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Shannon is unique in Ireland because the city was not founded until just before the Second World War, when an airport was constructed nearby. Therefore it is a modern city that hasn't got a lot to offer, but the contrary can be said for its surroundings. This makes it an excellent base for exploring the surrounding area: County Clare and County Limerick.
Shannon is located at the wide mouth of the river of the same name. That estuary is one of the most important bird areas of Ireland and birdwatchers will get their money's worth here. Walking paths run along the north bank of the Shannon.
Located west of Shannon is Kilrush, also on the estuary of the River Shannon. Here you can follow the Dolphin Trail, a track that starts at the visitors center on Market Square. The first stop is a statue of a dolphin and her calf in the Millennium Park. Then you will learn all about the underwater life in the estuary of the Shannon in the Dolphin & Wildlife Centre. Listen to the sounds that dolphins make, marvel at skeletons of dolphins and whales, and discover which measures are being taken to protect the dolphins. For children there are fun hands-on activities. Once outside you can go to Aylevarroo Point, where dolphins are regularly seen. Or take the boat from the Kilrush Marina Center to see the dolphins up close. These boats only run from April to October. Boat tours are organised form Carrigaholt (further west) and Foynes (on the south bank of the River Shannon) as well.
One of the regions biggest attraction is located only three kilometers east of Shannon: Bunratty Castle. It is the most complete medieval castle of Ireland. It was built in 1425 and completely restored in 1954. Around the castle you can find a large open-air museum where life like it was in the nineteenth century is reconstructed. Visit the school, the doctor, the pawnbroker, the drug store, the bakery, the potter or the post office. Oh and of course it has an old style pub too. At night a medieval buffet is being held inside the castle. That is why the castle closes at four o'clock, but the open-air museum remains open until 17:30.
If you drive up north in your rental car - towards Galway - you will drive past the rugged landscape of the Burren. This unique limestone area covers nearly three hundred square meters. First it seems bare and dry, but funnily enough there's a wide diversity of plants. So much so that there is a perfumery in the town Carran that makes the most delicious scents of the flowers and herbs from the Burren! From the rivers of the Burren comes the salmon that is being smoked in the Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna. In the visitor center you can see the process. Underneath the Burren lie caves, including the most famous Aillwee Cave.
The Burren is bordered on the west by the famous Cliffs of Moher, a spectacular rocky coastline. Some parts can not be reached, but recordings are available to view in the cinema of the visitor center. Galway is a cozy and ancient university town with a pedestrian center. West of Galway lies the breathtaking scenery of Connemara, a swampy area with hundreds of lakes.
Also nice to visit is Limerick, with the more than eighth centuries old King John's Castle and the equally old St. Mary's Cathedral. De Victorian St John's Cathedral is more recent boasting the highest spire in Ireland.
Shannon is not a big city and you will have no trouble finding your way. Also, finding a parking space is generally not a problem. However, In the center you have to pay for street parking.