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Getting to The Cliffs of Moher:
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most visited tourist sites and easily the most visited attraction outside of Dublin. They sit on the Atlantic Coast, in West Clare and are one of the highlights of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Approaching from the bustling town of Galway, Capital of the West it is about an hour and a half drive through the pretty vilages of Kinvara and Lisdoonvarna. From Ennis, the largest town in Clare, it is about a 45 minute car journey through the beautiful seaside town of Lahinch. From Dublin, it is a much longer journey of just over three hours in a car and passing through Athlone and Ballinaslow. There are bus tours available from Dublin and Galway and these are detailed at the end of this article.
The cliffs themselves rise up to 214 metres above sea level and the sheer vertical descent makes for wonderful, dramatic views. On a clear day one can see the Aaran islands in Galway bay as well as great views of the surrounding ocean and countrywide.
I am a Travel Director with Trafalgar Tours ( Trafalgar US Homepage ) and a visit to the Cliff’s of Moher are included on all of our Ireland tours.
The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are a spectacular high point of The Wild Atlantic Way and run for 14km between the towns of Liscannor and Doolin. They are easily accessible from the Cliffs of Moher visitor center and most visitors stay within a kilometer of the visitor center where spectacular views are immediately accessible and pathways are clearly marked. However if you do have the time you could take a much longer walk from the visitor center towards the town of Liscannor to the South or Doolin to the North. There is a full looped walk (18km) also. Have a look here.
The Cliffs of Moher are comprised of Numerian shale and sandstone and rise up to 214 metres above sea level.The highest point of ascent is near O Brien’s tower, which is easily accessible a few hundred meters from the visitor center.
Birds and Wildlife at The Cliffs of Moher
The sheer vertical descent makes for wonderful, dramatic views and it is lovely to watch the sea birds living their dramatic, spectacular lives amidst the ocean spray and the cliffs below. Atlantic puffins, razor bills, guillemots, fulmars and of course, the ever present seagulls. For a more comprehensive list and description of these birds look here
The Atlantic ocean off the coast is home to basking sharks, minke whales, grey seals and dolphins.
Interesting geological features that are evident include the sedimentary shale and sandstone formation which testify to the ancient deposits of sand, silt and clay at an ancient delta which lithidied over time to form the sedimentary layers of shale and sandstone. These form a record of deltoid deposition that contain some interesting features including worming trails, burrow marks and ripple marks; evidence of the activities of marine life and the ocean respectfully as the rock formations lithified in deep water. With the fluctuating sea levels and the action of glaciers during the ice ages these rock formations were gradually molded and exposed as the dramatic cliffs we see today. For more on the geological formation of the Cliffs I recommend looking here.
On a clear day one can see the Aaran islands in Galway bay as well as great views of the surrounding ocean and countrywide. It is also possible to take a cruise and look at the islands, and the dramatic ocean life. ( details below)
Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center.
There is a wonderful visitor center that is a beautifully constructed, hobbit like, construction that is built into the hill adjacent to the cliffs. It was opened in 2007 and features geo-thermal heating, solar panels and grey water recycling. Here you will find the Atlantic Edge exhibition which contains a wealth of information about the local geology, coffee shops and shops. Admittance is 6Euro/adult which also covers parking. If you travel by private coach, the admittance fee will usually be covered also.
You can get a full meal in the upstairs cafe but do be aware that it can get very busy here at lunch time during the tourist season. The bathrooms are also a bit inadequate at present but more are under construction and will be ready by 2021.
On a sad but inspiring note, the visitor center also contains the Nicholas room which is called after baby Nicholas who sadly died at the site in 2006 after his premature birth to Kelly and Delia Stokes. They subsequently donated $86,000 to create the Nicholas room which allows for the provision of emergency services at the site. It was opened by the Taoiseach ( prime miniser) in 2007.
Cliff Walks at The Cliffs of Moher.
Cliff walk: There are 20 km of cliff walks running from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher and down to Liscannor. The stretch from the visitor center to Hags head is about 5km and is doable within an hour and a half, or up to three hours there and back. I’m going to suggest that if you are relatively fit and able this will add immeasurably to your experience of the cliffs. Driving the coast of Ireland is a beautiful experience but to get off-road and feel the elements in your hair and face is a refreshing and bracing experience. The cliffs are, of course, a major tourist attraction, so the walk will also enable you to escape the crowds and have some quiet time with nature in all its splendour. Please be mindful of weather conditions and note that the route is not advisable for children under the age of 12.
See here for more information on these walks.
A note on the weather: The West coast of Ireland has a notoriously changeable climate and it is often foggy or even raining at the cliffs. That too is nature in all its glory ! One can only enjoy the weather one gets. The surly drama of an Atlantic rain storm or watching the fog and mist roll gently up over the cliffs is all part of life here too.
Is it worth the trip ?
The cliffs are a beautiful, scenic and iconic part of Ireland’s coast but to be honest, much of Ireland’s West Coast features similar scenic beauty, much of it as breathtaking as the iconic cliffs. So is it worth the trip ?
If you are staying in the vicinity of Galway or Clare then a visit to the cliffs is relatively easy proposition. From Galway, the Cliffs are an hour and a half drive but the drive itself is worth the trip as you travel down the coast enjoying wonderful views of Galway Bay, and drive through the pretty towns of Kinvarra and Doolin. These towns are also well worth stopping in with a pleasant tourist oriented atmosphere in summer and a more local, but always welcoming, feel outside of the tourist season.
From Dublin, the drive to the cliffs is three to three and a half hours across the midlands of Ireland so you won’t enjoy much coastal scenery on route. Of course, if your trip is entirely city based then it can make a welcome break from the city but you do need to ask if it is worth the drive. If you want to get out into nature for a day then I would suggest exploring the possibility of visiting Glendalough or Powerscourt house and gardens in Wicklow which are within an hour of Dublin. It is not the Atlantic coast but has its own special magic and you will be able to take more time there because it is nearer. If you are intent on visiting the cliffs, then why not spend a night on the West coast. It will make the whole experience more relaxing and you will have more time to savour rural Ireland.
A note on admission: The cliffs themselves are free but you pay for parking and/or entrance to the visitor center.
Visitor Center Admission: 6Euro/adult, 4.50 Euro Seniors and students, U-16 -free
If you are driving, you can park in the car park adjacent to the visitor center. Cost of admittance to the visitor center is 6Euro/adult which also covers parking.
From Galway or Doolin the 350 bus will get you there and back with plenty of time to enjoy the cliffs. Check out bus timetable for information.
Cost – 20 Euro approx. return.
Private Coach tours:
Private coach tours are available from Dublin, Galway and Doolin.
Cruises are available here
Alan Coakley is a Travel Director with Trafalgar Tours based in Ireland. For all the best Trafalgar deals for 2021 check out Trafalgar US Homepage .
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