The Cliffs of Moher is truly a magnificent natural wonder in Ireland. Lies at the southwestern edge of the Burren region, the cliffs stretch about 14 kilometers long above the Atlantic Ocean.
The cliffs is named after an old promontory fort called Moher, that once stood on Hag’s Head and is currently the site of Moher Tower. The fort was demolished in 1808 to make way for a lookout and telegraph tower to provide warning of a French invasion during the Napoleonic wars.
The Cliffs of Moher is at the top of my travel bucket list in Ireland and a perfect day trip from Dublin City, thanks to its breathtaking scenic views of the epic cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean. To make the trip as hassle-free as possible, there are some guided tours from Dublin and they usually depart from the heart of the city on O’Connell Street.
I took the trip from a local company called Paddywagon, which finds them very reliable, helpful, and simply affordable, especially if you are a budget or solo traveler. The staff also is knowledgeable about the destination as they share as much information about the places we visit.
Cliffs of Moher, Here I Come
It is an early morning as I prepare myself for a long journey to the Cliffs of Moher. It seems very quiet when walking along the street of the neighborhood I lived in. Meeting up with my tour guide from Paddywagon company in Dublin city center right outside Savoy Cinema together with other fellow travelers.
It is very confusing at first when looking for the bus in green color because many other tour operators had their buses painted in green and pick up their passengers at the same spot. The bus finally arrives at around 7.45 am. The journey takes about 2 hours, traveling from the east to the west of Ireland.
Before heading into the town of Galway, we stop over to visit Dunguaire Castle along the southeastern shore of Galway Bay in the village of Kinvara. This 16th century tower got its name from the Dun of King Guaire, the legendary king of Connacht. It was used to film the movie Gun in the Heather in 1969 and North Sea Hijack in 1979.
This couple welcomes visitors to their village by playing Irish folk music near the entrance of the castle.
As we drive through the Burren, the stone walls can be seen along the green fields where there are just one or no houses around them. During the 1600s, the British took the land owned and farmed by the Irish for generations and those families ended up becoming the tenants.
They were forced to pay rent to the British landlords for the land they originally owned. Some landlords forced the communities off their land. As the result, many women, children, and the elderly died by the side of the roads during winter.
Yet there were others who were willing to help the tenant farmers (former landowners) by creating work for them. When the blight destroyed the potato crops in 1845, it caused much hardship for them because there was no food to sell to cover the rent money and caused food scarcity.
One landlord offered work to provide income for his tenants by asking them to build stone walls- the walls which served no purpose except to provide a penny each day to those who worked. This is why they are called Penny Wall or Famine Wall that are 8-10 feet high, 3 feet wide, and stretch for 300 yards.
Stopping by the coast of Gortacarnaun to enjoy the breathtaking view of its landscape. The area is formed mainly from limestones and also sandstones and mudstones about 300 million years ago. Some of the stones contain fossils of corals, crinoids, sea urchins, and ammonites.
We rest at Doolin town and grab lunch. There is one street of shops with three bars, a gift shop, and a florist store. Right opposite those shops is a guest house. So with these limited choices, I just go with the bar with the most people and also recommended by my guide.
Cliffs of Moher
And finally, we make our way to our main attraction of the day, the Cliffs of Moher. Our guide informs us that it is very foggy and the tour group that comes before us leave without being able to see even the slightest thing. We were given one and a half hour to explore and I still keep my fingers crossed, hoping that by then, the strong wind can blow the sea fog away.
It is very windy and the weather pretty cold, which is least expected during summer season. Walking toward the highest point of the cliffs is O’Brien’s Tower, built by local landlord Sir Cornellius O’Brien in 1835. The stone tower was used as an observation tower and had initially served as a tea house, featuring a large round table with seats of ironwork. It stands 214 meters above the Atlantic Ocean’s sea level.
After patiently waiting for half an hour, I would see the magnificent view of this UNESCO site. It is by luck that the wind clears the fog away. There is a cruise ferrying tourists to see this natural landscape.
There is also an unofficial path going closer to its edge that can see all the way down to the beach. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t see the Aran Islands, The Twelves Pins, Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara, or Loop Head of the South because the fog is still visible at a near distance. Those sights can usually be seen during a clear sky.
This natural wonder is a Special Protected Area under the E.U. Birds Directive 1979, home to Ireland’s largest mainland seabird nesting colony of 20 species and up to 30,000 breeding pairs.
The formation happened about 320 million years ago during the Upper Carboniferous period. This area was much warmer and was situated at the mouth of a larger river. The river flowed down and bring mud and sand with it, eventually dumping it all over this area where it settled and formed the rock layers that existed today.
The movie scene of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and music videos including Maroon 5’s “Runaway” and Westlife’s “My Love” were all filmed here.
Also visit the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, a modern visitor center built into the hillside approaching the cliffs. What’s most attractive inside is the large multimedia screen that shows a bird’s eye view of the cliffs and a video from the underwater caves below the surface. It gives an overall idea of the cliffs’ geology, history, and various flora and fauna that live below the sea surface.
As it draws closer to the end of the trip, we make a final stop at Shannon town. I can’t say much about this place because there is not enough time to wander around. The only highlight here is this 15th century medieval Norman fortress of Bunratty & Lahinch.
Soon after the break, we travel another 220 km to Dublin and reach back at 6.30 p.m. Looking back at the entire trip, I have been grateful enough to admire this stunning Cliffs of Moher during my visit in such unpredictable weather. So, I have another place to cross out of my travel bucket.
Traveling Elsewhere in Ireland?
If you are planning for a long adventure in Ireland, you might love to check out some of my other posts: