Ballyvaughan (Baile Uí Bheacháin, "town of Ó Beachán") is a small village in County Clare, overlooking Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland. It's a good base for exploring The Burren region.
The main road is N67, which branches off M18 at Ennis and loops north through Ennistymon and Lisdoonvarna to 1 Ballyvaughan then via Kinvarra to Galway.
A slow scenic route is along the cliff tops, northwards branching off N67 at Ennistymon for Lahinch, Liscannor, Cliffs of Moher, Doolin and Fanore to Ballyvaughan.
Bus 350 follows that slow route from Galway six times a day via Kinvarra, Ballyvaughan, Fanore, Lisdoonvarna, Doolin village and pier, Cliffs of Moher, Liscannor, Lahinch, Ennistymon, Corofin and Inagh to Ennis. This means that by bus or train from Dublin, it's quicker to head for Galway then take the 350 south, than to come via Limerick and Ennis and take the bus north.
The village itself is small, but you need wheels to reach the surrounding sights.
- Ballyvaughan village and harbour are picturesque.
- 1 Burren College of Art puts on occasional exhibitions of student work. They're 2 km south of the village at Newtown Castle.
- 2 Corcomroe Abbey is the ruin of an early 13th century Cistercian monastery. The Romanesque church is roofless but otherwise in good condition, with fine carvings. There is the tomb of Conor O'Brien, King of Thomond, plus a neoclassical tomb of 18th / 19th C.
- Oughtmama is a quiet lane heading into the hills southeast of the abbey, on the boundary with County Galway. There are three ruined early medieval churches, various cairns and cahirs, and the scraps of Turlough and Finvarra castles. Walk up Turlough Hill for views and the remains of a hill fort.
- 3 Dunguaire Castle, just across the boundary in County Galway, is a 16th century tower house. It's primarily an upscale events venue but is sometimes open to tour.
- 4 Kilmacduagh, also in County Galway, is a monastery with one of the finest round towers in Ireland, 34.5 m tall.
- 5 Aillwee Caves, Ballycahill (On R480). Daily 10:00-17:30. Show caves, visit only by guided tour. The caves were used by animals rather than humans, the cave mascot being a young brown bear from 10,000 BC that may have died while hibernating. That date would make it one of the last bears in Ireland before they became extinct. Aillwee also has a Birds of Prey Centre, visit separately or on combi-ticket, with flying displays Oct-Apr at 12:00 and 15:00, May-Sept at 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00. Cave €15, birds of prey €15, combi €22.
- 6 Gleninsheen Wedge Tomb was built circa 2000-3000 BC. A fabulous gold torque was found here, dated to 700 BC; it's now in the National Museum in Dublin.
- 7 Poulnabrone dolmen is one of the most impressive in Ireland. Three portal stones support a massive capstone - originally they would all have been covered by an earth mound. The remains of 33 adults were found here, dating to 3200-3800 BC. Burial objects (now in Ennis museum) suggest they were high-ranking but their bones indicate a life of hard toil and death before age 40. Open 24 hours, free.
- 8 Caherconnell Stone Fort, Caherconnell V95 YK31. Mid-Mar-Oct daily 10:00-17:30. Sturdy limestone ring-fort occupied from 10th-13th C AD - remarkably late for something that looks prehistoric. The centre runs a residential archaeology summer school to teach techniques, and there's also a sheepdog centre with regular demos. Fort €6, sheepdogs €6, combi €10.
- 9 Carran (An Carn) is a tiny settlement in the wilds of the Burren, best known for its perfumery. The area is dotted with dolmens. 3 km south is the stone fort of Cahercommaun, inhabited in the 8th and 9th centuries.
- 10 Leamaneh Castle is a gaunt ruin along R476 the lane between Corofin and Kilfenora. It's unsafe to enter and on private land, so just admire the facade from the lane.
- 11 Black Head has a lighthouse amidst the fractured limestone ground. You'll need a map, compass and stout boots to make your way uphill to Cathair Dhun Iorais Iron Age ring fort. You can continue 1.5 km to the summit of Dobhach Bhrainin (318 m), but beware that the sea mist can roll in at any moment, there's no clear trail on the rocky ground, and there are some sheer edges below you.
- 12 Fanore is a sandy beach with Atlantic surf.
- Change to low gear for Corkscrew Hill, the hairpin gradient on N67, six km south of Ballyvaughan.
- Ballyvaughan Farmer's Market is open Saturdays May-Oct 10:00-14:00.
- There are a couple of craft shops in the village, plus a pharmacy, a petrol station and a small supermarket.
- Burren Perfumery in Carran produces scents from local wild flowers. The shop is open Oct-Apr 10:00-17:00, May June Sep to 18:00, July Aug to 19:00. The tearoom is open April-Oct.
- Soda Parlour on Main St does light bites F-W 09:30-17:00.
- L'Arco, Main St, Ballyvaughan H91 R277, ☏ +353 65 708 3900. W-F 17:00-21:00, Sa 16:00-22:00, Su 12:00-21:00. Simple tasty Italian food.
- Monks, The Pier, Ballyvaughan H91 W9TN, ☏ +353 65 707 7059. Su-F 12:00-21:30, Sa 12:00-23:00. Good seafood restaurant on lane north of village.
- There's upscale dining at Hylands Hotel and at Gregans Castle Hotel, see "Sleep".
- O'Loclainn's Irish Whiskey Bar, Ballyvaughan (village centre). M-Sa 20:00-00:30, Su 12:00-15:00, 20:00-00:30. Grand little pub, they really know their whiskey.
- Greene's Bar is in village centre.
- 1 Fanore Caravan Park, Fanore, ☏ +353 65 707 6115. Basic camping and caravan site along the coast road.
- There's a string of small B&Bs and hotels with a km or so of the village, eg Burren Atlantic, The Creggs, Meadowfield and Hazelwood Lodge.
- Hylands Burren Hotel, Main Street, Ballyvaughan H91 EY00, ☏ +353 65 707 7037. Pleasant mid-range place in village centre with 32 rooms en suite. B&B double €160.
- Ballyvaughan Lodge, Galway Road, Ballyvaughan H91 T627, ☏ +353 65 707 7292. Comfy welcoming B&B with 11 rooms all en suite, in modern building in village centre. B&B double €110.
- Wild Atlantic Lodge, Main St, Ballyvaughan, ☏ +353 65 707 7003. Well-run comfy small hotel in village centre. B&B double €120.
- 2 Gregans Castle Hotel, Corkscrew Hill, Ballyvaughan H91 CF60 (On N67 5 km south of village), ☏ +353 65 707 7005. Upscale country house hotel overlooking Galway Bay and Burren mountains, open Apr-Oct. B&B double €300.
As of July 2020, there's a good mobile signal in Ballyvaughan from all Irish carriers, but only Three supports 4G. 5G has not yet reached this area.
- Kilfenora inland has an odd-looking cathedral with High Crosses. Look up your Irish ancestors at nearby Corofin.
- Doolin south along the coast has the Cliffs of Moher, caves and boat trips to the Aran Islands.
- Galway across the bay is a lively little city.