From the North to the South, and the East to the West, Ireland is a country with extraordinary natural beauty. While there are a plethora of sites and National Parks to choose from, the country’s top and most well-known natural feature is the Cliffs of Moher. With over one million visitors yearly, and in recent years, over 1.5 million visitors, the Cliffs of Moher are not just the top natural feature in Ireland, but one of the top overall tourist destinations overall, second only to other iconic Irish destinations like the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, the Book of Kells, and the Giant’s Causeway (in Northern Ireland). One of the reasons the Cliffs of Moher are so iconic is because in modern times, they have been featured in all sorts of movies like Harry Potter; but the main reason that they are so popular is because they have been a tourist destination since the eighteenth century, and a historic spot for centuries before that.
What are the Cliffs of Moher? The Cliffs of Moher (Aillte an Mothair in Gaelic) are an five mile (8 km) section of limestone cliffs that range in height up to 702 feet (214 meters). The rocks that comprise the Cliffs of Moher are over three hundred million years old, and are rich in fossils. There are also numerous sea stacks – free standing rock towers near the cliffs that form fantastic features. The cliffs stretch from Hag’s Head in the South up past O’Brien’s Tower in the North. The Cliffs of Moher also have a number of fabulous legends from the early inhabitants of Ireland, many of which are recorded here.
Directions/Hours/Fees. Many of the visitors who visit the Cliffs of Moher travel in either a private tour, or a public tour, both of which include the Cliffs as part of a larger package for either a day or a multi-day tour. For the travelers who are renting a car, or have access to a car, the Cliffs of Moher are a direct three and a half hour drive from Dublin. The Cliffs are 3.8 miles (6 km) to the north of Liscannor off of the R478; and are 4 miles to the south of Doolin, again, off the R478. Irrespective of which way one is traveling on the R478, the cliffs are well-signed, and visitors are required to park in the lot to the east of the cliffs, which is also generally, unless one is part of a tour, or riding the bus, where one pays the entrance fee. As of 2017, the cost to enter is six euro per adult (~$6.50 USD); and free for children under the age of sixteen. The Cliffs are open year-round from 9:00 a.m., although closing times vary depending on the time of year. There is an additional two euro fee for adults to enter O’Brien’s tower on the North end, but the general fee allows visitors to access the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, which is a fantastic facility that was built into a hill.
The Experience. From the parking area, a well-mantained path leads past the Visitor Experience and up toward the cliffs themselves. Once one reaches the initial midpoint, there are fantastic views to both the north and the south sections of the cliffs. From this point, visitors can elect to head up to the right (North) towards O’Brien’s tower (built in the eighteenth century), or to the left (South) toward Hag’s Head. Both sections of path are well maintained, and provide excellent views of the cliffs, the sea-stacks, and on a clear day, well out into the Atlantic, and the interior of Ireland. For the more adventurous visitors, slightly past O’Brien’s tower in the north, and the end of the maintained path on the south trails extend out that lead all of the way to both Liscannor and Doolin. Fair warning, while the maintained zone around the cliffs has well-paved walking paths and walls, these trails do not – which can be disconcerting for some travelers, as these sections are near the edge of the cliffs, and can be slick and muddy.
Tips. As the cliffs are on Ireland’s western coast and run north-south, the best time of day to visit them is after 12:00 p.m., because the lighting at that time is the most conducive to photographic opportunities. If one can time it right with one’s travels, the best time of day for photos is around sunset. Second, while Ireland’s weather can be unpredictable, it is generally consistently windy around the Cliffs of Moher and the various overlooks around it, especially at O’Brien’s castle. Visitors should plan on having a jacket even during the warm summer months. For self-driving travelers, a great cultural spot to visit nearby is St. Brigid’s Well. Finally, even though it should be obvious, as one of Ireland’s top tourist destinations, the cliffs are popular year-round. Visitors who want more – or some solitude at the cliffs should consider visiting in the off-season (October through March), or hiking out past the established paths. Having said that, even with the large tourist crowds that the Cliffs attract, the Cliffs are a must-visit spot for any traveler to the Emerald Island.