Doolin in County Clare, Ireland, attracts visitors from all over the world for being a center of traditional Irish music. But there are a few things to know before you go.
The village is absolutely adorable and located near many attractions including the Cliffs of Moher, several castle ruins, and ferries to the Aran Islands. I strongly encourage anyone to visit! Just make sure you prep yourself with my handy tips:
1. Don’t arrive hungry. We did. Turns out, you can’t find food in Doolin after 9:30 p.m. At 9:20 p.m., we found ourselves on a mad dash to find sustenance. The first pub that served food until 9:30 was hosting a private party and thus refused us. The bartender did suggest that we just nab some sandwich triangles from said party, which we did. But it wasn’t enough to fill the void.
At the second serve-until-9:30 pub, my travel buddy put on a good sad little story and we scored some sandwiches and crisps. Lesson for future hungry Doolin visitors: Go straight for McDermott’s after 9:30. Just bring along a good sob story.
2. Interpret “within walking distance” liberally. Maybe it’s my inability to convert kilometers to a rough time estimate, but no walk was as short as I expected in Doolin. Whether you’re headed for the Cliffs of Moher or just off to catch some moosic, expect a bit of a walk.
“It’s a tiny place, how far could [insert attraction here] possibly be?” I constantly asked myself. Little do newcomers know just how scattered this tiny village is. So bring your hiking boots to Doolin!
3. Don’t disregard the Doolin dolphin! I’ve been on plenty of boat rides in my day that promised “dolphin watching.” How many excited little kids have eagerly watched over the side of a boat to no avail? Dolphins. Seals. Whatever the promise, it never seemed to pay off.
Well I’m here to tell you that the Doolin Pier dolphin does exist! Hang out on the pier for a bit and watch around the boats that depart there. Dusty, as some have dubbed the dolphin, swam along our boat to the Aran Islands for several minutes!
4. Don’t assume the essentials will be readily available. Believe it or not, there is no shop in Doolin. When a hostel worker was approached about buying some…ahem…necessary female products, she declared, “You can’t get those here.”
That’s right. You think living on the Aran Islands is desolate? Even parts of the mainland have their own…erm, “charm.”
5. Expect to sing. Sure, Doolin is known for its traditional Irish music. Most people know that before heading for the tiny town. But what you don’t know is when a session will break out! Most pubs have traditional music sessions nightly, but we also found our hostel to be a hotbed of musical prowess.
An Argentinian visitor spontaneously busted out a guitar at midnight in the 300-year-old cottage that houses the Aille River Hostel, and we found ourselves listening late into the night.
6. Keep your eyes open on the drive there and back! Whether you’re arriving in Doolin via bus or car, make sure to take the non-drowsy motion sickness pills! The drive through the Burren or the wilds of County Clare is simply magnificent.
And if traveling by bus, make sure to get to know your bus driver! There’s a good chance he’ll drop you wherever the hell you need to go! Ours dropped us right outside our hostel and even gave us directions. (Which consisted of: “Cross the street.”)
When leaving Doolin, we took the “direct” bus from Doolin to Galway and were pleasantly surprised to find that the route follows the gorgeous coast the whole way! Sure, it takes a little longer, and “direct” only means that you don’t have to make a transfer – it still stops in every tiny town you’ve never heard of. But it’s worth it if you’ve got the time!
So, whether you’re headed to Doolin for the Cliffs, the music, or the Aran Islands – or all of the above – make sure you know what’s in store. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy it to the fullest!