More than seven hundred feet above the crashing Atlantic, and often shrouded in thick mist, the Cliffs of Moher have long been one of Ireland’s most captivating natural landmarks. Stretching for more than five miles along Ireland’s west coast, these sheer cliffs create a stunning backdrop, and have been used in a number of films including The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Like most attractions of such natural beauty, they are best seen up close, without crowds of other tourists. Luckily, a trail following the entire length of the cliffs gives hikers an intimate and free look at the many faces of the Cliffs of Moher.
The famous Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk hugs the cliffside for eleven miles between two small coastal villages: Doolin to the north and Liscannor to the south. Both villages are packed with small-town Irish charm and are perfect for a relaxing overnight stay after a long day of hiking the cliffs. Ireland’s national coach service Bus Éireann operates an express line from Dublin to Galway, and from there another route connects both villages with Ennis farther south. Many tourists with longer trips choose to rent a car to visit the cliffs and other breathtaking sights on the Wild Atlantic Way.
With easy road access and parking, the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center is the most common access point for drivers and bus tours, and can be very crowded. The Visitor Center offers indoor exhibits about the cliffs, a café, and a gift shop. Parking and access to the exhibits and facilities requires an admission fee, but hiking access through the Visitor Center area does not. For an additional fee, visitors can climb nearby O’Brien’s Tower, a nineteenth-century round observation tower on the cliff’s edge, for a slightly higher view of the cliffs and the Aran Islands in the distance.
The trail offers unobstructed views of the sea, the cliffs, and the surrounding rocky landscape. Walkers can choose their own pace on this moderate to difficult path, stopping to admire the cliffs without the interference of other tourists or safety barriers. For this reason, absolute care and caution should be taken at all times. Proper clothing and footwear are required, and all visitors are strongly encouraged to bring food, water, and a map when navigating the trail. Do not approach the cliff edge, as sudden wind gusts and unstable rocks can cause a fatal fall.
The Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk has entry points in both villages, the more popular being Doolin for its location nearer to the cliffs and better selection of overnight lodging. Adventurous amblers can walk the entire trail from Doolin to Liscannor in about five hours, taking the bus from Liscannor back to Doolin or on to Galway. Most novice hikers choose a shorter, easier route from Doolin to the Visitor Center and O’Brien’s Tower and back, about five miles each way.
For those with tight travel schedules, a quick tour bus stop at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center can be a convenient way to get a brief look at this natural wonder. While beautiful, the views from the Visitor Center are only of a small fraction of these cliffs with so many faces and moods. For travelers wishing to take a more intimate look at some of the most breathtaking natural scenery in the world, especially at sunset when the sheer, white cliff faces are painted in brilliant orange, red, and violet, the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk is sure to provide an unforgettable experience.