Being a blogger and amateur photographer, sometimes people treat you differently and you are given access to things the average person might not get a chance to experience. The Republic of Ireland decided to allow my wife and I access to the most visited attraction free of charge and without any other visitors around to disrupt our visit. To say that we were treated like VIPs at the Cliffs of Moher is an understatement.
I’ll share with you, at the end of this blog, the secret to having this natural wonder to yourself and receiving VIP celebrity treatment while visiting the busiest natural feature in all of Ireland.
Beginning at the beginning.
We landed at Shannon airport at about 530am on a Sunday morning to begin our two week adventure in Ireland. Without planning it ahead of time, the early arrival worked out perfectly, as it gave me time to learn how to drive on the left side of the road, whilst sitting on the right side of the car, as the stick shift was on my left. My head, feet, and hands all needed to get on the same page before I took on the roads. Thank goodness those roads were empty. We headed north from the airport and went straight to the Cliffs of Moher.
Found in the Burren region of County Clare, the Cliffs of Moher (in Irish: Aillte an Mhothair) are the most visited natural attraction in all of Ireland. This five-mile stretch of rugged coastline is part of the famous Wild Atlantic Way tourism trail, which covers nine counties along Ireland’s west coast. The cliffs reach their highest point, 702 feet/214 meters, just north of the visitor’s center and O’Brien’s Tower.
2014 was the first year in which over one million visitors came to see the cliffs, so we were expecting a crowded mess, but what we were treated to was almost three hours of uninterrupted sightseeing and picture taking by ourselves. Just us and the cliffs. It was so special and so amazing that I almost considered proposing to me wife then and there. Fortunately, I kept to the plan and proposed later on during our trip (you can read about it here)…and she said yes.
You may notice throughout this blog that most of the images are not mine. In fact, the images that I took the day we visited will never be seen. Travelling is full of high and low points, and I went from the high of having this natural wonder to ourselves to the lowest of lows when I realized that I had erased the memory card on which I had taken all my pictures on. I have nobody to blame but myself and the fact that I never changed the time and date in my camera. It was a life lesson I will never forget. The only thing that prevented me from dwelling on this lost opportunity was the fact that we had two weeks left to explore Ireland and that I lived in the moment while we were visiting the Cliffs of Moher. The lack of pictures just makes me want to go back and relive the experience again (only this time I will keep the pictures I take).
Please enjoy Emily’s pictures as I wipe my tears away thinking about the lost pictures.
The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience is beautifully designed and extremely thorough in educating the general public about the cliffs, the region, and the island. Seemingly built into the side of a hill, the visitor center is thoughtfully tucked away and does not distract or take away from the natural beauty of the area. I believe it was about six euros to go inside, but that cost includes parking as well.
There is a simple, but lengthy coastal walk which spans from Liscannor to the south up to Doolin in the north with the visitor center situated closer to Doolin. To trail from the visitor center to Liscannor is 20 km, while the center to Doolin is 8 km. If you just want to stroll from the visitor’s center south to Hag’s Head and back, you need to give yourself two to three hours and make sure you are prepared for great weather, as well as the worst thing you can imagine.
O’Brien’s Tower dominates the horizon when you are near the visitor center and is used as an observation tower. The tower sits right up against the cliff and there is an extra charge to walk up the spiral staircase and look at the world around you from the top of the round tower. The story goes that Sir Cornelius O’Brien built the tower in 1835 thinking that tourism would revive the area. Apparently, there used to be two round towers connected, but only one remains.
As promised earlier, I would now like to share with you the secret of how to have the Cliffs of Moher to yourself, but you must promise not to tell anybody else.
Go early. That’s the secret.
When we arrived around before 7am, we found nobody around. No employees, no tourists, not another living soul. The parking lot was empty, there were no gates to keep people out. The visitor center did not open until 9am, so we walked around the cliffs, along the scenic trail until after 9am. Once we had our fill of the cliffs, we then bought a ticket to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience and learned more about the history and geology that made the cliffs what they are today.