If you’ve at any point you looked into traveling to Ireland, you’re probably familiar with, or have at least heard of, the Cliffs of Moher. One of Ireland’s most iconic attractions due to their breathtaking beauty. Despite its popularity, The Cliffs of Moher is not a tourist trap; we promise that if you are ever blessed enough to see them for yourself, you will be in a state of absolute wonder and awe for the duration of your visit.
This guide to the Cliffs of Moher will give insight into not just its location, but all that the beautiful region has to offer – from daytime activities to charming villages and landmarks, and even a story or two straight out of ancient Irish folklore.
The Ultimate Cliffs of Moher Guide
General Info about the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher is on the western coast of the Republic of Ireland, about an hour and a half west of Limerick and only moments from the town of Doolin. If you are coming from Galway City, the Cliffs lie 90 minutes south. It’s also only 3.5 hours away from Ireland’s capital, making it a great day trip from Dublin.
The land stretches for five miles of rugged coastline, featuring steep drops and crashing waves, with beautiful unobstructed views of the skyline. The highest point of the cliffs – over 700 feet tall – proudly houses an observatory tower first constructed in 1835. Due to the rugged and largely unspoiled natural beauty in the region, for which Ireland is famous, this is the country’s most visited attraction, seeing nearly one and a half million travelers every year. Because of this, capacity is sometimes an issue, and visitors are encouraged to avoid the peak visiting times (more on this below).
What is the History of the Cliffs of Moher?
The cliffs are in the County Clare, a region of Ireland that is also very close to the area known as The Burren. Some 300 million years ago, the Ice Age melted and left curious rock formations in this region. The rocks that comprise the cliffs formed when torrential rain washed mud and silt out to sea, eventually compiling layer on top of layer, into a solid foundation.
Since the cliffs are a site of archeological, historical, and environmental importance, it is a registered UNESCO Heritage Site, and efforts are underway to protect it from the erosion occurring due to the crashing waves below. The waves eating away at the cliff base is reducing their size, rendering them incapable of holding the upper cliff weight. As a result, sections of the high cliff are collapsing into the sea below. As with many facets of our natural world, we may live to see their end, so experiencing as much as we can in our life is essential.
How Much Does the Cliffs of Moher Cost?
Admission pricing varies depending on the method of booking (it’s cheaper – nearly half price – to book in advance online), but even if you pay at the gate upon arrival, you’re still only looking at around €8, a small charge compared to the views (and photos) you’ll get once you’re through the gates. There are different levels of pricing for peak and off-peak times, and children under 16 gain free admission. There is also a student and senior discount.
The price of admission also covers entry to all the public areas of the visitor building, all outdoor areas, and same-day, all-day vehicle parking. Given how expensive parking can be, particularly for an all-day affair, this is a competitive deal and a great example of value for money.
It’s worth noting that walking in nature around the Cliffs of Moher is free, but you will have to pay to park your car somewhere unless you walk. To use any of the facilities, like a toilet or see the visitors center you must have a ticket. Whatever you have to pay to see the Cliffs of Moher is well worth it though, they are easily among the best places to see in Ireland.
How to Travel to The Cliffs of Moher?
When you are looking at the location for the Cliffs of Moher on a map, it seems like the closest landmarks, cities, or villages are hours and hours away by car. But what you have to remember is that Ireland is relatively small, making it very driveable from many cities. Even a car journey from Dublin – located on the complete opposite coast from the Cliffs – would take you only three and a half hours and it’s a popular day trip activity
Even if you are staying somewhere that on a map doesn’t seem to be very close, you are probably not looking at a very long drive, especially if you are prepared to make a day trip out of it, rendering a one to two-hour drive entirely reasonable. We stayed outside the town of Kinvara, a lovely quiet Irish countryside village that I highly recommend visiting.
Highway R478 runs right alongside the national park and loops back to connect with roads that in turn lead to many major cities. If you’re coming from Limerick (a popular choice of city in which to stay for visiting the Cliffs), you’ll want to get onto the N18 and follow it even once it becomes the M18. Then turn left on the N85 and follow this road until you arrive in Lahinch, at which point you are only minutes away, and signage will be much more numerous. Regardless of where you are coming from, these are the highways you will want to keep an eye out for, as they will eventually connect you with the towns and villages surrounding the Cliffs.
How to Get to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin
The Cliffs of Moher are around 270 kilometers from Dublin. As mentioned above, it only takes about three hours by car to get there as Ireland roadways are modern and efficient.
There are two main ways to get to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin, and that’s via rental car or to take a day tour to the Cliffs of Moher. We have rented a car on our past two visits to Ireland. Having a rental car gives us the freedom to go where we want when we want, and it was great to have on our day to the Cliffs of Moher so we could explore afterward.
The other popular option is to hop on a day tour, and if you are a nervous driver, it’s the preferred method. Hoping on a day tour makes it an easy and carefree day to the Cliffs of Moher. It’s easy, someone else handles driving the Irish roads, and you get a fair amount of time at the cliffs. A day tour typically leaves Dublin at 7 am, and returns around 7 pm and you will be sitting on the bus for at least 6-7 hours.
The least popular option is to take public transport to the Cliffs of Moher, though this will take more planning as there are no direct routes from Dublin. There are direct bus connections from Galway Bus station though on Bus Eireann. If you are coming from Dublin, you can make connections in Shannon or Cork as well. Stay up to date with bus times here.
Essential Tips to Know for Visiting the Cliffs of Moher
Facilities at the Cliffs of Moher
Facilities nearby aren’t just limited to washrooms. If you’re more of a bring-your-own-food kind of traveler, there are outdoor and indoor seating areas with benches and tables. But if you’re relying on your wallet to get you through your hunger, the Puffin’s Nest Café (named for the puffin birds native to the area) has sandwiches, drinks, and pastries – a bit more of a quick stopover. Sometimes you want somewhere a little more established to sit for a while (we’ve all been there); you can find this at the Cliff’s View Cafe. This is an authentic taste of the Irish coast, boasting dishes using ingredients sourced locally, with seasonally-available produce.
Other facilities that are on offer that you may not have thought of include a baggage storage service, first aid center, coin-operated telescopes, ATM, and even wheelchairs should you, or a friend requires one. There’s also a colorful array of gift and souvenir shops, selling everything from Cliffs of Moher branded merchandise to traditional Irish products like hand-knit wool sweaters, Gaelic music, and traditional Irish jewelry (ask about the history and contemporary significance of the Irish Claddagh ring).
Cliffs of Moher Weather & Terrain
Since the Cliffs of Moher are, unsurprisingly, outdoors, it’s advisable to be prepared for a few different Cliffs of Moher weather scenarios, particularly somewhere like Ireland, where sudden onsets of nasty weather are commonplace and often unpredictable. Plus, since these clifftops are high in elevation, the wind is usually strong enough to push you backward! A packable rain jacket and a warm sweater is a good idea, forget the umbrella it will get shredded in the wind.
The paths that follow along the cliffs can be muddy, especially after rainfall, so even though you don’t need to shell out for the latest model of an intense, all-weather, all-terrain hiking boot, an outdoor \ walking shoe is recommended. Boots will help give you some grip and traction on the grassy dirt trails.
Be warned: some of these trails have no guard rails and visitors are advised to venture along some trails at their discretion. If you are afraid of heights, this may be a good time to sit back, and people watch. In case you are wondering, people do die every year at the Cliffs of Moher, and someone I know lost her passport as it flew out of her hands and into the ocean. Watch your footing.
Good to Know for the Cliffs of Moher
The cliffs can become crowded between 11 am and 4 pm, especially in the summer months. To avoid the crowds, try to get there in the early morning or late afternoon. I would recommend allocating between 2-3 hours at the Cliffs of Moher, especially if it’s a nice day. It’s a site best not rushed!
Popular Folklore around the Cliffs of Moher
There are perhaps no other countries in the world with an affinity for folklore as big as Ireland’s. With a past steeped in stories of faeries, giants, trolls, and dragons, the Irish have long been some of the world’s most enchanting storytellers. The region of the Cliffs is home to a few very notable tales, which you will undoubtedly hear about from any locals nearby.
There is some evidence that J.R.R. Tolkien – the author behind the iconic Lord of the Rings novels – gained some of his early inspiration for the landscape of Middle Earth from this part of Ireland, and that his character Gollum’s name comes from a nearby cave. Whether or not these rumors are true, they have given rise to an annual Tolkien festival for fans of the trilogy.
The Lost Underwater City of Kilstiffen
Kilstiffen is a popular local legend for anyone visiting the cliffs. Legend has it that there was once a great city that sank beneath the waves when its king lost the golden key that opened its gates. The city will only rise when its golden key is found, but this legend has spurred further conjecture about where the key could be hiding. Some say it is tucked away at the bottom of a lake atop a mountain, while others believe it is less out of reach.
Regardless of its location, the city is said to rise every seven years, though bearing witness to its temporary rise is a curse, with the viewer being destined to perish before the city’s next appearance in seven years. Many have claimed to see the city gleaming beneath the sea when waters are calm—but hopefully, they have all lived to tell the tale.
We all love a good mermaid legend. According to the tale (tail?), a local fisherman was out for his daily catch when he came upon a mermaid perched on some rocks. He engaged her in conversation, and when the opportunity presented itself, he made a grab for her magical cloak and hid it on land – the cloak without which she could not return to the sea, thereby trapping her ashore.
He promised to return the cloak if she agreed to marry him, which she did, but despite bearing him two children, he never returned her cloak. She managed to find it herself, hidden away, while her husband was out at sea one day. Without looking back, she returned to her home in the sea and never saw her husband or children again. She occasionally appears along the rocky shores that line the cliffs, and you may be lucky enough to spot her.
What to See Around the Cliffs of Moher
The County Claire is a region of Ireland with close and proud ties to its cultural roots; as a result, there’s a ton to do and experience in the region. Even if you’re not staying in the immediate area, drive times are generally short enough that you can do the Cliffs one day, and come back to the area another day to partake in other activities outside the cliff area.
Doolin Cave is a guaranteed adventure; descend into an ancient cave to see the largest free-hanging stalactite in Europe. Though the descent can be long, the stalactite is impressive and worth a visit. There is also a visitor’s center on site describing the cave’s discovery in 1925 (which required an arduous and extremely dangerous army crawl to reach the inner cavern.
One thing of which Ireland has no shortage are castle ruins. It would be a shame to come to this beautiful country and not see one of the sights for which the land is well-known. There are tons to choose from, but if you’re going for proximity, then the St Kilmacrehy Church is a solid choice, located only ten minutes’ drive away from the Cliffs. A beautiful ruined parish church which still features a mostly-intact graveyard, the nearby shoreline was also the site of Spanish Armada shipwrecks.
There are many other ways to immerse yourself in the local culture: take a boat cruise along the cliffs’ coastline and view the majestic features from a different angle (they are just as impressive, if not more so, looking up at them from the sea). If you’re lucky, you might even spot dolphins or the basking sharks that inhabit these waters. The area is also well known for its beautiful coastal golf courses (you can’t get a putting view like this anywhere else in the world), so if you’re a hobby golfer, this is an excellent time to get some practice in.
There are even day-activities like cooking, music, pottery, or ancestry-tracing that you can do to fully feel like you are part of the culture and become familiar with all Ireland has to offer. If you’re more of a village-wanderer and prefer meandering through towns and exploring the local vibe (pubs, shops, and bakeries), nearby Lahinch is a quaint little seaside town with beautiful, sandy beaches dotted with brightly painted heritage buildings and an impressive amount of shops to explore for a town so small. Another option is visiting Clifden only 2.5 hours away and close to Connemara National Park.
Where to Stay Near Cliffs of Moher?
West Haven House
The West Haven House is one of the best rated places to stay near the Cliffs of Moher. It’s a beautiful, clean, and comfortable proper Irish B&B run by local hosts.
Island View Lodge
Another fantastic Cliffs of Moher accommodation. This is an entire apartment a 20-minute walk from Cliffs of Moher and just 8 km from Doolin Cave. If you want to avoid the traffic jams and craziness that the Cliffs of Moher experience in the summer this is your place!
Doolin View B&B
Doolin View guesthouse is another one of the best places to stay near Cliffs of Moher provides stunning views over Doolin village. It’s also only a 10 minute walk to all the wonderful Irish pubs!
Quick Ireland Tips
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Gaelic: “Dia dhuit” and “Go raibh maith agat”
- Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
- Visa: The Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland are separate countries on the island of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland known as ‘Ireland’ grants 90-day visas. Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom also grants 90 days.
- Weather: Expect lots of weather! Ireland is known for having rapid shifts in and lots of rain – it’s only the only reason a country like Ireland remains so green and fertile. See our full packing list here.
- When is the best time to visit Galway? Ireland is a fantastic country to visit year round. Though you’ll find crowds during the summer. My favorite time to visit Ireland is in September when the weather is cool and the crowds are low. Plus it’s when the famous Galway Oyster Festival happens!