Lisdoonvarna (Irish: Lios Dúin Bhearna, meaning "Enclosure at the Fort by the Gap") is a spa town of about one thousand people. It is believed that the fort referred to in this name is the green earthen fort of Lissateeaun (Fort of the Fairy Hill), which lies 3 km to the north-east of the town, near the remains of a Norman-era castle.

The town was once a centre for basadóiri (matchmakers) who, for a fee, would fix up a person with a mate. Most of the mainly male hopefuls would hit town in September, feet shuffling, cap in hand, after the hay was in. Today, true matchmaking is unlikely, but the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival held throughout September and early October, is a great excuse for daftness, drinking, merrymaking, music and, of course, moneymaking

 

Lisdoonvarna is a good location for exploring North Clare. Just north of the village the land rises steeply to provide a wonderful panoramic view of the surrounding area including a magnificent view over the valley of Ballyvaughan. The local Burren Smokehouse Visitors Centre, established in 1995, showcases traditional smoking methods of locally caught fish and also a variety of local gourmet products and crafts. The Visitor Centre has become a popular tourist attraction and hosts over 30,000 visitors each year from all corners of the globe.

 

The present town is a comparatively new one by Irish standards, dating mainly from the start of the 19th century. Lisdoonvarna was not regarded as a census town until 1891. Pre 1891 totals are for the townlands of Lisdoonvaarna and Rathbaun, where the spas are located and the first guesthouses were built for tourists in the 1870s. It is famous for its music and festivals and in September each year one of Europe's largest matchmaking events takes place in the town. Upwards of 40,000 romantic hopefuls, bachelor farmers and accompanying revellers descend upon the town. The month-long festival is important to the local tourist industry. The current matchmaker is Willie Daly, a fourth-generation matchmaker.

 

The Bridge

To the south-west of Lisdoonvarna a bridge spans a deep narrow gorge through which the Aille River flows. As this bridge neede to support the road at the top, a double arch forming a circular opening was built above the lower arch giving the bridge its unusual and unique appearance.

 

Spa

Lisdoonvarna's famous Victorian Spa Complex and Health Centre is a major attraction. It is currently the only active spa centre in Ireland. The waters contain magnesia, iodine and iron and are reputed to have restorative effects on anyone who bathes in them. Therapeutic mineral waters have been dispensed in Lisdoonvarna as early as the 18th century. The Centre features sulphur baths, massage and saunas. The Victorian Pump House is open on a daily basis. 

The area became a popular spa resort in the early nineteenth century due to its mineral wells. Prior to that there was no village, just a few scattered cottages.. However there are numerous ancient sites and historic remains in the locality which are evidence of human habitation and activity in the area many centuries before the establishment of the town itself. Ring forts in the vicinity can date from the Iron Age into the Christian era and up to late medieval times.

Lisdoonvarna Castle

Lisdoonvarna Castle was once a prominent building in the area. A corner-stone of a neighbouring house indicates that the castle was built in 1619. Among its many owners down through the years were the O' Davorens who are traditionally remembered as "very haughty, aristocratical and tyrannical." The site of the famous 16th century Brehon Law School, in the locality, had been established by a branch of the same O' Davoren family.

The "Ballygaston Affair"

Patrick Kerin who was born Milltown Malbay (about 22 kilometres or thirteen and a half miles south of here) in 1896 heard told stories of the Fenians, spies, and informers when he was a young lad more than a century ago.

The "Ballygaston Affair" as Kerin called it happened at Ballygasteel, about two miles outside Lisdoonvarna on the 11th September 1887. Head Constable Whelan of the R.I.C. ( Royal Irish Constabulary) in Ennis who was seeking promotion hired a paid police spy named Jeremiah Patrick Callinan who was a native of Kerry, Callinan lived in the area and had infiltrated the local circle of the Fenians, to organise an attack on a man named Thomas Sexton, who was unpopular at the time because of his involvement in a land dispute. On the night of 11th of September 1887 Callinan led the unsuspecting Fenians into a trap, and as they approached Sexton's house they were surprised by Head Constable Whelan and a contingent of R.I.C. men. In the struggle that followed three of the R.I.C. constables were wounded and Head Constable Whelan was killed. Eight of the Fenians were arrested and sentenced to four years penal servitude each. Callinan appeared as a Crown witness - and disappeared afterwards into a presumably well paid retirement. Needless to say Head Constable Whelan never got the promotion he had been seeking! Seven constables, four acting constables and two head constables received the Constabulary Medal for valour.

"Jim was punctual, kind, knowledgeable, and very perceptive in his ability to know just what would appeal to us as a group. While Jim did the driving, we were able to see fantastic scenery. We went places we never would have found, heard unique stories and had a fabulous day!"

Liz D., New Jersey, USA

 

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Satisfying the customer 

Over the years we have had several compliments on our drivers from many of our satisfied customers. Click on the link to "Tripadvisor" below to read, in full, the reviews of some of our many happy customers.

"Paul seemed to know just the right amount of time to stop and see things and was very knowledgable and interesting. Even though we had a long day, we wish it lasted longer and felt like we were saying goodbye to a friend when he dropped us off."

Beanie, New York, USA

 

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