On our recent trip to Ireland, visiting the Cliffs of Moher topped my list of non-negotiables.
I’ve already discussed my first trip to Ireland back in college and how my roommate and I spent a better half of a week traipsing through the streets of Dublin without a penny to our names. Tragically, we had to pass on a bus tour out to the Cliffs of Moher due to lack of funding, and I had regretted it ever since.
This time around, I made SURE to prioritize a visit. Tyler and I spent two days in Dublin and two days at the wonderland that is the Waterford Castle. The Waterford Castle sits on the southeast side of Ireland, and the Cliffs of Moher are on the west coast in County Clare. We woke up very early on our last day at the castle and made the three-hour drive across the green expanse of Ireland to see the cliffs before we flew to our next destination (England).
We booked our flight to England out of Shannon to avoid having to make the three-hour drive back across to Dublin. It took less than an hour to get from the Cliffs of Moher to the Shannon airport at the end of the day, so this worked out perfectly.
Needless to say, I had a LOT riding on this visit.
I had pictured it a million times: I’d step out of the car into blazing sunshine and walk a perfectly pebbled path out to the cliffs. I would have conquered my fear of heights by the time the path led me to the edge of the cliffs, and I’d look out at the staggeringly rugged coastline and ominous Atlantic Ocean beyond. A light breeze would whip through my hair, and Tyler and I would quietly renew our vows to each other while holding hands and taking everything in.
As in any classic “expectation vs. reality” scenario, my dreams rapidly screeched to a halt as we drove up to find the cliffs engulfed entirely in a dense fog. As I stepped out of the car into six inches of mud, I thought to myself, “I’m sure this will clear up in no time. It’s only 10:54 a.m. after all.”
We spent the next hour shivering and getting soaking wet from what felt like 100 mph winds (to me) and rain. My demeanor oscillated between laughing hysterically at the raging winds and nonexistent visibility and screaming at Tyler to back away from the cliff edge because of course this is how I would lose him.
A couple of times, the fog floated in and out for just 30 seconds at a time, and we were able to catch a glimpse of the few cliffs in front of us. Even with very limited visibility, we could tell that this spot is certainly not overrated. The Cliffs of Moher are astonishing and majestic.
Though our visit was not exactly what we expected, we still consider the Cliffs of Moher a must-stop on any Ireland itinerary.
Here are just a few things to note as you plan your visit:
While I don’t think that bad weather should deter a visit, definitely take care to manage expectations with yourself and your travel companion(s) to avoid the same disappointment I did. Nothing could impede my staunch optimism that somehow everything would work out despite the repeated forecast suggestions that fog would be the primary player on the day of our visit.
Be prepared to wait around for the fog to take an intermission and provide a clear view of the cliffs, and force yourself to enjoy it even if conditions are less than ideal.
And don’t forget to dress in weather appropriate attire–these waterproof Chelsea boots are my FAVE for travel.
If you can help it, try to schedule your arrival before noon. Busloads of tourists roll in from Dublin right around that time, and it’s an entirely different experience trying to get a cute cliff selfie while also trying to not get knocked over said cliff by one of the many eager visitors. We got back to our car just as three buses pulled in, and we are so glad we the viewing areas to ourselves.
This is one of the best tips we came away with. Skip the visitor centre and turn instead just a kilometer south at the sign that says “Parking for Cliffs.” I linked the exact spot on our Google Map for the Cliffs of Moher, linked towards the top of this post!.
Follow the tiny, windy road up to a small house and lot. From there, make your way up the path towards the cliffs where you’ll have tons of space to enjoy them yourself.
BUT, if you are interested in seeing some of the visitor attractions, take a trip to the Cliffs of Moher visitor experience just down the road. If you have time, visit facilities including the museum, cafeteria, and gift shop.
Consider following the paved pathways that begin at the visitor centre. And don’t forget to download the free audio guide before you begin your walking tour.
The walking path actually goes down as far as Hags Head which can take 2.5 hours each way–a wonderful way to spend a day in Ireland, if you ask me.
In researching the visitor center, I learned that the board has made a concentrated effort to have the entire Cliffs of Moher experience and visitor center be an example of eco friendly and sustainable tourism which I think is so cool.
O’Brien’s Tower, just north of the visitor centre, was built in 1835 and marks the highest point on the cliffs.
We didn’t do any research about food in the area (shocking, I know). So we really lucked out when we hangrily stumbled upon Gus O’Connor’s Pub. We were frozen to the bone and immediately ordered soup and fish and chips. We definitely recommend stopping here for lunch after a morning walking the cliffs.
If your schedule allows, make the 30-minute drive over to Burren. We hiked around this area and basically had it to ourselves (not counting the herd of horses that prompted Tyler’s sudden transformation into the horse whisperer). This area, while slightly underwhelming following the Cliffs of Moher, was still very cool and fun to walk around.
If you have limited time in Ireland and would still like to prioritize a trip to the Cliffs of Moher, consider joining a tour group. There are tons of guided tours that make the trip out and back in a day from Dublin and Galway (like this one). That way, you can see the Cliffs of Moher without having to arrange your own travel to and lodging on the west side of Ireland.
And while it’s my personal preference to avoid organized tours (I’m far too introverted and authority averse), I think this is a great option.
Hopefully you’ll find these tips useful on your trip to Ireland and the Cliffs of Moher. And hopefully I can learn to start self-managing expectations.
The next time we go, I’d like to spend some time in Galway and take a ferry out to the Aran Islands.