Nestled on a small island in a fork of the River Fergus, Ennis is the main county town of Clare. Originaly founded circa 1250 by Franciscan Monks, the town has retained much of its medieval feel. The town is surrounded by water on all sides as the river Fergus and it’s tributaries flow through and around it giving rise to its name Ennis, derived from the Irish, Inis, which means island.
Narrow, winding streets present the visitor with the opportunity to visit local boutiques, gift shops, traditional pubs and restaurants. Parnel St. is pedestrianised and gives the visitor the opportunity to stroll round the town through the many lanes and archways. The town has many family run restaurants and bars and it’s recommended that you take at least some time to stroll from one to the other. In recent years more use has been made of the river and it is now possible to sit by the water on a sunny day and enjoy a beverage as the ducks splash about.
Recently by-passed, by the N18, means traffic heading north for Galway and west for the likes of Kilrush and Kilkee now do not need to travel through the town. This reduced traffic in the town makes it much more pleasant for visitors and locals alike.
The town is a hive of activity and hosts a farmers market every weekend. It is home to the Clare Museum and the Glór Theatre. There are organized walking tours of the town that leave the Museum every morning and this is one of the best ways to see what the town has to offer. Traditional Irish music and song thrive in the county town and some of its most famous sons are Stockton’s Wing, (a traditional Irish band that reached fame in the 80’s and early 90’s) and singer Maura O’Connell. In most recent times singer song writer Síomha Brock has been making the headlines.
There are a number of famous Irish historical figures associated with Ennis. Daniel O’Connell, founder of the Catholic Association and driver of the Catholic Emancipation movement in the early 1800s Ireland, was an MP for Clare in 1828. A statue commemorating him now stands on O’Connell Square. Also commemorated is former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and President Éamon De Valera, who also served as an MP for Clare in 1917. He represented the county until 1959. A memorial to him stands in the People's Park next to the Courthouse – a building erected in 1850 for the princely sum of £12,500.
Of modern day heroes Ennis in County Clare can also boast a connection to one of the world’s most famous sports men, Muhammad Ali. The great man brought the town to a standstill in Sept 2009 when he visited Ennis to mark the birthplace of his great grandfather Abe Grady. There is a memorial to the event erected in The Turnpike from whence Abe emigrated in the 1860s.
The Ennis Cathedral was built in the 1830s, with the first mass being said in September 1842. It was named a cathedral in 1990 following 163 years of work. The organ was built in 1930 and was refurbished in 1985. It has over 2,000 pipes spread over 35 stops with 28 flue stops and 7 reeds. The Ennis Abbey is a 13th century building, around which the existing town of Ennis grew. The ruins include a chancel, nave, arched cloister and a belfry. It is located near the Club Bridge in the town. The Abbey is currently undergoing renovation and will soon be re-opened to the public. Clare Abbey, a ruined 12th century Augustinian abbey, is located just outside of the town on the way to Clarecastle. Dedicated to the Saints Peter and Paul, parts of the abbey remain well preserved including its east window and tower.
The main GAA ground in Clare is Cusack Park, which was named after Michael Cusack the founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association who was born in Carran, County Clare. Here is a perfect place to watch a game of hurling or Gaelic football in action.
After taking in the sites of the town Ballyalla Lake off the Gort Road is a beautiful spot to relax. Have a stroll around this wildlife preserve and enjoy the serene lake and forest walks.
There are many hotels including The Old Ground Hotel, Woodstock Hotel, The West County and The Queens, (the Queens hosts the local night club so you might want to check with them first if you are looking for a quiet retreat). There are many B&Bs and self catering houses available.
Eniis is just 20 minutes from Shannon Airport and 30 from Limerick city. It is well serviced by rail and bus and the rail service links with Limerick and Galway cities. It is a great place to return to everyday after taking in the sights such as The Cliffs of Moher and The Burren.
You will never be short of things to do in County Clare, if you are not sightseeing you can spend some time fishing or golfing. There are two local golf courses, Ennis Golf Club and Woodstock Golf Club and you are jsut 30 minutes from lahinch Golf Club and just 15 minutes from Dromoland Golf Club and Acadamy.