Essential guide to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland
At the top of many an Irish bucket list, the Cliffs of Moher are truly an experience you must have when visiting Ireland touring the Wild Atlantic Way. I’ve lost track of the number of times we have visited the Moher Cliffs as it is rather like visiting Niagara Falls living in Canada.
The biggest tourist attraction in Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher Ireland are a breathtaking sight. You can hike the trails to the Cliffs of Moher, you can take a boat out and see the Cliffs of Moher from the water or take a sunset or sunrise walk on the Cliffs.
This guide will give you all the information you need to know about visiting the Cliffs of Moher and tips from a local.
- Essential guide to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland
- What to see at the Cliffs of Moher
- Things to do near the Cliffs of Moher
- How to get to the Cliffs of Moher
- Where to stay near the Cliffs of Moher
Where are the Cliffs of Moher?
The Cliffs of Moher are located in County Clare on the southwestern coast of Ireland on what has become known as the Wild Atlantic Way. The Cliffs run for 14 kilometres on the edge of the Burren region and the closest cities are Doolin and Liscannor.
The Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark has an area of 530 km2, it is bounded by Atlantic coastal cliffs (10-200 m high) to the west, the Gort lowlands to the East and by low hilly terrain to the south. Much of the land is at an elevation of 100 m-200 m above sea level; the highest point is Slieve Elva at 344 m.
Are the Cliffs of Moher free?
Not really and I say that because there are ways to see the Cliffs of Moher at no cost. If you choose to pay to see the Cliffs the cost is €10.00 per adult this includes entering O’Brien’s Tower. There is a large car park at the Cliffs and all-day parking here is included in the price of a visitor centre ticket.
Parking at the Cliffs of Moher
On your arrival at the Cliffs of Moher, you park in the main car park on the opposite side of the road from the visitor centre. You can purchase your admission ticket at the entry cabins which includes unlimited car parking.
If you have a disabled permit in your car you can park in one of the disabled parking spaces. There are 5 disabled parking spaces in front of the visitor centre on the same side of the road as the Cliffs. These are the closest car spaces to the visitor centre and Cliffs.
If you are a disabled driver or passenger, you need to make your way to the public car park and the attendant at the entry cabin will advise and direct you to the available spaces in the area designated for disabled parking.
Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre
The visitor centre includes informative exhibits within an extensive gallery space and auditorium and there is an on-site theatre where you can experience a virtual reality cliff face experience.
Within the Visitor Centre, you will also find the Puffins Nest coffee shop and a restaurant called the Cliffs View Cafe.
From the cliffs, and from O’Briens Tower you can see the Aran Islands, the Maumturks and the Twelve Pins mountain ranges to the north in Galway, and Loop Head to the south. The Cliffs of Moher gets around 1.5 million visits per year so be prepared for lots of tourists.
The Cliffs of Moher in the movies
The Cliffs of Moher have been a stunning backdrop in several movies that you should watch before you go. From the cult favourite The Princess Bride (1987) (as the filming location for “The Cliffs of Insanity”), and of course one of my all-time favourites – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), and the romantic comedy Leap Year (2010).
How were the Cliffs of Moher formed?
Formed over 300 million years ago, the Cliffs of Moher are striking not only for their beauty but also for their fascinating history. The Cliffs stand over 700 feet high and run for about 9 miles, the Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal are actually the highest in Ireland. There are also the Achill Island cliffs that are the highest on an Irish Island. The majestic Cliffs of Moher are the crown jewels of Ireland’s west coast. With their astounding height and breathtaking views, these rock formations are some of the most visited natural attractions on the Emerald Isle.
The formation of the Cliffs of Moher started about 320 million years ago, the heavy rains of the time caused huge floods that washed the mud and sand into the rivers and then flowed into the seas. This mud and debris ended up at the mouth of a delta and over millions of years became solid rock. With the movement of the earth’s plates, these rocks eventually became the Cliffs of Moher.
How tall are the Cliffs of Moher?
Located in the stunning Burren region, the Cliffs of Moher stretch for an impressive 13km and are 702 feet above the Atlantic.
Weather at the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most outstanding spots of natural beauty in Ireland. Beautiful hilltop walks, wheeling birds, cows in the field next to the walkways, nature at its most temperamental. On some days you may not be able to see too much with the fogs that roll in quickly of the Atlantic coasts and beware the winds can whip up suddenly leaving you breathless and wet with the mist and rain.
It can be very cold and windy at the Moher Cliffs so I suggest an umbrella although you may find it turning inside out. If you are headed to the Cliffs make sure you have a waterproof coat or jacket, some gloves and a scarf just in case the weather turns on you – Ireland has 4 seasons in one day so be prepared.
The Cliffs of Moher are almost vertical, with a sheer drop into the heaving Atlantic ocean and if you are not careful you can be blown off the Cliffs. The area is a haven for sea birds.
Are the Cliffs of Moher dangerous?
Yes the Cliffs of Moher can be very dangerous in the winds and if you wander off the marked paths you will encounter many stupid tourists daring themselves to get a selfie on the edge of the Cliffs but it is very dangerous so try to avoid this potentially fatal error.
What to see at the Cliffs of Moher
The cliffs reach their highest point near O’Brien’s Tower. A walk along the paved pathways near the cliffs edge cliffs is not to be missed.
O’Brien’s Tower marks the highest spot at the Cliffs of Moher. O’Brien built O’Brien’s Tower near the highest point of the Cliffs, as a viewing area for 19th-century visitors. He also built a wall along the Cliffs, made from Liscannor flagstone –the remnants of which have been restored within the visitor centre grounds. It costs an extra €2 to visit the tower.
An Branán Mor
This is probably one of the most iconic of the Cliffs of Moher views. The sea stack is simply a piece of the land that broke off thousands of years ago and now stands on its own in the water. It stands at 60 metres high and there are great views from O’Brien’s Tower.
Hiking to the Cliffs of Moher
Walking from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher
The Doolin Cliff walk is known as Guerin’s Path, which is about 1km away from the visitor centre at the Cliffs of Moher and it costs €5 per person. This is a family-owned farm and business and will give you a spectacular walk along the Cliffs.
If you fancy a good hike you can leave the car in the nearby villages of Liscannor and Doolin and follow the marked trails to the Cliffs. If you can find Nag’s Head which is the most southerly point of the Cliffs there is a little car park there where you can drop €2 into the honesty box, and it’s just a 15-20 minute walk to the Cliffs.
Stretching 18km from Doolin to Liscannor, the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Trail opened in 2013 and is the most comprehensive way to visit the Cliffs of Moher–but if you decide to walk, be prepared for quite a long day!
Stroll to Hag’s Head
This is a great walk and one of the best things to do around the Cliffs of Moher. Hag’s Head is around an hour’s slow walk from the visitors’ centre at the Cliffs. Legend tells us that the old Hag Mal of Malby fell in love with that great Irish hero Cú Chulainn and chased him across Ireland. Cú Chulainn escaped by hopping across the sea stacks but the Hag wasn’t so sure-footed lost her footing and was dashed to death on the rocks.
There is an old ruined tower at Hags head and it was a watch fort known in Irish as Mothar so you can see how the name Moher came about.
Take a Cliffs of Moher cruise
Tours of the Cliffs of Moher
You can find a tour to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin that will include a drive along the rugged Atlantic Coast from Dublin to see some of the highest cliffs in Europe and the picturesque Galway City on a full-day scenic tour.
Or you can take a tour from Galway and see the world-famous Cliffs of Moher, take a walk through the otherworldly Burren landscapes, and marvel at the beauty of Connemara and the Cliffs of Moher. Stay overnight in lovely Galway in the west of Ireland and explore this popular city as well.
One of the best ways to see the Cliffs of Moher is from the water on a Moher Boat tour. Not only that but depending on when you visit you may catch sight of the Atlantic Puffins who nest in the Cliffs.
Unlike many other areas where Puffins breed the Cliffs of Moher puffins are experiencing an increase in numbers. At the Cliffs of Moher, it is possible to spot breeding puffins. Over 60,000 birds come to nest at the Cliffs and these can be spotted from the Visitors Centre or a speciality sea cruise.
This really is the best way to see puffins and it is much more environmentally friendly and doesn’t disturb the puffin colonies.
Doolin 2 Aran Ferries does a range of tours that include puffin watching from the Cliffs of Moher to Loop Head. The cost of a Cliffs of Moher boat tour is usually around €25 but can be booked online for a great discount.
You should be very aware of the dangers at the Cliffs of Moher, over 66 people have died at the Cliffs falling to their deaths. A huge percentage of these deaths were of people who crossed the guard rails and attempted to take “selfies” at the Cliff edge. I’ve seen it myself, youngsters sitting on the very unstable Cliff edges taking selfies and it scared me to witness that.
Loop Head to Moher
If you are seeking a less touristy route than the Cliffs of Moher you should give the drive around Loop Head Peninsula a try. Isolated, raw and as beautiful as Moher the Loop Head cliffs are just as stunning, the views are free and the outlook can be photographed in all its stunning glory with nary a tourist in sight.
Loop Head is at the most westerly tip of County Clare, from the lighthouse (which you can climb to the top of) you will see the word EIRE in white on the land. This is from WWII and it was a sign to pilots that they were flying over neutral territory. You will be entranced by the antics of the bottle-nosed dolphins that make their home in the Shannon estuary.
For wildlife and nature lovers Loop Head offers plenty of bird-watching and nature hikes. Not forgetting you foodies there is so much offered in the way of local seafood, produce and you can dine on some incredible gourmet meals here.
Things to do near the Cliffs of Moher
Sites like the Burren on the Wild Atlantic Way encourage the imagination to wander. The Burren appears to be a desolate, moonscape but it holds a curious beauty. It intertwines with the Cliffs of Moher which stand proud against the ravages of the sea. Birds whirling overhead clash with the crows that seek out tourists to scavenge for food in some of these heavily visited areas. Some of the best bird watching in the world can be found in this region hard up against the Atlantic waters.
In 2011 the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark gained Global Geopark status. Making up over 530 square kilometres the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark offer a diversity that is second to none. There is the natural beauty of the 200 metre high Cliffs with its eight kilometres of rugged coastline, and there is beauty in the vast array of flora, including Arctic and Alpine flowers that grow surprisingly alongside Mediterranean species.
Visit the Aran Islands
Now, these are located in Galway but are some of the most famous islands of Ireland. Inishmaan, Inishmore, Inishsheer and Inishboffin. You can take tours over to the Islands where you can tour sites such as Dun Aonghasa, sample poitín from the local distillery and view some incredible Celtic crosses.
Visiting Scattery Island
In 1978, Scattery Island the last inhabitants of the Island left but this is a truly unique Island experience and holds a wealth of historic sites. In 2017 it was awarded the Destination of Excellence and you can visit five Churches, a Cathedral, a magnificent Round Tower, Napoleonic War Artillery Battery and a working Lighthouse.
Explore the Burren
The Burren is a landscape like no other in Ireland. Formed from karst it may look like a barren area but it is internationally famous for its landscape and flora. If you are visiting during the summer months you will be astonished by the diversity of flowers and plants that thrive in its rocks.
Home to the Great Stalactite (and yes it’s impressive) formed from a drop of water millions of years ago this is the largest stalactite in Europe at 23 feet tall. Doolin Cave is one of Ireland’s leading ecotourist attractions and you will find a visitors centre complete with a small cafe and gift shop before you head out to explore the caves.
How to get to the Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher from Shannon
It’s a pretty easy journey to the Cliffs of Moher from Shannon Airport – the drive is only around an hour or so. From Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher the drive is around 3 hours or so.
Cliffs of Moher from Dublin
There is no actual train or bus from Dublin to get to the Cliffs of Moher but there are plenty of guided tours that you can take and there are bus connections from Galway.
Driving to the Cliffs of Moher
If you are planning on renting a car I wouldn’t advise trying to drive from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher and back in a day. Plan to incorporate the Cliffs into a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way – trust me it’s well worth the trip. It will take around 3 hours to drive to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin. If you have a car you will be able to see the Burren and explore this incredible moonscape. You can stay in Doolin and soak up some local trad music and pints of course.
Cliffs of Moher by Bus
You can get direct public bus connections from Galway Bus station to the Cliffs of Moher and on to Ennis along the Wild Atlantic Way on the Bus Eireann 350 route. Bus connections are available to and from Shannon, Dublin Cork and Knock Airports but you may have to change buses.
Bus Eireann operates up to 5 services a day in the summer each way every day between Ennis and Galway and 3 on a year-round basis.
Cliffs of Moher by Rail
You can get a rail connection to Ennis, via Limerick, and then catch the bus. All the main cities in Ireland are connected by train including Dublin, Galway, Cork and Belfast. You can also take the train to Galway and get a bus from there. Visit Irish Rail for more information.
Where to stay near the Cliffs of Moher
You can’t beat Doolin not only for its proximity to the Cliffs of Moher which are only a 10-minute drive away but for its quintessential Irish charm. There’s also Liscannor around a 10-minutes to the south of the Cliffs where you can check out a Holy Well or celebrate Lughnasa if you are there around August 1st.
When touring this area we stayed at the fabulous Armada Hotel at Spanish Point – it is the perfect location for all the sites on this part of the WAW. Fantastic food, very comfortable rooms and the view? Priceless.
The Doolin Inn
The Doolin Inn in Doolin is a fabulous place to stay its located at the start of the Cliffs of Moher walk. This 3-star hotel offers a concierge service, full of information on the local area. Both free WiFi and private parking are available onsite.
The Boathouse Liscanoor
Located in Liscannor, just 2 km from Lahinch Beach and within 6 miles of the Cliffs of Moher, the Boathouse provides beachfront accommodation with free WiFi. Boasting a terrace, the holiday home is in an area where guests can engage in activities such as hiking, fishing and canoeing. This lovely location is central to many of the important sites around County Clare and it is a private holiday home so you can cook for yourself
I’m not going to tell you what to pack for the Cliffs of Moher but my biggest tip is to wear good walking shoes or hiking boots and bring a raincoat or waterproofs. If you plan to do the hike make sure you take some snacks and a water bottle with you.
And just to convince you that there’s more to see in Ireland beyond the Cliffs of Moher here’s a few more articles you can read.
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