Ireland is a beautiful and aptly green landscape of peaceful fields as well as bustling downtowns and classic structures everywhere you look. On our last trip into Dublin, we took a day trip across the country to see the famous Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.
As a relatively small group tour, it was a pleasant excursion to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin in a large air-conditioned passenger van. The trip is a meandering one, full of pastures and farmlands, family farms and the kind of green I can honestly say I’ve never seen along a landscape in the U.S. Bright and calm, after a four hour journey with a stop in between, we arrived at the Cliffs! The guide, organized and quiet on the ride there (which allowed us to take a quick nap), instructed us to meet back at the appointed time, after which we were free to explore.
Quick tip: Take a backpack or bag with water, drinks, and snacks as you make your way to the Cliffs! We brought along some bottles of iced tea, cheese sticks and crackers to satiate us along the way.
Upon exiting the tour van, we felt the brisk winds kick in, which was quite refreshing! The cliffs themselves stood out in front of us in the sunlight, and are immediately stunning. It's easy to see why the Cliffs of Moher were chosen as a filming location for numerous films, such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. After a long trip, we were hungry, and found our way to the restaurant in the main visitor’s area.
Prior to taking in the scenery up close, we entered the quaint (and faintly Hobbit-like) dome built into the earth which houses the visitor center as well as a cafeteria with quick bites and hot food. After the long ride we partook in the Guinness steak dish with mashed potatoes, quite good, and a large portion! While in the center, we walked through the Exhibition, a fun and interpretive area in the lower part of the center that shows visitors the nature of the Cliffs with exhibits and displays. The dome itself is set up to highlight the four elements of the Cliffs: Ocean, Rock, Nature and Man.
Soaring above the sea at 702 feet (at the highest point) the Cliffs go on for five miles against the coast of the Atlantic. As we approached the mountainous range we found a bordered pathway, lined with waist-high slabs of slate that create a rustic and historical fence line just behind the edge of the cliffs for safe passage as you take in the view from the skyrocketing wonder. For the more adventurous, take a step over the slate and walk along a path facing the edge of the cliffs themselves with no safety features!
Although discouraged from doing so (and not quite sure if it’s technically “allowed”!), we decided to take the challenge and meander along the un-fenced border. With the winds whipping around us it was a bit trepidacious, but also exhilarating and a once in a lifetime experience!
The epic vista shows the eras of erosion that over time created the massive, rocky sea-lined pillars that only the environment could create. The human intrigue of the Cliffs only makes sense in person – we have never felt so small yet so inspired standing atop the green grass with certain infinity below. As we stepped along the border, little yellow flowers popped out along the grass; a beautiful juxtaposition between the deep dive of the danger at the edge and the nature that created them.
The view from the cliffs is honestly one that made us silent and contemplative while we moved slowly along. “Breathtaking” is a word most likely designated for this experience along the coast of Ireland. As you traverse the coast, you’ll be greeted by a spray or two of upwards waterfalls, inexplicably blowing up and then raining down from the sea itself, a seeming impossibility! The misty upwards/downwards waterfall hits you twice – once as you go up the Cliffs and once as you make your way to the castle.
Quick tip: In addition to the winds, the Cliffs of Moher have upward spraying, misty water spouts from the sea, so bring along a scarf or hat, and enjoy the experience up close!
After walking along the precarious open face of the Cliffs, we ventured around to O’Brien’s castle, a small structure that for two euros you can ascend the winding spiral staircase to the top. From there, the view is striking! Built in 1835 by landlord Cornelius O’Brien as a way to watch the visitors that came to see the cliffs, the weather was beautiful and clear enough to see the southern tip of Clare, and even as far as the mountains of Kerry. To the west we viewed the three Aran Islands, where we were informed by the friendly tower concierge, the 1,200 or so residents speak almost exclusively Irish Gaelic (in addition to English)! These islands are also home of the famous Aran sweater, which gained worldwide popularity during the mid-twentieth century.
One way to get even more up close and personal with the cliffs and their history, book a guided tour! These small group tours are ideal for anyone interested in geology and geography, conducted by trained local rangers. The cost is about 45 Euros per group, and they advise to book at least a week in advance!
After our walk along the cliffs and a visit to the O’Brien castle, we visited the visitor center once again, this time to get souvenirs! The staff at the center is accommodating and helpful, and it’s no surprise that everywhere you visit here has that traditional Irish friendliness and charm. Pick up a key chain, a magnet, or some fudge (like we did!) and watch the sun start to wane against the sky of the ancient scenery.
The road back from the Cliffs of Moher was just as breathtaking and contemplative – vast expanses of green fields and towns that roll along at a peaceful pace. Though we could’ve slept as we meandered along the quiet roads, the experience itself kept my memory - and vision – going for the rest of the journey. Arriving back in Dublin from the cliffs, we felt refreshed, inspired, and in love with Ireland even more!