Ennis (Inis, "island") is the county town of County Clare in Ireland. It's a market town with several historic religious sites. It also has accommodation and other visitor amenities, and is the public transport hub for the county.
The O'Brien dynasty, descendants of Brian Boru, ruled this corner of Ireland when they weren't bossing it all. Your man himself was born at Killaloe on the Shannon and their bastion was in Limerick. In the 12th C the O'Brien's relocated to Inis Cluana Rámhfhada, "island of the long rowing meadow" on the River Fergus. Here grew up a royal residence and a Franciscan Friary, and other religious centres were established in the lush surrounding countryside. Religious power was broken by the Dissolution, but Inis or Ennis continued to grow as a provincial capital under the Tudors. It never had walls, and in the 17th C when Catholics and other suspect minorities were forbidden to live in the walled cities, they came to live here and added to its prosperity. The 19th century saw the horrors of the Great Famine, and many left for North America, but Ennis' status was confirmed when Irish county government was overhauled. It remains a market town, with light industry and within commuting distance of Shannon Airport and Limerick city. In 2016 its population was 25,276, so it ranks about 12th among Ireland's largest towns.
Shannon Airport is 15 km south of Ennis, with many flights from the USA, UK and Europe. Major carriers are Aer Lingus and Ryanair. There's car rental at the airport, buses, or a taxi to Ennis town might cost €50.
(Be grateful that they scrapped the West Clare Railway in 1961. It meandered from Ennis to the coast, or failed to: see Kilkee for the story.)
Dublin Coach 300 (M7) runs hourly from Dublin Burgh Quay via Kildare, Limerick and Bunratty to Ennis, taking 3 hr 30 min. There's also a direct bus from Dublin Airport to Limerick.
Expressway Bus 51 runs hourly, daily from Cork via Mallow, Limerick, Bunratty and Shannon Airport to Ennis, continuing to Galway. The last bus is around 22:00. Don't take X51, which is nonstop between Limerick and Galway.
Bus Éireann 343 meanders hourly from Limerick via Cratloe, Bunratty, Sixmilebridge, Shannon town and airport, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Clarecastle to Ennis. The last bus is around 23:00.
Bus 350 ambles along the coast from Galway six times every day, taking 3 hours via Kinvara, Ballyvaughan, Fanore, Lisdoonvarna, Doolin, Cliffs of Moher, Liscannor, Lahinch, Ennistymon, Corofin and Inagh to Ennis.
By road from Dublin take M7 west, which bypasses Limerick to become N18 / M18, then heads north to Ennis and Galway.
1 Ennis railway and bus station is 500 m east of town centre.
The town itself is compact and easily walked. Clare Abbey is a bit of a hike, and you need a car to reach Quin Abbey.
- 1 Ennis Friary, Lower Abbey St. Apr-Oct daily 10:00-18:00. This is the ruin of a 13th C Franciscan Friary. The nave has been re-roofed and displays a selection of 15th / 16th C limestone carvings: note St Francis himself among them. There's also elaborate tracery under the south arch. The sacristry has a ribbed barrel-vault ceiling and gives onto the cloister. The Franciscans were ejected after the Dissolution but they maintained a secret presence in the area and the church has been returned to them, though they now use the nearby Church of the Immaculate Conception. Adult €5.
- 2 Daniel O'Connell monument commemorates his by-election victory here in 1828. As a Catholic he was unable to take his seat in the British Parliament. Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington (himself a Dubliner) had little time for Catholics but realised that this could provoke an uprising, so the Catholic Relief Act was passed in 1829. This Act wasn't retrospective so O'Connell had to seek re-election, which was unopposed. It was used as a model to end similar discrimination against Jews.
- 3 Muhammad Ali monument is on Turnpike Rd just south of the centre. Abe Grady emigrated from here in the 1860s to Kentucky, where he married an African-American woman freed from slavery. Their daughter was Odessa Lee, who married Cassius Clay snr, whose son was Cassius Clay jnr (1942-2016), the champion heavyweight boxer who took the name Muhammad Ali.
- 4 Ennis Cathedral, the RC Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, first opened in 1843. Construction has been in phases since, most recently in 1996 after fire damage.
- 5 Clare Abbey, Limerick Rd (2 km south of town). Ruined 12th C Augustinian Abbey looking over the River Fergus, with an impressive hollow nave. It's cut off from town by the railway track, so approach via the N85 roundabout (bus 343) and follow the lane east parallel to the new road.
- 6 Quin Abbey, The Commons, Quin (14 km southeast of Ennis). Ruined 15th C Franciscan Friary; it's roofless but the cloister and other components are intact. Free.
- 7 Craggaunowen, Deerpark South, Kilmurry (15 km east of Ennis). Daily 10:00-17:00. There's not much left of the 16th century castle, but around it is an outdoor museum recreating prehistoric farmsteads, crannogs and a souterrain and ringfort. Adult €10.
- 8 Knappogue Castle, Quin (20 km southeast of Ennis). Closed. 15th C Tower House with walled garden, but only open for events such as weddings.
- 9 Dysert O'Dea is a historic area 10 km northwest of Ennis, west of the road to Corofin. The church and "White Cross of St Tola" are from 12th / 13th C, richly carved. The castle just north is 15th C, and houses Clare Archaeology Centre. A 3 km walking trail around the castle takes you past over 20 ancient monuments.
- 10 Dromore Woods 10 km north of Ennis are a nature reserve fringing a lough with a ruined castle and other ancient sites.
- Empire Movieplex Cinema is at 36 Parnell St.
- glór on Causeway Link is an event space.
- Gaelic games: the County GAA play Gaelic football and hurling at Cusack Park (capacity 14,864), on the riverbank east side of town centre.
- Clare Garden Festival is a garden, plant and food market with 70+ stalls, held at Ennis Showgrounds on the last Sunday in April. The next is on Sun 25 April 2021, tbc.
- Flead Nua is a traditional music festival held over 10 days in town in late May. The next event is 30 May - 7 June 2021.
- Clare Food & Drink Fleadh is probably next on 8-11 Oct 2021, tba.
- Ennis Trad Fest is held mid-November. The next is probably 11-15 Nov 2021, tba.
- The Farmers Market is on Friday 08:00-14:00 in Roslevan Shopping Centre on Tulla Road.
- Chapel Lane Market is on Saturday 10:00-17:00. All the stall goods are hand-crafted, hand-grown or home-baked.
- Francis St north edge of the centre has Tesco and Aldi.
- Lots of eating places in town centre. They include Tulsi (Indian) on Carmody St, Milano on O'Connell St, and Passatempo on Barrack St.
- Brogan's, 24 O'Connell St. M-Th 12:00-23:30, F-Su 12:00-01:00. Great traditional pub with live music every night, but it's the food that earns the rave reviews.
- Poet's Corner Bar is within Old Ground Hotel, see Sleep. It's at 58 O'Connell St, open M-Th 11:00-23:00, F Sa 11:00-00:30, Su 12:00-23:00.
- Town Hall Bistro is also within the hotel.
- Knox's Pub, 18 Abbey St. Friendly traditional pub, great atmosphere. With Storehouse Restaurant.
- Ciarán's Bar, 2 Francis St. Great traditional pub with live music.
- Queen's Hotel, Abbey St. This is a mid-range hotel, but the bar and nightclub are open late so it's one for drinking in rather than sleeping.
- Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey is a single malt, still a rarity in Ireland though this one's been on the market since 1998. It's produced by Castle Brands, now part of Pernod Ricard, and they're coy about where it's actually distilled. "Somewhere in Ireland" is all the law would require.
- Rowan Tree Hostel, Harmony Row, ☏ . It's more like a basic hotel with kitchenette, there's no curfew or lockout. Has dorms and private rooms. Dorm €20 ppn, double en suite €75.
- Lots of small B&Bs along the main road and around the centre.
- Old Ground Hotel, O'Connell St, ☏ . Clean friendly efficient hotel right in town centre. B&B double €150.
- 1 Treacys West County Hotel, Limerick Rd, Ennis (1 km south of town), ☏ . Run down decor, cleaning and maintenance erratic, but friendly staff. B&B double €80.
- Temple Gate Hotel, The Square, Ennis (off O'Connell St), ☏ . Pleasant modern hotel. B&B double €120.
- 2 Hotel Woodstock, Shanaway Rd, Ballylannidy V95 TR25 (4 km west of town), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Pleasant upscale country house hotel with pool, sauna and jacuzzi. B&B double €100.
- Auburn Lodge is a simple 3-star on Galway Road 2 km north of town.
- Splurge at 3 Dromoland Castle Hotel, Dromoland, Newmarket-on-Fergus (10 km south of Ennis), ☏ . Baronial-style "castle" built in 1835 and now run as a very plush resort hotel. Pricey? - you should see the bar bill for those guarding the VIPs who've stayed here. B&B double €550.
As of July 2020, Ennis has a good mobile and 4G signal from all Irish carriers, but 5G has not yet reached this area.
- The coast is dramatic to the northwest around Doolin, with the Cliffs of Moher, and the strange bleak karst of The Burren.
- Bunratty just east of the airport can feel touristy and kitsch, but it's a genuine old castle with an open-air museum.
- Limerick is a historic city with a castle and Georgian centre, a miniature Dublin.