, 27km (17 miles) NW of Shannon Airport, 37km (23 miles) NW of Limerick, 235km (146 miles) SW of Dublin, 133km (83 miles) NW of Cork

With its miles of pasture and softly rolling fields, at first glance Clare seems a pleasantly pastoral place. But head to the coast and a dramatic landscape awaits you, with plunging cliffs and crashing waves. Turn north from there and you’ll find visual drama of a different kind, courtesy of the stark, rocky landscapes of the Burren.

Like its neighbors Kerry and Galway, Clare has a remarkable coastline, including the spectacular Cliffs of Moher and quaint seaside towns such as Lahinch and Kilkee. At its southern tip the boating paradise of Lough Derg brings in water cruisers and sailboats. At the edges of the lake Killaloe is a darling village at the foot of the Slieve Bernagh Hills, and home to a picturesque marina. Killaloe Cathedral dates from the 13th century, and has extensive carving on its doorway. The stone cross near the door dates to early Christian times and is carved with Irish Ogham scripts and Scandinavian runes. The grounds also hold a 12th-century oratory.

Traditional Irish music is always on heavy rotation in Clare, which is well known for a vibrant music scene, especially in the charming villages of Doolin, Miltown Malby, Fanore, and Ennistymon. This is also an excellent place for those fascinated by the country's ancient history, as it's littered with historic and prehistoric sites, from the Poulnabrone Dolmen to Bunratty Castle, with its better-than-you-probably-expected folk park.