Clare – The French Connection?

Clare, a beautiful county in the west of Ireland, is largely surrounded by water. The wild Atlantic attacks the shores to the west, down south the tranquil Shannon Estuary meets the sea and to the east Ireland’s longest river – The Shannon pours into Lough Derg. It is only to the north that Clare has a boundary not governed by water’s relentless erosion of land. And it is to water we will return shortly…

Clare, on the Wild Atlantic Way, is famous for its great beaches (at Lahinch, Kilkee, Fanore and Spanish Point), its stunning cliffs (at Moher and Loop Head) and one very much loved Parochial House (from 90’s comedy Father Ted). Find out more about what makes Clare the ‘County of Culture’. The people here are traditionally one of two things, hurlers or musicians. And we’re very proud of both! From the 14th to the 22nd of August 2016, Clare will be packed with music lovers from near and from far as we will be hosting Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. Find out more about the Fleadh’s return to Ennis!

Clare Hurlers winning the 2013 All Ireland Championship – a huge source of pride in the banner county!

But enough about what we are famous for! The naming of the county – Clare – is still a source of great mystery for many. Is there a French connection? Here comes the history!

Over the years Clare has had its boundaries drawn, redrawn and battled over. We have been ruled by English and Norman settlers and have squabbled also among ourselves. However, the most prominent name in the history of Clare is the O’Brien Clan, who ruled what was then known as the kingdom of Thomond. The O’Brien Clan took the land from a Norman Clan, the de Clares who had it granted unto them in 1275.

Clare on the Wild Atlantic Way Cycle Holiday Tour

County Clare, with boundaries decided by Sir Henry Sidney.

In 1565, Lord Deputy of Ireland Sir Henry Sidney decided to use the British model for dividing lands and thus created counties. When fixing the boundaries of the ancient district of Thomond, it was originally thought that he used the Norman title ‘de Clare’ as the county’s new name. But it appears not.

We return to the water that erodes and alters our landscape to find the key to the naming of Clare. A local placename ‘an clár’ (pronounced ‘on clawr’) was already firmly established in an area just outside of the main town of Ennis. ‘An Clár’ translates to ‘the board’ or ‘the table’. A timber board or flat table was used as a basic bridge at a busy crossing point over the River Fergus into the market town. This area became known as ‘An Clár’ and it is thought that this is a much more likely inspiration for the name, though you’d have to ask Sir Henry Sidney himself…

Now that you know just a little bit more about the county, why not find out more by visiting us!

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– Enda (2016)

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