A cold wind blows as I walk along the legendary Cliffs of Moher. Ireland’s most famous landmark rises dramatically out of the ocean, waves crashing into rocks far below.
Whoever he is, he’s too late. See?! The Cliffs of Insanity! ~ Vizzini
A favorite childhood movie of mine is the 80’s cult classic The Princess Bride, a crazy fairy tale adventure through the mythical kingdom of Florin.
In one scene, Princess Buttercup’s kidnappers are chased across the ocean by the Man in Black before they climb the steep “mile-high” Cliffs of Insanity.
While not quite a mile high, Ireland’s 700 foot Cliffs of Moher are certainly imposing enough to feature them in the movie. Now that I’ve finally seen them myself, I can assure you the cliffs are even more astounding in person!
The Cliffs of Moher are located about 90 minutes south of Galway on Ireland’s west coast in County Clare. They’re part of a scenic driving route called the Wild Atlantic Way.
While technically the cliffs are Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction with one million visitors each year, at 5 miles long, there’s plenty of room to explore if you enjoy walking.
A visitor’s center was built into the hillside so people can experience the site without intrusive buildings wrecking the view, and a scenic walking path branches out in two directions across the top.
The cliffs range in height from 390 feet to 702 feet tall, and are home to over 30,000 birds, including colonies of Atlantic Puffin that usually make an appearance in late March.
There are safety barriers to keep you from getting too close to the edge of the cliffs, but only up to a point. If you keep walking, eventually the barriers end.
Some people risk standing or sitting right on the edge…
I was one of them. However do so at your own risk! There’s often strong winds at the Cliffs of Moher, with freak gusts reportedly blowing people off to their deaths from time to time.
The Namurian shale & sandstone ledges that make up the cliffs will sometimes crumble without warning due to erosion, creating another danger.
To the south, there’s a beautiful old stone tower from the Napoleonic Wars called Hag’s Head. Walking here from the visitor’s center will take the average person about 1 – 2 hours.
To the north, O’Brien’s Tower marks the highest point of the cliffs. It’s just a short walk away from the visitor’s center and offers the best views in both directions. You can pay an additional $2 to climb the tower.
There are two villages near the Cliffs of Moher, Liscannor (6 km south) and Doolin (7 km north). Both are small, but you’ll find plenty of restaurants, bed & breakfasts, and pubs with live music to relax in after a day of exploring.
Tourism is highest here during the months of July & August making the area quite crowded. However in September it wasn’t bad at all, especially if you walk beyond the area around the visitor’s center.
Other potential adventures include viewing the cliffs from below on a ferry boat, or hiking the entire 12 mile (20 km) Coastal Walk over the cliffs.
There is a good reason why Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher are so famous. Walking a winding dirt path on the edge of this towering precipice, you’ll stand in awe enjoying stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean & surrounding landscape.
It’s a magical travel experience to have in the Emerald Isle. ★
Location: Doolin, Ireland [Map]
Accommodation: Churchfield Bed & Breakfast
Useful Notes: Like always, I recommend visiting popular tourist attractions early or late to avoid large crowds. The best time for photography is just before or during sunset, when the cliffs are bathed in light. Plan to visit for at least 2 hours if not more.
Recommended Reading: Lonely Planet Ireland