Feb 282015
Ireland's famous Cliffs of Moher!

Ireland’s famous Cliffs of Moher.

Wowza, are the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland ever stunning! That said, we had some major drama while visiting. Read on to avoid our mistakes so that you can savor your visit.

O'Brien's Tower: The famous castle on the cliffs.

O’Brien’s Tower: The famous castle on the cliffs.

At 10am, we were speeding along the Wild Atlantic Way towards the cliffs, when we heard an odd sound from the back seat. “Bluuuuurg! Blurg-blurg-blurg!” I whipped around in my seat to observe the baby vomiting all over himself and the car.

Sun-drenched cliffs.

Sun-drenched cliffs.

“Find the parking lot!” I yelled to Colin as we approached the cliffs.

This brings us to Tip #1: The Cliffs of Moher parking lot is across the road from the Visitors’ Center, and the Center itself is hidden inside a hill! It took us fifteen minutes to figure this out. Now, most adults who can read signs could have solved this quandary in a minute, but I blame the vomit fumes for our bumbling.

The view from the top of the tower.

The cliff view from the top of O’Brien Tower.

Once we were parked, we stepped out of the car to towel off the baby. Right then, it started to hail.

Thus, Tip #2: Be prepared for wild weather mood swings. As you can see from the glorious sun in most of these photos, the hail didn’t last long.

Looking away from the cliffs, we could see rain streaks in the distance.

Looking away from the cliffs, we could see rain streaks in the distance.

We used a full pack of baby wipes to clean Devi and the car as best we could (note to self: always keep paper towels handy during a road trip), and headed into the Visitors’ Center.

Tip #3: The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience is AWESOME! Similar to the gorgeous El Yunque Visitors’ Center in Puerto Rico, every effort was made to integrate the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience into the natural landscape and to keep it “green.” Plus, the center opened in 2007, so it’s shiny and new.

Isn't it great how the stair railing mirrors the cliffs?

Isn’t it genius how the stair railing mirrors the cliffs?

Nestled into a hill, but sun-lit with cliff views from arched windows, the Visitor Experience is chock-full of exhibits, gifts, food, and even a movie. This movie consists of swooping views of the cliffs from a bird flying high above, and underwater simulations of the sea-life below. Upon watching this flick, Devi recovered from his tummy trouble and declared: “WOOW!”

Inside the excellent Cliffs of Moher exhibit center.

Inside the excellent Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience.

Hungry? Let’s move to Tip #4: The food in the Visitors’ Center is good. This is an important fact, because we weren’t sure how the restaurant would be, and thus almost left to seek out other munchies. I’m glad we stayed, however, because there was an assortment of yummy treats in the upstairs restaurant, and I enjoyed eating while gazing out the wide windows at the cliffs. Devi ate a shocking amount of veggie pizza for a little man who had just vomited, and busied himself with a car that he’d found in the bathroom where we’d changed his nasty clothes. We now call that toy the Vomit Car. (If the family who lost that car is reading this, thank you for helping make our baby feel better!)

You can see the Visitors' Center and Restaurant are built inside a hill to keep a natural look.

The Visitor Experience and restaurant are built inside a hill to keep a natural look.

Clean and nourished, we stepped outside to begin ogling the cliffs and capturing their majesty on camera. It was then that we got Tip #5Don’t visit the cliffs before noon unless you love back-lit photos. The Cliffs of Moher face west, meaning that you will take the best pictures in the later afternoon, when the sun has slid low enough to illuminate the craggy cliff faces. Because the photography light was so difficult, we actually ended up leaving the cliffs for a few hours, and returning later in the day in order to get better light. Luckily, there are plenty of attractions in the area (such as the Burren) so a double visit isn’t a terrible option. It should also be noted, however, that morning light is best to photograph the iconic “castle” on the cliffs, O’Brien’s Tower, as that is sun-lit before noon.

O'Brien's tower: the signature castle on the Cliffs of Moher.

O’Brien’s tower: the signature castle on the Cliffs of Moher.

Fast-forward to our second visit of the day at 2pm, which featured more favorable light, though even later would have been an even better sun angle.

At this point, we encountered Tip #6: Be prepared for intense winds! The cliffs are staggeringly high, and are next to the ocean, which makes for race car-speed gusts. How strong were they? I took off my heavy winter jacket and put it on the ground to take a more fashionable photo, and that jacket came this close to being blown off the edge of the cliff! I caught it just in time.

It was so windy! This was the moment I caught my jacket right before it was blown off the cliff.

It was so windy! This was the moment I caught my jacket right before it was blown off the cliff.

Given this, paired with the variable weather, and the fact that we were holding a baby, we were thrilled to realize Tip #7: There are accessible, easy walks for good views from the Visitors’ Center. This is a huge perk, because I had originally thought it was long hike to see the famous cliff vista. Not at all, my dear! Rather, it is a two-minute walk to get quite a good view of the cliffs, and just a 10-minute walk up a wheelchair-and-stroller-accessible hill to reach the famous mini-castle, O’Brien’s Tower, which has the best views around it. Of course, there are fabulous scenic hikes for hours along the cliffs, as they span as far as the eye can see, but it’s good to know that there are sightseeing options for all levels and preferences.

The paths to the cliff overlooks are happily accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.

The paths to the cliff overlooks are happily accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.

Now, do be warned that the climb up the narrow spiral staircase of O’Brien’s tower is rather dizzying and tight, but one can’t really pass up the experience. Ireland clearly has a passion for intense staircases, as we also encountered them at Bunratty Castle on our first day in the country.

Getting down the steep spiral stairs of the tower took some maneuvering.

Getting down the steep spiral stairs of the tower took some maneuvering.

From the top of the tower, it is a bit hard to see over the turrets, but holding my camera in the air, I caught a few shots. It was fun to check out the cliffs on the right side of the tower, facing the sea. Those cliffs are less famous than the section to the left of the tower, but still spectacular, as you can see below.

The cliffs to the right, looking down from O'Brien's tower.

The cliffs to the right, looking down from O’Brien’s tower.

Walking back down the hill towards the Visitor Experience (bracing hard against the whipping wind and ocean spray), we saw some striking signs. First, there was one advertising free WiFi! Very 21st-century of you, Cliffs of Moher. Second, we spotted this useful diagram displayed below, explaining that one should not climb up on the railings, lest one plummet off the cliff and into the sea. I was reminded of the dramatic signs from the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island. I wonder if there’s a whole class in Graphic Design school for how to avert cliff tumbling.

A helpful sign reminding you not to fall off the cliff.

A helpful sign reminding you not to fall off the cliff.

On that topic, we were confused about why there was a “Meditation Room” at the cliffs, until we realized: Some people may come to the Cliffs of Moher in a… worked-up state. Inside the room is suicide prevention literature.

The Meditation Room at the Cliffs of Moher. Ooh, NOW I realize why this is here...

The Meditation Room at the Cliffs of Moher. Ooh, NOW I realize why this is here…

Let us close this article with some facts about the Cliffs of Moher. Did you know that at their tallest point, the cliffs are 702 feet high? Around one million tourists visit the cliffs each year, making it one of the top attractions in all of Ireland.

Father-son cliff-side bonding.

Everything at the Cliffs of Moher glistened from sea spray and rain mist.

For many around the world, the Cliffs of Moher are known as the “Cliffs of Insanity” in the movie The Princess Bride. The evening after visiting them, Colin and I watched that clip from the movie and squealed as we recognized the very place where we had just trod! Word is that these cliffs also feature in a Harry Potter movie, but I’m too in love with the books to watch the films, so you all will have to tell me which one.

The sweeping lines of the cliffs and railing.

The sweeping lines of the cliffs and railing.

The name “Moher” comes from the ancient Gaelic word for “ruined fort,” as there used to be a fort dating from the first century B.C. on the cliffs. The official Cliffs of Moher website has a whole History section which contains fascinating tales of what has happened on these cliffs, including a section on legends and mermaids!

Father and son cliff-side bonding.

Father and son cliff-side bonding.

This brings us to the final tip, Tip #8: You MUST go to the Cliffs of Moher! Despite the drama, we adored the cliffs and the Visitor Experience. It is a not-to-be-missed attraction for any Ireland trip.

The path up the cliffs shone in the bright sun.

The path up the cliffs shone in the bright sun.

So what about you? Have YOU visited the Cliffs of Moher? Would you like to? Do share! Want to read more about our Ireland trip? Find all the Ireland travel articles here!

Check out the hotels we stayed in and loved near the Cliffs:

YES! Cliffs of Moher!

YES! Cliffs of Moher!

Check out these exciting tours around the cliffs and Ireland:

Want more travel planning resources? Click here for an easy link to Ireland hotel deals, here for affordable flights to Ireland, and here for deals on Ireland rental cars. Note: These are affiliate links which provide a small commission to support this site at no cost to you. Thanks, and happy travels!

Thank you to Tourism Ireland for help in planning our trip. Be assured that all opinions, upchuck drama, and cliff poses are my own.


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  49 Responses to “The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland: Drama, and 8 Visiting Tips”

  1. The Harry Potter movie it features in is Half-Blood Prince, used as the cliffs that Dumbledore takes Harry to, to get to the cave where the locket horcrux is 🙂

  2. Your wonderful narrative made the cliffs come alive. Thank-you! You gave all the little pieces of information that I like to have before I do something silly like look for the Visitor’s Center because I didn’t read the signs. As a California resident, I am hopeful the weather is a bit warmer this July when we visit because your narrative along with your photos made me feel that freezing wind chill me to the bone and I don’t even own a heavy coat or knit cap to save me from frostbite.

    • Thanks so much for your kind comment, Jinner! I am CONFIDENT that it will be FAR warmer on the cliffs in July than it was during our February visit! The wind (and perhaps rain) might still be whipping, so bring a fleece and rain jacket, but a quick online search reveals the average temperature will be around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a great trip!

    • We were at the Cliffs of Moher on May 27, and the weather as like it was all week for us all over Ireland: sunny and in the 60s! (we couldn’t believe it!) We brought scarves, hats, and gloves for our visit to the Cliffs of Moher and needed none of them. I hope you have the same weather we did!

    • That’s so great! Thanks for the report!

  3. We were at the Cliffs of Moher last week and I agree with everything (except we didn’t eat there so can’t attest to the food).

  4. I visited the Cliffs in the summer of ’93 and I’d like to visit again to see all the changes. It would be great to spend more time there.

  5. We loved the Cliffs of Moher as well! We got there shortly before closing and were blessed with an amazing sunset. We stayed in a local B&B and went back the next morning as well to experience the various times of day and were just as pleased. Such a gorgeous country, but this is definitely a must-see!

  6. Hey Lillie, what time of year did you visit the cliffs? I’m reading a lot of stuff that says don’t go unless its mid summer cause the weather is so unpredictable and fog is highly likely. Thanks!

    • Hi Rachel! Our week-long southwestern Ireland trip took place in mid-February, 2014. There were pros and cons to visiting at that time. Pros: There were far fewer tourists so we got a more personal experience, and even though it was winter, there was no snow at all (we’re from Boston where there was NINE FEET of snow that year) and it was mild enough to wear just a light jacket. Plus, the culture and food match really well with the wintry weather. Irish coffee, anyone? 🙂 Cons: It did get very windy and chilly at times (it was way too cold and windy to be out on the cliffs for more than 20 minutes, given that we were carrying a baby), and sometimes very cold and gusty rain fell (most notably on the day we visited Kylemore Abbey). My two cents is that you can still have a wonderful time in Ireland during winter, just pack layers of clothes and be prepared for random rain and wind. If you have a chance, let us know what you decide and how it goes! Have a great trip, whenever you go!

    • I have been in both early October and early May and both were great visits. It was not overly crowded and weather was beautiful. More fog in October, but if you stay there long enough the fog is bound to lift long enough to get some good photos.

  7. Great tips! The Cliffs of Moher are beautiful aren’t they?

  8. Put Ireland at the top of your bucket list. Best vacation ever. The Clffs were spectacular.

  9. Funny – I never set foot in the visitor center during my two visits there. I was much happier just being out hiking on the cliffs!

    • I saw your awesome photos and SO wanted to take a long hike… but then it started hailing and baby was puking, and it did not happen beyond the 10-minute walk to the tower! Next visit…

  10. Oops and meant to say great pics and tips! Forgiven for missing the sign for the turn off. Baby vomit everywhere would certainly distract me!

  11. Ireland has been coming up for me a lot lately. It is certainly on my list of places to visit. If only I had more time and dollars!

  12. This is a place in Ireland I haven’t made it to, but I will. I love your photos! What wind!

  13. It’s a great attitude to help others void the same mistakes. I appreciate your brave statement.

    BTW, I like the way your baby poses for photo, so serious!

  14. It’s so amazing that you get to visit all of these beautiful places! Plus, you get to take your family with you. What an awesome experience!!!

  15. Gorgeous part of Ireland I still haven’t seen. Next time 🙂

  16. Ireland is beautiful from the looks of these pictures Lillie. I just want to go to a cliff, look out at the ocean, and visit a castle. Oh! And drive through the countryside. That’s how I always envisioned a trip to Ireland.

    • It is oh-so-easy to fulfill your castles and countryside fantasies in Ireland. We were pleasantly surprised!

  17. Lillie! Such beautiful pix…!!! Isn’t Ireland beyond incredible when it’s sunny?! Thanks for continuing to share and inspire… now as a mom, too… Amazing. So happy I’ve finally signed up for your mailing list so I don’t miss a thing. Thanks so much for doing this!!! xoxo Molly

  18. Beautiful pictures! The cliffs look lovely in the streaks of sunshine and rain.

  19. This was a favorite stop on my trip to Ireland. I stayed at a B&B in Doolin and the owner actually drove me up to the Visitor’s Center so I could enjoy the cliffs and then walk back to Doolin along the amazing coast – a great hike. Did you get a chance to experience the music in Doolin?

    • That sounds lovely! We did not get a big dose of Doolin music, so clearly just have to return. 🙂

  20. Amazing scenery! I haven’t been to Ireland. I really regret not going with my mum when she went and traced our family tree.

    • Tracing ancestry seems to be a huge thing in Ireland. I saw signs for it everywhere, and I think the country provides excellent resources.

  21. We took a boat tour, too – it was incredible!! and we were quoting the princess bride half the time. LOL. great tips!

  22. I LOVE the stone walkways, steps, and especially the slab railings! Perfect harmony. Going to check out the official Cliffs of Moher website next. Baby pics always my favorite, though you guys look remarkably happy after the baby drama!

    • He thankfully recovered so fast from Puke City! I totally agree with you about the design of the walkways. Brilliant.

  23. Wow, what stunning landscaping, you captured it well. I would love to visit this with just the right light and weather, gorgeous

  24. Your perceptions were right on the mark with ours, once again, Lillie! Especially #1 (your problem finding the parking lot and even identifying that you were at the cliffs had nothing to do with vomit fumes; we had exactly the same problems); #3 (the integration of the amenities into the site is indeed awesome); and #6 (it was so windy at one point that we almost couldn’t walk into the wind — truly; I’ve never experienced anything like it). And, of course, the site itself is stunning. It’s one of those places that, as magnificent as the pictures are, they simply can’t do that breath-taking height justice. Oh, and, yes — even though we haven’t traveled with a baby for … well, you know exactly how long! — we never travel anywhere without a handful of paper towels. And a few ziplock bags, rubber bands, bulldog clips, and a few other things that you have to be without to realize how truly handy they are. We have a little fishing-supply box with these sorts of travel essentials, and it’s been useful soooo many times.

    • Ah, so it wasn’t just the vomit fumes! Glad my observations aren’t off-base. Thanks for the advice on bags, rubber bands, etc. I’m working now on an article on travel with a mischievous toddler and will add that in!

  25. Such a beautiful place! I had read about the light and begged my dad to change his plan to visit in the morning. He’s like the Danny Tanner of the Midwest, so it didn’t bode well, but he was pleasantly surprised by my tip. Even with baby drama, it looks like a successful outing!

  26. There is a cave at the base of the Cliffs that was used for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited the Cliffs 4 times and once by boat, which is the easiest way to view the cave. http://irelandfamilyvacations.com/cliffs-of-moher-cruise-ireland/planning-your-irish-vacation/

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