The Cliffs of Moher were one of the things that we were most looking forward to on our trip to Ireland. This is wild, rugged, awesome Irish coastline. We couldn’t wait to see these views, hike along the cliffy tops, and enjoy one of Ireland’s most famous landmarks.
So, you can imagine our disappointment when we learned that rain was in the forecast. Not just showers, but a lot of steady, unrelenting rain.
We walked the Cliffs of Moher, breaking up our visit over two days, to see as much as we could while staying as dry as possible. And here is our story.
The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are located on the west coast of Ireland, in the County Clare. Towering over the Atlantic Ocean, these cliffs reach a maximum height of 214 meters.
The Cliffs of Moher stretch 14 km from north to south, starting at Doolin in the north and ending at Hags Head in the south. There is a well-marked hiking trail along the entire stretch of coastline.
The Visitor Center, located at the midpoint, is also at the highest point of the Cliffs. Over one million people every year visit the Cliffs of Moher, making this one of Ireland’s most popular attractions.
Not only are the Cliffs famous for their beauty but they have also been featured in several very popular movies, including The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
How To Visit the Cliffs of Moher
The Visitor Center. This is the easiest and fastest way to see some of the best views. The Visitor Center is located near the highest point of the Cliffs so you do not have to walk far for stunning views. From the Visitor Center, you can take as much time as you like to walk part (or all) of the trail to either Doolin or Hags Head. You can also climb O’Brien’s Tower while you are here. It costs €6 per person to enter the Visitor Center and an additional €2 to climb O’Brien’s Tower.
Walking the Cliffs of Moher. There are numerous ways to walk part or all of the trail along the Cliffs. Many people start in Doolin, walk the 8 km to the Visitor Center, and then take the shuttle back to Doolin. Another option is to start in Hags Head, walk the 6 km to the Visitor Center, and take the shuttle back to your car. Or, you could walk the entire 14 km along the Cliffs.
We recommend walking at least a small portion of the Cliffs. Most people congregate at the area around the Visitor Center. From the Visitor Center, walk north or south on the trail, leave most of these people behind, and get a feel for wild, rugged Ireland.
So, how do you choose which portion of the trail to walk? Keep reading!
We arrived in Doolin late in the afternoon on a rainy day. For one night we stayed in town, using this as our home base to walk the Cliffs of Moher. Rain was in the forecast for the next 24 hours. It was a huge disappointment. And we only had today and tomorrow, since our travel plans had us arriving in Limerick tomorrow night.
After checking into our hostel (the Doolin Hostel), the rain stopped. It was 7:30 pm. Could we take this opportunity to go see the Cliffs of Moher, at least while it was not raining?
Tyler and Kara, exhausted from days of driving and sightseeing, decided to stay in the hostel. Tim and I figured we would just run out and take some pictures of the Cliffs, not planning to be gone for very long.
Cliffs of Moher from Doolin
Since it was late in the day and very wet, Tim and I had the trail all to ourselves. Even though it was not the most pleasant weather, it still turned out to be an awesome experience. The Cliffs of Moher are gorgeous, peaceful, and feel remote, even within walking distance of Doolin.
We felt like two kids again, on an adventure, off exploring. Around every bend was a new view. We kept going and going, even though big, thick, gray rain clouds were slowly moving in. It was going to be a very wet walk back to Doolin, but Tim and I wanted to enjoy this as long as possible.
We walked most of the way to the Visitor Center, but didn’t quite make it. Not only did it start raining but the sun was setting. Tim and I hurried back to Doolin, surprised by how much distance we had covered during our explorations. By the time we got back to Tyler and Kara, it was dark and we were soaked. But it was a magical experience.
Here is our journey from Doolin in photos
At the start of the trail
First view of the Cliffs of Moher
The trail from Doolin
Looking back towards Doolin
Off in the distance, the cliffs are getting higher (and it’s now raining!)
From here, the trail climbs up the cliffs
Cliffs of Moher Part 2
Our original plan was to walk the entire trail in one day. Now that Tim and I walked the northern portion, we were halfway finished.
We awoke to fog and rain. Terrible, depressing weather in which to visit the Cliffs of Moher. Conditions were not expected to change much during the day. Yikes!
Well, things only got worse as we drove to the Visitor Center. It was 9 am. Visibility was literally less than 5 feet. Even though it was daytime, we needed headlights because it was so dark from the rainclouds and fog. The lady at the ticket booth advised us to come back tomorrow. Currently, there was nothing to see from the Visitor Center except a thick blanket of fog.
Hoping for the best, we drove south towards Liscannor. Maybe conditions would be a little better here.
Cliffs of Moher from Hags Head
As we arrived in Mullaghroe North, the weather conditions improved. It stopped raining and the fog lifted, at least here, since we were now at a lower elevation.
It can be a little tricky to find parking to access the southern portion of the Cliff walk. Most roads are unnamed here. From the Visitor Center, drive south on R478 to St Bridget’s Well, and then follow signs to the Cliffs of Moher parking. If you continue up the road, there is a family that runs a car park from their yard. For a few euros, park here for the closest access to the Cliff trail. But get here early, spots are limited.
With brighter weather conditions, our moods improved. Our first views of the coastline from here were amazing. Immediately, it was much more impressive than the walk from Doolin. The Cliffs at Hags Head are higher and much more dramatic than the northern portion of the Cliffs of Moher.
We shared this walk with just a few other people. This is one of the few advantages of a rainy day: hiking trails are almost completely deserted.
The walk from Hags Head towards the Visitor Center was fabulous!! We were so thankful for our good fortune that the weather was cooperating, at least for a little bit.
As we approached the Visitor Center, the trail became more crowded. Once the fog and rain moved in again, we turned around and walked back to our car.
So, we did not walk the mid-portion of the Cliffs trail or visit the Visitor Center, due to the weather conditions. Even so, it was an awesome experience.
Here is our journey from Hags Head in photos
Make sure you park only in designated parking areas. The trail from Hags Head starts in a residential area.
Tyler and Kara, in good spirits, at the start of our walk.
Our first (of many) stunning views
This is what it looks like when the rain and fog move in
Here is how we recommend hiking the entire Cliff Trail. Stay in Doolin. In the morning, take the shuttle from Doolin to the Liscannor Walk Car Park. Walk the entire trail, from Hags Head to Doolin. Allow five hours for the entire walk. At the Visitor Center, you can stop for food or to use the bathrooms.
If you only have time to walk a portion of the trail, we recommend the southern portion. The scenery was more dramatic than on the walk from Doolin to the Visitor Center.
With limited time, start at the Visitor Center and walk a small portion of the trail.
Cliffs of Moher Shuttle Bus. There is a shuttle service connecting Doolin, Hags Head, and the Visitor Center. For those who want to walk point-to-point on the trail, definitely use this service. For information on the schedule and fees, visit the Cliffs of Moher Shuttle Bus Service website.
Cliffs of Moher with Kids
There is an element of danger when visiting the Cliffs of Moher. The trails follow the edge of the cliff. As long as you stay on the trail, there are no safety concerns. But in some sections, the trail is within feet of the edge of the cliff, making this a dangerous place for young kids that may wander off of the trail. For this reason, the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center recommends that only children over the age of 12 walk the Cliff Trail.
During our visit, Tyler was 13 and Kara was 11. They have lots of experience hiking and are well aware of the dangers of approaching the edge of the cliffs. For kids with hiking experience, 10 years old is a reasonable age to hike the Cliff Trail.
If you are visiting the Cliffs and have young children, start at the Visitors Center for the best views and consider walking a small portion of the trail.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Doolin Hostel in Doolin. This place is fantastic. It is one of the best hostels we stayed in, ever. The Doolin Hostel is clean, quiet, and located within walking distance of the Cliff Trail. They can offer lots of assistance in planning your Cliffs of Moher visit. Doolin is also a great place to stay if you are planning on visiting the Aran Islands.
Post updated June 2017.
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