The Bridges of Ross, on the north side of Loop Head, is one of the prime autumn bird-watching sites in Ireland, especially during northwest gales, when several rare species have been seen with some consistency. The lighthouse at the tip of the head is also a popular spot for watching seabirds.
The Shannon Estuary is home to about 70 bottlenose dolphins, one of four such resident groups of dolphins in Europe. Dolphinwatch (www.dolphinwatch.ie; 065/905-8156) runs 2- to 3-hour cruises costing €35 adults, €20 children under 17. Advance booking is essential.
One of the region’s most famous golf courses is at Lahinch Golf Club, Lahinch (www.lahinchgolf.com; 065/708-1003). Of its two 18-hole links courses, the “Old Course”—the longer championship links course—is the one that has given Lahinch its worldwide repute. This course’s elevations, especially at the 9th and 13th holes, make for great views, but it also makes wind an integral part of play. Watch the goats, Lahinch’s legendary weather forecasters: If they huddle by the clubhouse, it means a storm is approaching. Visitors are welcome to play, especially on weekdays; greens fees are €110 to €210 for the Old Course and a more affordable €25 to €35 for the newer Castle Course.
Surfing & Other Watersports
If you’ve always wanted to try surfing, here’s your chance: Lahinch Surf School (www.lahinchsurfschool.com; 087/960-9667), set up in a hut on Lahinch promenade, specializes in getting people suited up and out on the waves—whether you surf every weekend or have never hit a board in your life. They’re friendly and know their stuff. Wetsuits and surfboards are included with the lessons. Average water temps in late summer are 16° C (60.8° F)—so wetsuits are advised for the length of time you're in the water. Private lessons cost around €90 to €120, depending on the time of year; group lessons are around €40. A family of two adults and two kids pay €120 (€25 per extra child) for one 2-hour lesson.
Lough Derg in the southern part of the county is known for clear, unpolluted water that’s ideal for swimming, particularly at Castle Lough, Dromineer, and Portumna Bay. Portumna Bay has changing rooms and showers.
Portumna Forest Park, at the northern tip of Lough Derg, has some excellent walks, as does the shoreline. For a touch of scenic wilderness, walk a portion of the Slieve Bloom Way, a circular 34km (21-mile) signposted trail that begins and ends in Glenbarrow, County Laois; see www.slievebloom.ie for details.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.