The winding, medieval streets and lovely structure of Ennis, County Clare’s foremost market city, are the southerly place to begin of route 350, a bus service that navigates sleepy villages, historic landmarks, epic landscapes and a number of the most interesting coastal surroundings in Eire.
Ennis is simply half-hour by bus from Shannon airport and halfway by rail from Galway to Limerick Metropolis – but, despite all that connectivity, there aren’t any early begins right here, and that features the 350. The city stretches and yawns awake someday after 9am with the clanking of empty kegs to the rear of the pubs that line Abbey Avenue as far down as Ennis Friary. It had a literary nod as a location in James Joyce’s Ulysses, which brings a flurry of tourists for its e-book competition in early spring, however aside from that, Ennis ambles alongside at its personal tempo till late Could. That’s when Fleadh Nua begins – a standard Irish music occasion, hallmarked by the sound of uilleann pipes or a bodhrán filtering by each bar door and window.
The city has a scattering of breakfast cafes – such because the Market Bar and Restaurant on Service provider’s Sq., which serves a full Irish for beneath €10. It’s the easiest way to idle away an hour ready for the bus, which is able to coast alongside Clare’s coast so far as Galway Metropolis. Christy, the driving force immediately, is a pleasant smiling type – he steers the bus from the station with the arrogance of huge expertise, which is a reduction, as a result of this isn’t a standard rural service – it strikes at a sensible tempo alongside cliff-hugging slim lanes and thru knife-edge twists and turns.
We experience for half-hour skinny roads passing thick inexperienced pastures earlier than the bus stops in Ennistymon, exterior the easy, brightly painted Unglert’s Bakery, the place proprietor Stephan has bought contemporary bread and apple strudel for 40 years. Then Christy is again on the highway to take a full 90-degree nook within the centre of Ennistymon that’s a problem even for a compact automotive – he brings the village’s visitors to standstill for a second, earlier than crossing over a sliver of a bridge. To the proper, cascades of water tumble previous Falls Resort, a former house of Caitlin Macnamara, writer and spouse of Dylan Thomas.
Simply as Ennistymon recedes, the Atlantic Ocean seems on the horizon over the surf city of Lahinch. The bus swerves on to a layby – by the previous golf course which is ranked fourth greatest in Eire. Lahinch is the preferred seaside city in County Clare, so the bus gives the chance to skip the parking charges and roam alongside the promenade or quiet down for an hour on the golden sand, ready for the subsequent 350 to return alongside. Vaughan’s on The Promenade (previously O’Looney’s) is the place to observe the browsing from a secure distance – someplace between the seaside and the Cliffs of Moher is Aileen’s Wave, a critical surf spot with gargantuan breaks. I want the relative security of the highway – and at this level it’s value mentioning that northbound passengers on the 350 ought to sit on the left-hand facet of the bus for the perfect views.
The route passes by Liscannor – the house village of John P Holland, an inventor who designed the US navy’s first submarine – earlier than climbing to 200 metres above the ocean, an indication that the Cliffs of Moher are close by. That is the place most passengers disembark. The interpretive centre, with its grassy domed roof, has an uncanny resemblance to Teletubbyland, however the operation works on an exemplary sustainable mannequin, in addition to providing views alongside miles and miles of County Clare coast and over to the Aran Islands. They’re breathtaking on a transparent day. In case you keep on board, the bus will quickly swoop round a nook simply past the customer centre and those self same views come into panoramic focus so far as the tiny, touristy village of Doolin. There’s a daily ferry service to the Aran Islands (and energetic pubs) right here – or an opportunity to take a cruise beneath the Cliffs of Moher from the identical vantage level as Harry Potter within the Half Blood Prince.
After a fast detour to Lisdoonvarna, which hosts what is alleged to be Europe’s largest matchmaking competition each September, the bus hugs the coast on one in all Eire’s most spectacular drives, alongside Black Head. The Burren Park’s silver terrain is on both facet – mountainous to the proper, clean and creviced to the left – earlier than it plunges into the bluest water conceivable. The setting softens at Fanore seaside, earlier than shifting on to Ballyvaughan, which tempts a few passengers to disembark. The village has a superb vary of rooms and eating places overlooking Galway Bay – and O’Loclainn’s Bar has an unsurpassed number of whiskey manufacturers stacked in its cramped inside.
Earlier than leaving County Clare and the Burren Park, Christy takes an surprising flip inland, passing landmarks such because the wreck of Thirteenth-century Corcomroe Abbey and Oughtmama – a valley of crumbling medieval church buildings – then on to New Quay. The Flaggy Shore, close to New Quay, is a secluded limestone and hoary sandy seaside the place the poet Seamus Heaney frolicked and which he described in his poem Postscript. To relish the chic ocean views, cease by Linnane’s Lobster Bar for contemporary catch and wine, or draft beer on faucet.
Over the border, in County Galway, the bus creates a minor calamity with visitors because it blocks the principle road of Kinvara to present passengers an opportunity to disembark. White sails billow within the harbour forward – and perched on a bluff on the outskirts is Dunguaire Fortress. It’s a small tower home the place a few of Eire’s literary greats – Yeats, Synge and Shaw – conjured up a highway map to revive and nurture the humanities. It’s additionally the final cease earlier than the bus trundles on to a extra city setting because it makes for Eyre Sq. in Galway Metropolis – with its Michelin-star eating places, top-notch bars and bohemian way of life. However that’s an journey for an additional day.
With a Leap Card, Bus Éireann tickets are 30% cheaper than single fares. The primary of 5 day by day 350 companies begins from Ennis at 10.30am.
Doubles at The Outdated Floor, Ennis, from €107 (room-only) or €125 B&B; doubles at Monks, Ballyvaughan Village from €150 B&B; doubles at The Galmont, Galway, €160 room-only.