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Cliffs of Moher – Ireland’s Most Famous Cliffs

Find out more about the iconic Cliffs of Moher on the West Coast of Ireland in this insider’s guide to the Cliffs of Moher and the surrounding region of the Burren National Park, Doolin, Liscannor, Lahinch, Bunratty Castle and more.

By Dawn Rainbolt, Marketing Executive
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What are the Cliffs of Moher?

The Cliffs of Moher are located on the west coast of Ireland in County Clare. One of Ireland’s most beloved landmarks, the Cliffs of Moher are one of the most amazing points along the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2,500km route that follows Ireland’s west coast.

The Cliffs of Moher are 702 feet/214 meters at their highest point, near O’Brien’s Tower. Though not the highest cliffs in Ireland – that honour goes to Co Donegal’s Slieve League Cliffs and Achill Island’s Croaghaun Cliffs – they are by far the most popular. These dramatic and sheer cliffs are 14 km (8.6 miles) in length, with a narrow clifftop path hugging the edge.

Cliffs of Moher location: Where are the Cliffs of Moher & How to get there

The Cliffs of Moher during a dramatic winter storm.

The best way to visit the Cliffs of Moher – as well as travel around rural and coastal Ireland in general – is by car, as this gives you the freedom to travel when and where you want, make last minute changes, and shift your travel plans to match the weather. The most convenient and popular place to park your car is the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre car park, located roughly in the middle of the cliffs.

However, for those keen to avoid the crowds, a great option is to start from Doolin village on the north side of the cliffs – and then hike along the cliffs from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher (read more below)!

By Public Transport

Want to be environmentally friendly? The closest rail station to the Cliffs of Moher is Ennis, with Bus Eirean Bus 350 running from both Ennis and Doolin to the cliffs. Ennis can be reached by train from Galway or Limerick, with both journeys roughly taking 1h30. We do not recommend relying too heavily on public transport in rural Ireland as services are few and unreliable. If you do not want to drive, it’s recommended to book a tour with a driver/guide.

From Dublin

The Cliffs of Moher are located about 3.5 hours from Dublin. Though on the opposite side of the country, it is easy to reach the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin. Follow the motorways: M50 to the M4 to M6 to Athenry, just outside of Galway. From there, hop on Ireland’s new motorway, the M18 southbound to Gort, where you’ll turn off to small regional road, R460. Please keep in mind that the M50 (as you exit Dublin) has an “invisible” electronic toll (pay within 48 hours of passing).

From Galway

The Cliffs of Moher are located about 1.5 hours from Galway (bearing in mind Galway city often has traffic). Head south on the N67 to Lisdoonvarna before turning off to the coastal road, R478. You’ll wrap around Galway Bay passing villages and ruined churches, abbeys and more scenic sites along the way. Local sites of interest include Dunguaire Castle and the Flaggy Shore.

From Limerick / Shannon Airport

The Cliffs of Moher are located about 1 hour from Limerick city and Shannon International Airport. Drive north on the N85 to the surf town of Lahinch, where you’ll turn off to the coastal route (R478). From Limerick, keep your eyes out for – or even stop to visit – the spectacular medieval fortress, Bunratty Castle & Folk Park.

How to hike the Cliffs of Moher

Despite the fact that the Cliffs of Moher are over 8 miles (12 km) long, most people only walk a short distance along the cliffs from either side of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre. Though perhaps worth a peek for first-time visitors to provide historical and geological context, the best way to experience the cliffs is to hike along the cliff’s edge.

The ‘secret’ (and best!) way to visit the Cliffs of Moher is by hiking the cliffs from one end or the other. The cliffside trail is called the Doolin Cliff Walk. You can walk part of the way, or you can choose to walk the entirety of the  trail to Liscannor and organise a taxi back. Learn more here.

From Liscannor

The lesser-known – but loveliest – way to hike the Cliffs of Moher is to start your hike at Liscannor, to the south. Though possible to start at the village, it’s best to start from as close to the coast as you can get. From the coastal trailhead beside the tower at Hag’s Head (named for the mythical Cailleach of Beara or white hag of Beara), it’s between 5-6 km (about 3 miles) along the cliffs to the visitor centre, though you are welcome to keep going – or turn back – depending on how far you wish to hike. Out and back to the visitor centre and O’Brien’s Tower is roughly 12km (8 miles). Some people may wish to walk to the visitor centre and taxi back to the car.

From Doolin

Hiking to the cliffs from Doolin village, to the north of the Cliffs of Moher, used to be the preferred method, though increased visitors and bad erosion has made this route less popular. Regardless, hiking the Doolin Cliff Walk path starting in Doolin is a lovely way to experience the cliffs, and is a similar hiking distance to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre as it is from Liscannor on the southern end. As is the case from Liscannor, you can do an out-and-back walk, or you may walk to the visitor centre and arrange a taxi to pick you up. In the evening, be sure to enjoy some of Doolin’s wonderful pubs known for their Irish trad music!

History

Sunset at the Cliffs of Moher.

The Cliffs of Moher are millions of years old. Humans have inhabited this region for thousands of years, as Neolithic sites have been found throughout County Clare.

But modern tourism to the Cliffs of Moher didn’t start until the 18th century when benevolent landlord Sir Cornelius O’Brien, a descendant of the legendary ancient High King Brian Boru, wanted to showcase his amazing cliffs to visitors and tenants alike. The Victorian O’Brien’s Tower was built by Cornelius O’Brien in 1835 in order to crown the Cliffs of Moher and bring tourists to his lands.

A lot has changed, especially the number of visitors to the Cliffs of Moher, as well as the completion of a shiny new Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre nestled quietly into the hills of the landscape. But a visit today to O’Brien’s Tower affords views as amazing in Victorian times as they are today.

The Towers of the Cliffs of Moher

Moher Tower at Hag’s Head

Located on the Cliffs of Moher’s southern side near the village of Liscannor, the Moher Tower is a Napoleanic-era watchtower built in 1808 on top of an older fortification, meant to protect Ireland from a potential French invasion. Hag’s Head is named for the cailleach or hag who is associated with the weather and winter.

O’Brien’s Tower

This iconic tower was built in 1835 by a local landlord Cornellius O’Brien to work as an observation tower and tea house for the civilised Victorian English visitors to flocked to this “wild” site. From this site, you can see from south Clare all the way to Connemara and out to the Aran Islands.

Doonagore Castle – Doolin

This spectacular building is a 16th century fortified tower house a short distance outside of Doolin village. Built atop older fortifications, Doonagore Castle changed hands several times from the O’Connors to the O’Briens to the MacClancys, later to a Cromwellian soldier, and finally to the powerful Gore family.

Geology

The wild exposed limestone landscapes of the Burren, also in County Clare.

Ireland is full of intriguing geology – the Burren, the Giant’s CausewaySlieve League Cliffs – as well as the Cliffs of Moher. A combination of Namurian shale and sandstone layered on top of each other, the cliffs have been shaped by wind and weather for millions of years. With the oldest rocks found at the bottom, there is also a 300 million-year-old river channel buried within the cliffs.

Top Ten Cliffs of Moher Facts

Best places to visit nearby the Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are wildly beautiful but there is more to County Clare than just the cliffs. In fact, there are many absolutely stunning places to visit near the Cliffs of Moher. See below for a list of some of our recommendations, as compiled by locals.

Doolin Village

The closest village to the Cliffs of Moher, this is the best place to start your clifftop walk from the northern side (Liscannor is the start point from the south). Doolin is also recognised as one of the best places to listen to traditional Irish music. The wee village is the best place to catch the ferry to the Aran Islands (see below). It is also home to Doonagore Castle (above) as well as the fascinating Doolin Cave (the area is riddled with caves).

Burren National Park

Rugged and rocky, the landscapes of the Burren National Park are as alien as they are beautiful. These exposed limestone hills come alive with a vast carpet of wildflowers each spring season. Learn about the Burren from a local farmer, a renowned archeologist or perhaps a wildflower expert – take your pick! You may also like to visit the Burren Perfumery, where local creams and soaps are made, or the Burren Smokehouse to sink your teeth into smoked salmon.

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle is a medieval fortress that dates back to the 15th century. Now a museum about medieval life in Ireland from peasant to royalty, Bunratty Castle is the centrepiece of Bunratty Village Folk Park, a model village that shows what rural Ireland would have been like at various stages of history. The castle is also famed for its medieval banquets held on-site. Recent renovations have brought even more of this famous castle to life.

Loop Head

You might not have heard of Loop Head, but if you’ve watched the 2017 Star Wars film, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (or even just the trailer!), you’ve certainly seen Loop Head. A lovely place for a walk, the clifftop landscape of Loop Head is still a relatively quiet and undisturbed place. It also features a WWII-era EIRE sign, a pretty lighthouse, wild sea-stacks, and stunning cliffs. Keep an eye out for birds and marine wildlife.

Kilkee and the Pollock Holes

The little-visited Kilkee is a lovely town visited mostly by domestic visitors. A unique feature of the town is the nearby Pollock holes, visible at low tide on the foreshore. These are clear tidal pools protected from the crashing Atlantic waves and are the perfect place for a swim or snorkel.

Ennis

This adorable bustling market town is full of colourful shop fronts, restaurants and cheery pubs. Ennis is just right for enjoying a relaxing afternoon shopping or chatting with the locals at one of its pubs after exploring the Cliffs of Moher!

Lahinch

A surfing mecca, Lahinch is one of the best places in Ireland to go surfing. This colourful village just south of the Cliffs of Moher clings to the Atlantic along the Wild Atlantic Way, and is the perfect place to try your hand at surfing!

Inisheer

Inisheer is the closest of the three Aran Islands. A final outpost of Ireland’s traditional way of life, the Aran Islands are a great way to learn more about Irish heritage – from music to wool to cuisine to language! Hop on the ferry to Inisheer from Doolin for any easy day trip.

Scattery Island monastery

Scattery Island

Off the south coast of Clare is the small Scattery Island, home to a 6th century monastic settlement, including the ruins of 6 churches, one of Ireland’s tallest and best preserved round towers and a holy well. It was once raided by Vikings – in fact, the name may come from the Norse word ‘scatty’ meaning ‘treasure.’ Ferries depart Kilrush most days May-September (check the schedule for up-to-date times).

Poulnabrone Dolman

At the heart of the Burren National Park lies the magnificent beautiful monument, the Poulnabrone Dolman. These standing portal stones date back to 4200-2900 BC to the Neolithic era, and is the most photographed of Ireland’s 172 dolmans. It was likely built as a tomb, or perhaps marking a boundary.

Safety at the Cliffs of Moher

Safety is no joke at the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are just what the name implies: sheer precipices that fall hundreds of feet. Please do not stand too close to the edge. Even if you see other people standing just on the cliff edge, we recommend that you stay behind the stone fences for maximum security.

What most people don’t realise is that what looks like solid ground might actually only be a thin ledge jutting out over the Atlantic just a few inches of feet thick, and as erosion wears on the cliff’s edges, these pieces occasionally break off. Not only is this dangerous for humans nearby, but it is also bad for the cliffs. Staying back behind the fence is both for your own safety as well as the preservation of the Cliffs of Moher for generations to come.

While rare, injury or even death from falling off the cliffs is a real possibility, augmented by approaching the edge too closely and losing your footing, or the soil breaking away underfoot. There are documented cases nearly every year.

How can I visit them myself?

While visiting the Cliffs of Moher yourself will give you the amazing views, choosing to hike the Cliffs of Moher with a guide will make your experience even more meaningful, as they will interpret the landscape, culture, history, fauna and geology for you. Local guides will bring to life the stories and mythologies surrounding the place, show you the hidden gems of County Clare, and perhaps even connect you with local characters.

A guided tour to the Cliffs of Moher and beyond will take you off the beaten path and allow you to avoid most of the crowds, making your experience worth so much more.

Cliffs of Moher

If this sounds of interest to you, check out a few of our guided tours to the Cliffs of Moher below. Or if you prefer, see our new Self Drive trip – Connemara, Dingle & the Cliffs of Moher.

 

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Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

“American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and now Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she has fallen in love with the rich Irish culture and sweeping landscapes of Ireland. Armed with a Masters Degree in Tourism Marketing and a love of writing and photography, she is Wilderness Ireland's Marketing Executive since 2017.”

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