If you happen to be visiting the West of Ireland, then the Cliffs of Moher should be one of your destinations. The view from up there, to say the least, will absolutely take your breath away. It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
The cliffs are some of the highest ones in the entire continent – as high as 700 feet. Arguably, the cliffs are the most impressive of all Irish landscapes. Plus, if you’re a fan of the open waters, then what better way to view one than on top of a cliff? From above, you can see the biggest horizontal view of the Atlantic Ocean. Stunning is the best word to describe it.
The Cliffs of Moher (Aillte an Mhothair in Irish) translated means cliffs of the ruin. It is located in Liscannor a coastal village in County Clare. The cliffs are around 5 kilometers from the center of the main village; which is located on the R478 road between Lahinch and Doolin.
The lowest part of the cliffs is called Hag’s Head, which rises about 400 feet above sea level. The highest point on the other hand is at 702 feet, near O’Brien’s Tower. You can’t easily visit both parts though, as they are 8 kilometers apart from each other.
The cliffs are made of Namurian shale and sandstone. Its oldest rocks are found at the lower parts of the cliffs. When you visit, be sure to ask about the 300 million year old river that cuts through the base of the cliffs. You wouldn’t want to miss that.
Also, make sure to check out the birds that live along the cliffs. There are more than 30,000 birds flying around the cliffs – going back and forth from the large ocean. The variety comes from 29 different species; with the most famous bird being the beautiful Atlantic Puffins. These small birds live together in big colonies at specific spots around the cliffs and on the small Goat Island. You won’t miss them; they look like very small penguins (complete with the “tuxedo” look). Some of the more known birds are hawks, gulls, guillemots, shags, ravens and choughs.
Sites to See
In clear weather the Aran Islands and Galway Bay are visible from above the cliffs. The best way to see these sites is atop OBriens Tower a round stone tower built at the middle of the entire stretch. This tower is also the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher. The view from the tower extends as far as Loop Head at the southern tip of the county, and beyond to the mountains of Kerry. You just have to wish that when you visit, the sky is clear enough so that you can also see the Maum Turk Mountains and the Twelve Pins in the northern part of Connemara district, beyond Galway Bay.
OBriens Tower was built in 1835 by local landlord Sir Cornellius OBrien a direct descendant of Irish High King Brian Boru. It served as an observation tower for the hundreds of Victorian tourists that frequented the cliffs during the time. Even then the cliffs were already popular a testament to the true beauty of the place. It was believed that Sir Cornellius OBrien was a man ahead of his time. He knew that the development of their popular sites into tourist spots would benefit the local economy and help those in need be alleviated from poverty. Locals are so grateful that they say he built everything around there except for the Cliffs themselves. We too, should be grateful for his vision.
Another tower called Moher is found at Hags Head. The history of this one, however, is unknown. But it appears to be what remains of an old watchtower – probably placed in the cliffs during Napoleons time by the British people who constantly feared invasion. Now the tower lies in ruin, but it remains a part of the cliffs’ rich history.
Like I said earlier, the Cliffs of Moher are amongst the most impressive landscapes to see in the country… and probably the entire continent. It is widely considered as THE top attraction in Ireland. In 2006, it was estimated that a million people went to visit the Cliffs of Moher.
Currently the site is under the supervision of the Clare County Council and the Shannon Heritage. Both these organizations agree that although they would want to build more amenities to add comfort to the tourists’ experience of the cliffs, they want to lessen the buildings as much as possible. They want the visitors to experience the natural beauty of the cliffs, with as less distraction as possible – meaning no imposing man-made amenities or the like.
One of their first structures they built was the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience. The building was built into a hillside located on the way to the cliffs – so as not to add to the already existing amenities near the cliffs themselves. Also, the center uses geothermal heating / cooling, solar panels, and greywater recycling – keeping itself as environmentally sound as possible. It took 17 years and 32 million Euros to build this center.
The Visitor Experience features a wide variety of interactive media created to inform the tourists about the cliff’s different areas of interest. Like for example, the origin of the Cliffs, the bird and fish life in the area, and a whole lot more. One of the more popular forms of informative media is their 3D show that presents a birds eye view of the cliffs and explores the underwater caves at the foot of the rocks. The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience won an award in the Interpret Britain & Ireland Awards last year. The Association of Heritage Interpretation, the award-giving body responsible for the event, states that the entire visitor center was one of the best facilities that the judges had ever seen.
To visit the cliffs, all you have to do is pay a charge of 8 Euros per car. The fee already covers all the tourists inside the vehicle (obviously, the bigger the group, the cheaper the admission – just make sure you all fit in one vehicle!). This “Facilities Charge” goes a long way – it includes access to the Visitor Experience, unlimited parking hours and a contribution towards the conservation of the cliffs and all its amenities. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of the daily ferry trips. These tours allow you to view the Cliffs of Moher from sea level – and there’s a huge difference I tell you! Plus, it’s like visiting two attractions in one place.