TAKE A HIKE TO ENJOY THIS IRISH TOURIST DESTINATION WITHOUT THE CROWDS
Article by Sherry Ott
Photography by Sherry Ott
I really hate crowds and ‘over-populated’ tourist sites. This makes being a travel blogger a bit difficult at times. When my Wild Atlantic Way roadtrip itinerary took me to the uber-touristy Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, I wondered if I would really like it, or if all of the people would annoy me. They say 1.5 million people visit the Cliffs of Moher each year. Ugh.
I’m not suggesting you don’t go to the Cliffs of Moher, I simply think there are ways to better experience it where you’ll have less people to dodge and have a better overall experience.
Luckily Ireland Walk Hike Bike stepped in and saved me from a travel melt down. Instead of just going to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center area to take the same photos everyone takes and fight the crowd, they suggested I walk along the Cliffs of Moher on the Burren Way trail and see much more than what people typically see.
The best way to experience the Cliffs of Moher...hike!
Where are the Cliffs of Moher?
The Cliffs of Moher are on the Ireland’s west coast right along the Wild Atlantic Way drive in County Clare. They span an area of approximately 9 miles with the visitor center located practically in the middle.
How Tall are the Cliffs?
At their southern end, they rise to a height of 390 ft above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head, and 5 miles to the north, they reach their maximum height of 702 ft just north of O’Brien’s Tower.
They are not the tallest cliffs in Ireland though. That recognition goes to Slieve League in County Donegal at 1,955 ft. high.
I honestly have no idea because I never went in it! I was much more interested in spending my time outside taking photos and enjoying the real thing. The visitor center was built to enhance the Cliffs of Moher experience. The architecture is quite beautiful since it’s built into the landscape so that it doesn’t take away from the Cliff’s beauty.
According to my research, the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center has bathrooms, food, and exhibits. You can learn more about the geology and history of the area and it includes a special exhibit known as the Atlantic’s Edge.
Can you Visit the Cliffs of Moher for Free?
You can go see the cliffs for free if you walk there from Doolin (as explained below), however if you want to park your car in the lot (the only lot around there), then you have to pay 6 euro per person even if you are all in one car! This gets you entrance into the visitor center (and a place to park your car).
This honestly is a little confusing – much like Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland – the visitor center and parking lot cost money, but you can go see the coastline for free.
If you book your tickets online (for parking), then you do save 2 euros per person – so it’s best to do it that way. You can buy your tickets from Get Your Guide below.
Or you can book the shuttle bus that runs from Doolin to the visitor center to Liscannor throughout the day. This way you can ride the shuttle to the visitor center and walk back to Doolin if you’d like! However the shuttle also costs 6 Euro. Wah-wah…
How to View the Cliffs of Moher
Carefully! Safety first – be aware that there are often strong wind at the cliffs and people are known to lose their footing and there have been multiple deaths there. So please, please don’t get to close to the edge! I am scared of heights, so I stayed well away from the edges, but I saw people dangling feet over, laying over, etc – all to get a good picture. It’s not worth it!
You can also take in the view from O’Brien’s Tower marks the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher. The tower was built on the cliffs in 1835 by local landlord and MP Sir Cornellius O’Brien as an observation tower for the English tourists who frequented the cliffs at the time: the OG of tourism! Another version of the story tells of O’Brien building the tower in order to impress women he was courting.
You an also see the cliffs from a new perspective – by boat. I didn’t have time to do this, but if I ever go again I will because I think it would be a great way to see the cliffs in a different light.
Here are a few Cliffs of Moher boat trips that have been recommended:
And then there’s the best way to visit the Cliffs of Moher …
Doolin to Cliffs of Moher Walk
I did this hike in 2014, and it has become much more popular now. When I did it, I chose to drive out to the visitor center, park my rental car and walk the 4.5 miles back into town along the Burren Way. Then my B&B owner agreed to drive me the short distance back out to my car in the visitor parking lot to pick it back up.
However, if you want to visit the Cliffs for free, then its a bit easier to do this if you walk from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher visitor center. Then maybe you can convince your nice Irish B&B host to pick you up…or hitch a ride back into town.
The overall trail links the villages of Liscannor and Doolin via the Burren Way Trail And right in the middle of the two villages along the Burren Way is the Cliffs of Moher visitor center. The total distance is 8 miles but due to time constraints So with a little coordination, you can find yourself on a solo hike in some of the most picturesque landscapes in Ireland!
Best Time to do a Cliffs of Moher Walk
I personally prefer sunset – the daytrippers have left by then. You could do the hike from Doolin to the visitor a couple of hours before sunset and schedule a taxi to pick you up. You’ll get some great sunset pictures and have the trail to yourself.
My Cliffs of Moher Hike Experience
The visitor center area was crowded, however once I got out of that vicinity, everyone seemed to disappear and soon I found myself walking along some of the most spectacular cliff trails in my life – all alone. It was just me, some cows, the occasional rainstorms, and gusts of wind.
I kept thinking to myself – why aren’t more people on this trail? And then remembered that I actually loved this trail because there was no one on it. The trail led you right along the coastline through fields of livestock, and sea spray.
Even though I had to weather a number of storms during the walk, the best thing about a storm was it would blow through, the sun came out, and everything appeared so green and fresh it practically hurt my eyes. I’ve never seen such a vibrant green like that before, it made me want to cry tears of happiness as I took it all in.
Before I knew it the sound of the crashing waves disappeared and the sounds of Irish music started wafting through the air. The trail took me right in to the village of Doolin past the pubs – which is the perfect way to end this walk.
I was overjoyed with the Cliffs of Moher walk and found it was a great way to connect to the landscape. I walked this solo, and felt safe the whole time, however you can do it with a guide or group normally for a fee.
More Info on how you can do the Cliffs of Moher walk:
Coastal Walk Map (on your left) – The trail is well marked – no map is really necessary – just keep the coast on your left if you are heading from the Visitor center to Doolin. Or keep it on your right if you are going from Doolin to the Visitor Center!
I am a long-term traveler, blogger, and photographer with one goal in mind - to make you wish you were somewhere else.
I've been writing about my travel lifestyle and around the world adventures on Ottsworld.com and sharing it on my social media channels since 2006. In my 11 years of living nomadically I've circled the globe multiple times visiting all 7 continents.