Killaloe: when to visit, what to see, and things to know

Formerly the capital of Ireland, the twin towns of Ballina and Killaloe are amongst Ireland’s most picturesque villages. Here is everything you need to know about Killaloe.

Steeped in rich history and beauty, the twin towns of Killaloe and Ballina should be on everyone’s Irish bucket list. The town of Killaloe is in County Clare, while Ballina is in County Tipperary.

Separated by the magnificent River Shannon, the twin towns are joined together by a stunning thirteen arch bridge. Here is everything you need to know about visiting Killaloe.

Overview – a historic town

Killaloe is a historic town.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

The history of these towns spans back over hundreds of years with the establishment of a monastic settlement just downstream from Killaloe.

In the following years, the monks moved their settlement to the mainland as it was more spacious. This monastic centre was called Cill Dalua, which is where Killaloe gets its name.

Killaloe was the capital of Ireland for 12 years, between 1002 and 1014. This was thanks to the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, who was from Killaloe. Brian was a powerful leader and is credited with driving the Vikings out of Munster. 

Although Killaloe may not be the capital of Ireland today, it is widely recognised as being the capital of Lough Derg.

Lough Derg is the third largest lake in Ireland and is a haven for those seeking adventure. Every year, thousands of people visit the area to enjoy the sights, activities, and culture on offer here.

When to visit – a bustling town all year round

When to visit Killaloe.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Although the bustling towns of Killaloe and Ballina are beautiful no matter the season, we suggest heading here during the summer months.

Killaloe during the summer is truly magical, with the enticing River Shannon glistening in the sun and people out enjoying the local amenities. 

If you are planning on visiting during the off-season, be aware that some of the activities and sites may have reduced opening hours because of the decreased demand. 

What to see – historic sights

Credit: geograph.ie / Oliver Dixon

Visit the beautiful St. Flannan’s Cathedral, which is home to a unique collection of ogham and rune inscriptions. This cathedral was built in Romanesque style in the 12th-century. Eight bells reside in this beautiful structure, the largest of which weighs 500 kg.

Address: R463, Shantraud, Co. Clare

Navigate the ancient canals of Killaloe with a kayaking tour with My Next Adventure.

Traverse the motorways of time past, and spot some of the magnificent creatures that call the waterways home, such as the elusive kingfisher. Admire the 13 arch bridge, which from a different perspective as you paddle your way underneath it. 

Address: The Mill Yard, Shantraud, Killaloe, Co. Clare

Check out Killaloe River Cruises.
Credit: Facebook / @KillaloeRiverCruises

No trip to Killaloe would be complete without a trip out on Lough Derg with the Killaloe River Cruises.

Take in the breathtaking views of Ballina and Killaloe as you enjoy a leisurely cruise out onto Lough Derg. Learn about the history of the area while enjoying a warm beverage while standing on their viewing deck. 

Address: Lakeside Drive Ballina, Killaloe, Co. Clare

For a unique experience, head to Brian Boru’s fort, which used to be the seat of the most famous High King of Ireland. This spectacular ring fort is surrounded by trees and overlooks Lough Derg. 

Address: Killaloe, Co. Clare

Things to know – useful info

Catch Killaloe at sunset.
Credit: Instagram / @brennersmcgoo

To get the most out of what Killaloe has to offer, we suggest spending at least a full day here. However, if time allows it, you can easily spend upwards of a week exploring this beautiful area! 

The sunrise and sunset are absolutely stunning as you get to see the sky’s reflection in the tranquil waters of the River Shannon. If there are few clouds in the sky, you can rest assured that you will see a magical show of colours dance across the sky. 

Where to eat delicious food

The Wooden Spoon is a great place to eat.
Credit: Facebook / @TheWoodenSpoonKillaloe

For the best cakes around, head to the Wooden Spoon. They have a range of tasty treats on offer that are all baked in house, and they make for the perfect addition to any lakeside picnic.

They have lots of delicious sweet treats, but they also make some yummy savoury quiches, sausage rolls, and soups that make for the perfect lunch! 

Address: Main Street, Ballina, Co. Tipperary

If you are looking for a little slice of Italy, Pontevecchio is the place to go!

They serve the best coffee and also know how to make a tasty pizza. If the weather is good, we suggest getting your pizza to go, and then you can enjoy it while overlooking the river. 

Address: Royal Parade, Shantraud, Killaloe, Co. Clare

Where to stay – cosy accommodation

The Lakeside Hotel is a great place to stay.
Credit: Facebook / @LakesideHotelandLeisureCentre

Nothing says luxury quite like a waterfront room at the Lakeside Hotel. These rooms have private balconies which overlook the River Shannon and are finished beautifully to a five-star specification. If that’s not enough, there is also a fantastic leisure centre available.

For something a bit more unique, head to Killaloe Luxury Pods.

These pods are inspired by a traditional timber-framed holiday chalet and offer breathtaking views over the River Shannon. There is even a hot tub available where you can enjoy a glass of bubbly as the sun starts to set.

Insider tips – advice from a local

Killaloe Farmers' Market is a must.
Credit: Facebook / @KillaloeFarmersMarketClare

If you happen to be in the area on a Sunday, the Farmers’ Market is not to be missed.

Offering a range of local products, ranging from cheeses to bread and sausages, this is the perfect Sunday pick-me-up. The market happens “between the waters”, which is halfway across the bridge.

Usually, on a Sunday just after 11 am, you can be treated to the ringing of the bells in St. Flannan’s Cathedral.

The bells ring out across the town, and sometimes they ring for upwards of twenty minutes. This truly is a mesmerising experience and not to be missed if in Killaloe.

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