Some say that the Cliffs of Moher are the edge of the world. Rising out of the sea in a wall that stretches five miles (eight kilometers) long and 702 feet (214 meters) high, these rugged cliffs attract over one million visitors each year, and it’s easy to see why. A historic landmark, geographical wonder, and conservation ground, the cliffs offer a multifaceted and immersive experience along Ireland’s coastal landscape.
If you want to witness the Emerald Isle’s beauty in full form, look no further than these towering cliffs on the southwestern edge of the Burren. Here’s everything you need to know before visiting one of Ireland’s most breathtaking natural sights.
The Cliffs of Moher are located on the west coast of Ireland, close to Liscannor village in County Clare. On a clear day, the site offers views of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, the Twelve Pins, the Maumturk Mountains, Loop Head, the Dingle Peninsula, and the Blasket Islands. Because of the rocks’ natural layered formation, the cliff’s ledges are also popular with nesting seabirds, including fulmars, kittiwakes, razorbills, and puffins, which you’ll likely see while you’re there.
It is believed the Cliffs of Moher are over 320 million years old, dating back to when Ireland’s ancient rivers laid down sediments on the seabed to form the sandstone, siltstone, and shale that make up the cliffs. That said, the area takes its name from the promontory fort “Mothar,” which was demolished during the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s to make room for a signal tower at Hag’s Head.
Although the cliffs have long been admired for their scenic beauty, Cornelius O’Brien was the first to formally recognize them as a tourist destination in 1833. In order to make the cliffs accessible, safe, and attractive to visitors, O’Brien built an ornamental building, a viewing platform, stables, and an iron picnic table at the site. Since then, the area has been marked as one of the most outstanding coastal features in all of Ireland.
As is always the case in Ireland, the journey is just as important as the destination. The road to the Cliffs of Moher is one of the country’s most scenic, so be sure to take it all in and choose the mode of transportation that suits you best.
You can take a direct public bus from Galway Bus Station to the Cliffs of Moher along the Wild Atlantic Way on the Bus Eireann 350 route. If you’re coming from the Shannon, Dublin, Cork, or Knock airports, bus connections are also available, but transfers may be required. Note that Bus Eireann operates five times a day in the summer and three times a day during the rest of the year.
The cycling route along the County Clare Coastline is also a great way to get to the cliffs, and they just so happen to be known as one of the top 10 greatest cycling routes in the world. If you have your own bike, enjoy the view and the freedom of the open road, but if you need to rent one, you can do so in nearby Lahinch, Doolin, or Kilfenora. Also note that there is bike storage located at the visitor center.
Keen on walking? You can reach the cliffs by foot as well! Those who choose to take the stroll can follow the path from Fisher Street in Doolin all the way down the coast to the cliffs. From there, take the path that runs the full length of the cliffs to Hags Head, or carry on to Liscannor. The walk from Doolin to the cliffs will take approximately two-and-a-half hours, while the round-trip jaunt from the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center to Hag’s Head will take about three hours. Additionally, it takes nearly three hours to walk to or from Liscannor. It may sound like a lot, but it’s highly recommended — that is, if the weather’s nice. If you do decide to walk or cycle to the cliffs, be sure to wear comfortable shoes, bring plenty of water, and carry a rain jacket (just in case).
All of Ireland’s main cities are connected by train, including Dublin, Galway, Cork, and Belfast in Northern Ireland. To get to the Cliffs of Moher by rail, take any train to Galway or Ennis, via Limerick, and then catch a bus from either location. For more information, visit the Irish Rail website.
If you’re looking to drive to County Clare but don’t have a vehicle, you can rent a car at Shannon Airport, which is easily accessible from both Limerick and Galway and located only an hour’s drive from the cliffs. If you’ve already rented a car, you can expect the drives from Limerick, Galway, or Kerry to take about an hour and a half. Upon arrival, park in the main car park (parking lot) opposite the visitor center, purchase an admission ticket at the entry cabins, and enjoy the added bonus of free parking.
By Coach Tour
There are a handful of nationwide operators that offer tours of Ireland during the peak travel period of April through September. Most of these tours incorporate the main visitor attractions scattered across the country, which, of course, include the Cliffs of Moher. If you’re short on time, you can also take a one-day coach trip to the cliffs from Ennis, Limerick, Cork, Galway, or Dublin year-round. Note that a day tour usually takes a full day and requires that you sit on a bus for more than a few hours.
PLANNING YOUR VISIT
As Ireland’s most popular natural attraction, the Cliffs of Moher can be rather crowded in the middle of the day and during the peak summer travel period from June to August. As a general rule, try to avoid the cliffs between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m during these months. Although this may sound like a bit of a pain, what could be better than an early-morning or early-evening walk along the cliff’s edge?
In general, we recommend spending a minimum of two hours at the Cliffs of Moher, though many visitors choose to take half a day at the site. If you can, spend some time in County Clare as well, and explore the small towns and villages in the area. Although there is no hotel accommodation at the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin (the closest town) is a good base from which to visit the cliffs, as it has a variety of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and traditional pubs and restaurants.
The Cliffs of Moher are open year-round, with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The site is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the months of January, February, November, and December; from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m during the months of March, April, September, and October; and from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from May through August. Additionally, O’Brien’s Tower (the cliff’s highest point) is open daily, but hours vary according to the time of year. For more information, check with staff upon arrival, as the tower may be closed due to weather or operational reasons.
Unexpected weather can have an impact on anything you choose to do at the cliffs, so it’s best to be flexible. That said, part of the beauty of the landscape is that it can be cloaked in fog one minute and soaked in sunrays the next. As the Irish saying goes, “There is a lot of weather in a March day,” though the same can be said about any month of the year. So, when visiting, it’s best to be prepared for all types of weather.
Admission tickets to the Cliffs of Moher include visitor information, parking, access to indoor and outdoor facilities, and entry to the Cliff Exhibition. Adult tickets are €6.00 (roughly 7 USD), senior and student tickets are €4.50 (roughly 5.50 USD), and admission for children under the age of 16 is free.
THINGS TO DO
When you venture to the Cliffs of Moher, you typically visit for the staggering height of the rock face and the even more staggering beauty of the view from the top. But in case you’re wondering what else there is to do at cliffs, here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Walk along the paved pathway near the cliffs’ edge to reach O’Brien’s Tower and try to spot the Aran Islands to the north.
- Take the Doolin Cliff Walk down the well-worn trail that leads to the hillside hobbit-esque visitor center.
- Continue down the coastal path and explore the old ruins in the surrounding area.
- Keep an eye out for puffins, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes, and the occasional peregrine falcon along the cliffs’ ledges.
- Look for ripples in the water below — breaching basking sharks and dolphin pods are a common sight.
- Get close and admire the stratified deposits of the five different rock layers that are visible in the cliff face.
- Enjoy a cuppa (or a pint) at the visitor center café.
No matter what you decide to do, remember to take in your surroundings, feel the ancient rocks beneath your feet, and listen to the sound of each crashing wave.