Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
The Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s top visitor attractions, stand unyielding against the crashing waves of the Atlantic—rising from 394 feet at Hag’s Head to 702 feet at their highest just north of O’Brien’s Tower, the cliffs dominate the Clare coast for nearly five miles. From the cliffs, a contender for a place in the “New Seven Wonders”, one can see Galway Bay, the Aran Islands, The Twelve Pins, and the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara—assuming the rarity of a clear day of course.
The remote cliffs and slopes harbor many species of wildflowers and provide breeding grounds for a wide variety of sea birds—visitors to the cliffs are likely to go away impressed by the landscape, but unaware of the wider significance of Moher as a natural habitat. Hikers will surely appreciate the raw forces of nature that are at work in this amazing place—even just a short trek on the Cliff Walk offers ample opportunities to admire the flora and fauna of the magnificent Cliffs of Moher.
To begin your exploration of the cliffs, head straight past the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre to the newly built steps that curve upwards towards the cliff-top—the walk to the top is only 200 yards. At the top of the steps, you can turn left and head south towards Hag’s Head or bear right to hike along the wall made from slabs of Liscannor slate, some intricately designed with patterns made millions of years ago by sea creatures when the slate was still mud on the floor of the sea, to O’Brien’s Tower. The tower, built in 1835, is perched on a promontory close to the highest point of the cliffs—spectacular coastal views overlooking the offshore stacks of Goat Island, Branaunmore, and the great wall of Aillenasharragh and Carrickatrial to the north are your reward for braving the wind and, believe it or not, sea spray that whips up from the ocean 700 feet below. We can attest to the power of the wind, which was so strong at points that it literally almost blew us over—Pick even managed to pull off a remarkable impersonation of the Heat Miser, a character from the children’s Christmas special The Year Without a Santa Claus (See photo gallery for visual proof).
After admiring the views from the grounds around O’Brien’s Tower, no need to pay to climb to the top as the views are equivalent, we retraced our steps back down the steps to the T-intersection—now continuing in the opposite direction towards Hag’s Head at this point.
As you hike, glance over your shoulder towards the north for incredible views of O’Brien Tower’s promontory, the large offshore sea stack known as Branaunmore, and the sandstone platform that hangs eerily from the side of the cliff—the overhanging slab, no longer accessible during open hours without a guide, soars 200 meters above the boulder beach below. Continuing south on the path, you reach Mothar a Thairbh (the Cliff of the Bull) and eventually the Signal Tower at Hag’s Head—all along the route there are excellent opportunities for bird watching. The Cliffs of Moher host one of the major colonies of nesting seabirds in Ireland with over 20 species of nesting birds, including 9 species of breeding seabirds and up to 30,000 breeding pairs—look for fulmar, storm petrels, gannet, kittiwake, razorbill, gulls, and puffins from March to August. Hike as far as you like along this path and when you are ready, retrace your steps back to the car park—mileage varies depending on your turnaround point.