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Kilfenora (Cill Fhionnúrach, "Church of the Fertile Hillside") is a tiny village in County Clare in Ireland. It's the most northern of a string of little places, also described here, as the road leaves the low country at Corofin and climbs the valley through Kilnaboy and Leamaneh. North of Kilfenora is the stark limestone scenery of The Burren, which is the main reason to visit.

Get in[edit]

Sheela na Gig flaunts her stuff at Kilnaboy church

By car from Ennis (35 km) head north on N85, join N67 at Ennistymon, then right onto R481. From Galway (70 km), head south on N67 through Ballyvaughan to Lisdoonvarna then turn left onto R476.

There's only one bus per week. On Tuesday Bus 333 heads into Ennis around 09:00 and returns west at 15:00 via Corofin, Leamanah Castle, 1 Kilfenora (40 min), Ennistymon, Lahinch, Milltown Malbay, Spanish Point, Quilty and Doonbeg.

Get around[edit]

Kilfenora is a tiny place and a short walk will exhaust its delights. You need wheels to explore The Burren to the north and east.

See[edit]

Kilfenora Cathedral: "a pile of emigrants' luggage with a rabbit hutch or birdcage overhead"
  • 1 Kilfenora Cathedral. Built around 1198, the cathedral is tiny: one 19th C visitor sneered that "A pile of emigrants' luggage with a rabbit-hutch or bird-cage overhead would look equally imposing". A Church of Ireland (Protestant) church was built within the ruin in 1850. There are three high crosses, moved in 2005 to the south transept which was given a glass roof to protect them. Another impressive cross stands in the field 100 m north.
  • Burren Centre, Main St, Kilfenora, +353 65 708 8030, . Apr-Oct M-F 10:00-17:00. Bit of a mishmash of TIC, display of the geology, archaeology and botany of The Burren, tea-room, craft shop and communal space for the village.
  • Ballyshanny Castle: you're doing well if you can spot it, 600 m north along the lane towards Lisdoonvarna. It began as a ringfort then the O'Briens built a tower house, now well-ruined amidst the shrubs.
  • 2 Ballykinvarga is a ring-fort 50 m in diameter with a chevaux de frise - a defensive barrier of sharp upturned rocks. Its age is uncertain but similar structures have been dated to circa 1000 BC.
  • 3 Leamaneh Castle is a gaunt ruin along R476 the lane from Corofin, 5 km east of Kilfenora. It's unsafe to enter and on private land, so just admire the facade from the lane.
  • 4 Kilnaboy is a hamlet along the road from Corofin, 10 km east of Kilfenora. The ruined 11th century church has a "Sheila-na-Gig" (a lewd fertility symbol) and a round tower. The area is dotted with prehistoric sites, such as Parknabinnia, Tullycommon and Slievenaglasha wedge tombs.
  • 5 Corofin (not to be confused with Corofin near Tuam in County Galway) is a small village where the road from Ennis leaves the lush plains to head into the bleak limestone hills. Inchiquin Castle is a ruin on the lakeside to the northwest. The main reason to linger is the genealogy centre in the former St Catherine's church (see "Do"). The Cross Inneenboy, a 12th century boundary post, has been moved here leaving a replica on its site north of Kilnaboy.
  • Dysert O'Dea Castle: see Ennis for this and other sights south of Corofin.

Do[edit]

  • Look up your Irish ancestors. From 1864 all births, marriages and deaths in Ireland (and Protestant marriages from 1845) were recorded by the General Register Office in Dublin. You can search it online free; there's a charge for copying certificates. Before then, such events were recorded only in parish church registers, of variable completeness, and many have been lost; however others have been digitised. One good set of records is for County Clare, available via the Heritage & Genealogy Centre in Corofin. Their pre-1864 sources include births and marriages from the county's RC parish churches from the 17th C, property records from 1825, newspaper "hatches matches & dispatches" columns from 1799, Wills, trial verdicts, workhouse denizens and tombstone epitaphs. Visit in person or commission research from them.

Eat[edit]

  • Linnane's pub, Main St, Kilfenora, +353 65 708 8157. Traditional music and good food. In 2019 this property was for sale and the new owner's plans have not been announced.

Drink[edit]

  • Nagle's, Main St, +353 65 708 8011. This is at the village crossroads.
  • 1 Vaughans, Main St, Kilfenora V95 DT8K, +353 65 708 8004, . Lively pub, often has trad music, and dancing Sundays from 21:30. Often caters for wedding parties and tour groups.

Sleep[edit]

The drizzle thickens as you search for your ancestors' gravestones
  • Vaughan's (see Drink) has accommodation, formerly the Kilfenora Hostel.
  • Murphy's Ait Aoibhinn B&B is on Main St, +353 65 708 8040.
  • Smithstown or Ballynagowan Castle is a 16th century tower house 4 km west of Kilfenora. It's available for self-catering lets, sleeps 8.

Connect[edit]

As of July 2020, you'll manage a mobile call in Kilfenora with all Irish carriers, but not 4G. 5G has not yet reached this area.

Go next[edit]

  • Northwest to Lisdoonvarna and Doolin for the Cliffs of Moher and boats to the Aran Islands.
  • Southwest to scenic Ennistymon and Lahinch.
  • East past Leamaneh and Corofin towards the historic surrounds of Ennis.
  • Branch north at Leamaneh to cross the wild Burren, with many prehistoric sites, to Ballyvaughan on Galway Bay.



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