100 year old bars and restaurants, sixth generation retailers, bakeries, bookshops, and secret cafés. There are plenty of things to do in Clifden, Ireland, even in December.
Clifden is Connemara‘s main town and is on the top of the list when it comes to things to do in Connemara (especially in December). It is quintessentially Irish. The town paints its houses bright pink, banana yellow, lime green, melon orange, electric blue, and more to bring color to the town enveloped in the otherwise dreary and foggy Irish weather. The houses really lighten up the place and give Clifden a charming character! But there’s more than just the exterior of the houses to see here…there are a number of stops and places to consider in this quaint and colorful town. Its U-shaped main streets of Galway Road and Hulk Street are full of interesting cafes, galleries, pubs with live music, and gift shops selling typical local knits or souvenirs.
1. Where to Shop: Clifden Bookshop (and Art Supplies!)
Clifden is a place of relaxation and solitude and of the many things to do in Connemara, inspiration, curiosity, and exploring your creativity make up a large part of it. If you forgot to bring your book (or your paint brush!) for those quiet and cozy moments, stop by Clifden Bookshop and pick up a book about the local Connemara history, guide books, maps, memoirs, or on Irish literature. The store also has a comprehensive selection of artist materials available at all times for those looking for a less passive activity.
2. Where to Shop: Gerald Stanley & Sons
If you’re in need of sportswear or some extra layers to battle the cold winds and icy conditions of Ireland in December, Gerald Stanley & Sons sixth-generation family run business has you covered. They’ve been selling their high quality products including knitwear, wool products, outdoor clothing, sportswear and more since they opened in 1824!
3. Cafes and Bakeries: Walsh Bakery and Steam Cafe
If you’re getting hungry at this point, stop by Walsh’s Bakery for one of their many coveted rhubarb tarts. End the afternoon at Steam Café for a hot beverage hidden in the former Clifden train station courtyard. 70 years ago the last Steam train departed from Clifden to Galway. Today the railway station has been restored into a wonderful hotel and courtyard with Steam Café as its secret gem.
4. Where to Eat Lunch and Dinner: Off the Square and Mannion’s Bar & Restaurant
You can’t go wrong with all the places to eat in Clifden. They’re all homey, almost all locally sourced, and have high quality, hearty meals. Of all the restaurants available in Clifden we stopped by 2 during our time there. We ate at Off the Square for lunch the first day in Clifden. Pat had the Darne of fresh Atlantic salmon in a delicious dill and lemon butter sauce, while I had the creamy Atlantic seafood chowder. If you think that’s a fish in my soup, it’s not! It’s a cracker made to look like fish…how clever! Both were served with a side of Irish bread. The fish was as fresh as it could get, plus it’s location just off the square makes it perfect.
The next night before driving back to Dublin to catch our early morning flight, we had dinner at Mannion’s Bar & Restaurant. This was the perfect last meal for our Irish trip. We had just come from a freezing cold and windy hike up Diamond Hill Road in Connemara National Park and I needed something to warm me to my bone. The traditional Irish stew slowly cooked with lamb, celery, carrots, onions, and potatoes was exactly what I needed. It was by far my favorite meal in Ireland.
5. Pubs: EJ King’s Bar and Restaurant
EJ King’s Bar and Restaurant is a staple in the area and has been around for over 100 years now. Perfect for a quiet lunch or live music and a drink after 7PM.
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