The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland: A Bucket List Destination
At the westernmost edge of Ireland, the rugged Cliffs of Moher tower almost 702 feet above sea level. Considered by many to be the absolute best place to visit in Ireland, this jagged coastline stretches for five miles along the ocean. There are surely few places in Ireland more dramatic than the striated limestone cliffs, which are constantly being lashed by the Atlantic waves and winds.
When not shrouded by thick, gray fog and sheets of rain, it’s possible to see as far west as the Aran Islands (the view from the top is one of the most iconic in the world). For many, Ireland’s unmanicured western coast is something of a dream trip — and the Cliffs of Moher are often a highlight.
Where are the Cliffs of Moher?
Any trip to Ireland should include a detour to the Cliffs of Moher, which form the western border of County Clare. They begin just north of Liscannor village, which is less than an hour’s drive from Shannon International Airport. If you’re driving the 1,554-mile scenic route, the Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll encounter the cliffs region as you work your way up Route 478.
When is the best time to visit?
Plan to visit Ireland during the end of the shoulder season (April and May) or the high summer season (June through August). If you’d like to avoid the crowds, however, plan your trip during the shoulder season: According to the Visitor Center, crowds are particularly thick during the months of July and August.
The hour of your visit can greatly impact the experience, too. Arrive early in the morning or after 4 p.m. to avoid congestion (and, if you’re lucky, catch a spectacular sunset spill across the headlands).
Surprising Facts About the Cliffs of Moher
They’ve Starred in Major Motion Pictures
Even if you haven’t spent weeks or months ogling photographs of the Cliffs of Moher, you probably still recognize this windswept lip of Ireland. That’s because the cliffs have starred in a number of blockbuster hits, like “Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince” (a forbidding place where Harry Potter and Professor Dumbledore seek a hidden Horcrux) and “The Princess Bride,” where they were known as the Cliffs of Insanity.
You Can See Plenty of Puffins Here
In May and June, visitors can see enormous numbers of Atlantic puffins, which nest on the cliff face and slopes. More than 7,000 were counted in 2011.
It’s the Second Most Popular Attraction in Ireland
Some 1.25 million people visited the Cliffs of Moher in 2016, making it one of Ireland’s most popular paid tourist attractions. It was surpassed only by the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, which recorded nearly 1.5 million visitors.
People Have Been Visiting Since the 1st Century BC
Before Moher Tower was erected, a promontory fort dating back to the 1st century BC stood on Hags Head.
Cliffs of Moher Safety Tips
Regardless of when you plan your vacation, be sure to pack a rain jacket and sturdy, weatherproof walking shoes. At best the path is paved with gravel, and welcoming weather conditions can give way quite suddenly to rain and wind.
Strong winds are often experienced on trips to the Cliffs of Moher, but visitors will be notified of particularly hazardous conditions. If you see a “Status Yellow” sign, continue on your visit with extra caution. If the site has posted a “Status Orange” or “Status Red,” it is unsafe to approach the cliff’s edge.
Typically, however, visitors are asked to remember the old Irish saying, “there is a lot of weather in a March day.” Bouts of fog and rain can quickly be replaced by clear skies and sunshine, as weather rolls quickly across this island.
Visitors with small children are encouraged to stay in the designated viewing areas, behind the waist-high walls, and on the gravel-paved pathways.
The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center
When it opened in 2007, the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience became one of the most spectacular components of Ireland’s tourism industry. But you’ll have to look closely to find it. Rather than interrupt the stunning landscape, the visitor center was designed to blend seamlessly with the bucolic hills and dramatic cliffs. Save for the main entrance, the building is almost entirely underneath the ground.
The team at the Cliffs of Moher Vistor Experience can offer information about nearby attractions, directions, and tips for having a perfect visit. Staff members recommend, for example, avoiding the peak hours (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) when crowds are especially large. Customer service staff members and designated Cliffs of Moher rangers are also available to lead guided nature walks and tours. Travelers are strongly encouraged to pre-book a tour at least one week ahead of their visit.
Upon arrival, take a self-guided tour of the Cliffs Exhibition — a mix of interactive displays and educational showcases exploring the Cliffs of Moher. Here, visitors can have a virtual reality experience on the cliff’s ledge, or create a digital postcard for family and friends back home.
The visitor center also houses the Puffins Nest Coffee Shop (perfect for grabbing a hot coffee after a brisk morning walk) and a sit-down restaurant called the Cliffs View Café. Guests can enjoy classic Irish fare, including wild Atlantic prawn salads with stout bread and Burren-smoked salmon, with views of the cliffs and Liscannor Bay.
Visitors will find there’s more than just a basic gift shop at the Cliffs of Moher visitor center. Bundle up with local knitwear on a particularly blustery day, or pick up Celtic souvenirs from O’Dalaigh Jewellers.
The visitor center opens every morning at 9 a.m., save for December 24, 25, and 26. The center may remain open as late as 9 p.m. during peak season, and close as early as 5 p.m. during the off-season. Admission costs €6 (approximately $6.50) for adults, though students and seniors can access the attraction for only €4.50 (approximately $4.90). Children under 16 are admitted at no cost.
Parking at the visitor center parking lot (located across the road) is included in the cost of your admission ticket, which can be purchased at the green booths in the parking lot or inside the center.
How to Get to Cliffs of Moher
Travelers interested in a Wild Atlantic Way road trip (or those eager to avoid organized group trips and rigid itineraries) should consider renting a car. Rental vehicles can easily be picked up from Shannon Airport or Dublin Airport. Note that car insurance provided by your credit card almost always excludes automobiles rented in Ireland. You’ll need to opt in for insurance through the rental car agency or through an independent provider. Travelers should also apply for an International Driving Permit, which can easily be obtained through AAA.
Train travel is a delightful way to see the Ireland’s countryside, and the Irish Rail network connects many of the large cities. Travelers in either Dublin or Galway, for example, can easily take a train to Ennis (a three- to four-hour one-way journey). From here, travelers can take a public bus, which makes trips to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre three times a day.
Ireland’s public bus system, Bus Éireann, is an affordable and reliable way to travel around the country. For the quickest trip, take a bus from Galway station or Ennis — though buses are also available from Shannon and Dublin. Be sure to check the timetables carefully, as service varies based on the time of year.
Day Trip Options
According to Jonathan Epstein, an expert on travel to Ireland, day trips to the Cliffs of Moher are perfectly doable.
For travelers headed from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher, expect to spend as many as four hours in a car or bus each way. Organized day tours from the capital typically include stops in Galway City, and a scenic walk along the Atlantic Ledge.
For travelers headed from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, the car or coach ride can easily be less than two hours each way. Organized day tours from Galway City may include a brief stop at the 16th-century Dunguaire Castle and Doolin, a charming village often hailed as the music capital of Ireland.
Cruises and Ferries
For an atypical experience, take a ferry or boat to the Cliffs of Moher. The Doolin Ferry departs from Doolin Pier three times a day from March until October. (This is a seasonal option, and not available to travelers visiting the Cliffs of Moher in the off season.) Round-trip cruises from Doolin typically take one-hour.
Best Cliffs of Moher Tour Companies
Luxury travelers seeking a highly customized experience should reach out to Epstein, at Celebrated Experiences, when planning a trip to Ireland to see the Cliffs of Moher. You might even find yourself playing a round of golf at one of the country’s most exclusive golf courses.
Wild Rover Tours
Adventurous travelers interested in Cliffs of Moher day tours should book a trip with the local tour operator, Wild Rover Tours. Their tour guides specialize in bringing to life the history and lore of the region.
Gray & Co.
Famed for making completely custom biking itineraries around the globe, Cari Gray’s company can offer a brilliant bike tour of Western Ireland’s coastal roads, including the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.
Popular Ireland Vacation Itineraries
It’s quite common to include a visit to the Cliffs of Moher in a week-long Ireland trip. Most travelers begin in Dublin and work their way southwest toward the Shannon Region. This route typically includes stops in Kilkenny, Waterford, Cork, and Kerry.
If you can extend your Ireland vacation to at least two weeks, visit the Cliffs of Moher while driving along the Wild Atlantic Way. “This coastal route is an incredible way to experience Ireland,” Epstein told Travel + Leisure. While covering all 1,553 miles may be too much for visitors who want to linger at the cliffs and other points of interest, many of Epstein’s clients tackle the route in parts. Consider driving from Cork to Shannon, from Shannon to Galway, or from Galway to Donegal, with a stop in Mayo.
For travelers with nothing but time, it’s possible to do a complete loop around Ireland in about 17 days. But Epstein notes that this should be considered the absolute minimum for such an itinerary. Otherwise, circling the island may feel more like a race than a vacation.
Top Points of Interest Near Cliffs of Moher
You might feel like you’re at the end of the world while staring over the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, but the cliffs are actually centrally located in Western Ireland. From here, travelers can easily access a number of top Ireland hotels, restaurants, cities, and points of interest. Whether you’re venturing to the cliffs on an epic, multi-week road trip or visiting for a day, it’s easy to see a handful of nearby attractions on your trip.
Music lovers will love retreating to one of Doolin’s energetic pubs after a day exploring the Cliffs of Moher. After all, this village is celebrated as one of the country’s Celtic music capitals.
Often dubbed the most Irish city in all of Ireland – and the friendliest on Earth — Galway is a charming, colorful city with brick-lined streets and phenomenal culinary scene. It’s also the midpoint of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Live out your fairy-tale dreams in the former home of Ireland’s only High King, Brian Boru. Antique chandeliers, rich brocades and tartan fabrics, and marble baths add to the upscale feel of this 16th-century hotel.
This family-owned and operated country house hotel has one of the best restaurants in Ireland. Wake up to pancakes with organic apple syrup and poached eggs on house-baked bread.
For a fuss-free country house stay, check into Moy House, which sits on a 15-acre stretch of land right alongside the Atlantic. It’s just a 20-minute drive from the Cliffs of Moher.
Wild Honey Inn
Expect modern, bistro-style fare at this relaxed, no-frills inn. Opt for the smoked salmon and a glass of Irish whiskey.
Moran’s Oyster Cottage
Travelers ending their day in Galway should dine at this cozy restaurant in nearby Kilcolgan. Order at least a dozen and dine outside on a warm evening.
You can easily spend a day exploring Bunratty Castle and the adjacent 19th-century village, Folk Park — and the kids will stay entertained for hours.
Lahinch Surf School
If you prefer staring up at the cliffs rather than down from above, take a surf lesson at this nearby beach hut. The massive swells that curl and crash around the base of the cliffs have made Lahinch a legendary big-wave surf spot.
Burren National Park
Named for the Irish word boíreann, which means “rocky place,” this 3,700-acre national park is a 40-minute drive from the cliffs. Seven walking trails of varied difficulty crisscross the unusual limestone terrain.
Instead of admiring the trio of islands from the edge of the cliffs, take a ferry from Doolin to see them in person. On Inis Mor, tourists can visit the prehistoric Dun Aonghasa fort.