As someone passionate about the hidden gems of my country of Ireland, I would rarely advise to visit the typical sites you would find in the brochures of your local travel agency. However, there a some gems that are just as beautiful as they are popular, and on the west coast of Ireland overlooking the Atlantic Ocean are one such collection of precious gemstones: The Cliffs Of Moher.
Standing over 200 metres high and stretching for almost 10 miles, ‘The Cliffs’ are the last point on Ireland’s West Coast in County Clare, attracting thousands of visitors everyday to gaze and stare at the natural art of the cliff-sides, with the air and sea as the painters. The wind that blasts you as you walk the clifftops are just as life-affirming as the sea water splash back as you see the cliffs from the ground level, and it's the sea perspective that I would recommend as a good start.
With most people heading to the top, the view from the sea is a true treat that is missed by many. Doolin, a harbor town close by, has multiple ferry tours daily that will take you right up to the base of the cliffs. The tiny dots you see poking from the clifftop do not resemble the photo-taking families that they represent, as the distance from top to bottom gives you an intimidating perspective of just how gigantic the cliffs rise to.
The cliffs are rough and rigid as if they are carved out of the earth with a chisel, and as that side comes closer, so does the haunting sounds of the birdsong from the circling Guillemots and Razorbills that flock and circle the base of the cliffs. You miss the sound and sight from the top, so this is the sailor's treat. On returning to shore, a quick lunch at Gus O’Connor’s pub on Fisher Street is what the doctor ordered, as we sit and contemplate the cliffs over stew and Guinness before making our way back to the cliffside.
The cliff walk itself has various incarnations, with 3 main platforms connecting the routes. My recommended route takes us from Doolin Pier up to the Doonagore Castle, a 16th century tower house built from sandstone. We use this as our first landmark on the way to the highest point of the cliffs, as the castle passes on the left
The gradual climb up allows time to soak in the air as we use O’Briens Tower as our eventual landing point. As the eyes are locked to the far edges of the range, it’s hard to not feel like you’re walking on the world’s highest point, as the ferries below look like pebbles in the ocean. The highest point of the walk will stand us over 700 feet in the air, with views of the famous Dingle Peninsula to the south, and the islands of Arran across to the west. From here, we head to the tower.
Rather fantastically, the tower isn’t as old as it looks, with the viewing point being purposely built for tourists in the mid 1800’s. The spiral staircase leads us up to the viewing point where the cliffs edge out from the land beautifully in the distance. From here, the view finally puts a nails on what makes this range so enchanting, which is the cliffs don’t seem to come to a natural end. As each part extends from the land, it’s almost as if the cliffs just disappear into the distance, the eyes unsure on when the range stops. A truly wonderful treat for the eyes and mind.
The route should take around 2/3 hours, and on completion at the Visitors Centre where stories are shared and gifts are bought, those mementos should be taken south to one of two harbour towns. Liscannor is a coastal town close to where the cliffs end at Liscannor Bay and is a perfect place to rest after the walk, with numerous pubs and restaurants to choose from, with John McHughs being the top pick. For those with a little more energy, Lahinch is the liveliest town in the area and would be host to live music all through the year. Start at Kenny’s Bar for the trad music and ‘Craic’.
If you can stay here the night, my advice is to do so. There’s a real special feel around the west of County Clare, and the chances of you meeting people that have the done the same as you today are extremely likely, and the locals are grateful and welcoming, so feel free to share your photos and stories of the magic of The Cliffs of Moher with them.
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