As Ireland’s most famous natural attraction, it’s fair to say that visiting the Cliffs of Moher should be high on any traveler’s list of places. With their dramatic, rugged rock faces rising out of the Atlantic Ocean, and views across to the Aran Islands, the Maumturks, Twelve Pins mountain ranges, and Loop Head, it’s not hard to see what attracts up to 1.5 million visitors every year.
So here’s everything you need to know before visiting the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.
The Basics - Visiting the Cliffs of Moher
Ireland's Cliffs of Moher are located in County Clare on the Wild Atlantic Way, meaning it’s on the west coast of Ireland. The cliffs form part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, a UNESCO-recognised region noted for its outstanding geology. They stretch down the coastline for about 8 kilometers and rise to 214 meters at their highest point. As a seabird protection zone; it is possible to spot over 20 species here, including peregrine falcons, kittiwakes, razorbills, and the ever-popular puffins.
History of the Cliffs of Moher
It’s estimated that the Cliffs of Moher are around 350 million years old. At that time, the area was situated at the mouth of a river, and a combination of warm weather and heavy rain caused massive floods which washed sand and mud into the sea. Over time, the sand, dirt, and silt built up at the mouth and formed solid rock, creating the cliffs that we see today.
The cliffs take their name from an old fort, named Mothar (or Moher), which once stood on Hag’s Head until it was demolished in 1808 to make room for a lookout tower during the Napoleonic Wars. The Cliffs of Moher have long been a destination for travelers; there are descriptions of their beauty in Irish travel journals dating back to the 1780s.
In recent years, the cliffs have featured in popular cultures, such as the movies The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (if you know what scene, leave a comment below!).
How to get to the Cliffs of Moher
There are various ways to get to the Cliffs of Moher. Whichever one you choose, make sure to delight in the spectacular scenery along the journey. Here are the most popular options of transport you need to know before visiting the Cliffs of Moher.
By Shuttle Bus
Running from the 30th May until 31st August, a shuttle bus to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Exhibition Centre serves the villages of Ennistymon, Lahinch, Liscannor, Doolin, and Lisdoonvarna, as well as the coastal walk. Times can be found on the Cliffs of Moher website.
By Public Bus
Bus Eirann operates a direct bus connection – the number 350 – from Galway Bus Station to the cliffs, and then onto Ennis along the Wild Atlantic Way. There are also connections to and from Dublin, Shannon, Cork, and Knock airports, but be aware that you may have to change buses.
Ireland is well known for being a great place to cycle; in fact, the routes along the Cliffs of Moher and County Clare coastline have been voted into the top 10 greatest cycling routes in the world. Bicycles can be rented in Lahinch and Doolin.
Those who love walking can take the path from Fisher Street in Doolin to the cliffs; the route is about 8 kilometers and takes around 2.5 hours. If you fancy something a little bit more challenging, continue down to Hag’s Head or carry on the Liscannor which is a distance of around 20 kilometers in total.
There are plenty of tour operators visiting the Cliffs of Moher every day. I chose to visit the cliffs by tour bus as I was coming from Dublin. Wild Rover Tours were a fantastic option. Not only did we get the most extended amount of time at the cliffs compared to other tour agencies (2 hours), but the day was also combined with a visit to Galway City.
By Train and Car
There are also options to travel to the cliffs by rail from one of the major cities, although you will need to change to a bus to continue your journey to the cliffs. Driving is also an option.
Planning Your Visit
The cliffs get very busy during the peak summer period between June and August, especially in the middle of the day. If you can plan your visit avoiding the hours of 11 am to 4 pm, this would be the best option to get the cliffs mostly to yourself.
Another advantage of visiting the cliffs outside of peak hours is the price. If you book a ticket online for the peak period, the cost is €8. This is also the price if you don’t book in advance. However, if you choose to visit in the early morning or late evening, you can get tickets for €4; this only applies to tickets booked online.
Visiting the Cliffs of Moher is possible every day of the year, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; opening times may vary depending on the time of year, so it is best to check on their website the exact times for when you’ll be visiting.
The weather in Ireland is notoriously changeable, so it’s best to be prepared for all eventualities. The most important thing you need to know before visiting the Cliffs of Moher: be aware of the wind; hugely strong, freak gusts of wind have been known to blow people off the cliffs, so if you decide to go close to the edge, it’s at your own risk.
Things to See and Do at the Cliffs of Moher
The biggest attraction is the astounding beauty of the cliffs themselves. But if you’re wondering what else there is to do there, here are some other ideas.
• Visit the visitor center to learn more about the history of the cliffs.
• Head to O’Brien’s Tower, which offers impressive views across to the Aran Islands (weather permitting, of course).
• Follow the coastal path to discover and explore some of the old ruins in the area.
• Keep an eye out for the myriad of bird species that can be found here.
• It’s also worth looking down towards the water; it’s not uncommon to spot dolphins and basking sharks.
If you want to spend a little bit more time in County Clare, the area is filled with interesting attractions which can easily be added on to a visit to the cliffs. These include Aillwee Cave; Bunratty Castle; Doolin Cave; and the Burren Perfumery.
Anything else a traveler would need to know before visiting the Cliffs of Moher? Please comment below!
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