Each and every year, more than one million people visit the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.
Which is pretty impressive, when you realize that the population of this small, Atlantic island nation is only about 4.5 million. I guess it's a testament to these spectacular cliffs, which rise up more than 700 feet out of the sea on Ireland's west coast.
I'd seen these cliffs before — in movies (like Harry Potter and the Princess Bride) and in plenty of photos. But actually seeing them in person?
I was far more impressed than I thought I would be.
The October morning of my journey to the Cliffs of Moher dawned chilly, but beautifully clear — a rarity for an autumn day in Ireland. I made my way to one of pick-up spots in downtown Dublin, and happily climbed aboard a tour bus with a couple dozen others, all of us wiping the sleep out of our eyes. I vowed to stay awake, however — there was too much Irish countryside to enjoy.
We set off from Dublin by 8 a.m., hitting the road for a long day of sightseeing. I was expecting to simply head straight to the Cliffs, but we had a couple of stops along the way: first Dún Guaire Castle and then the ruins of a monastery, followed by a stop in the town of Doolin for lunch.
Then, finally, it was time to go to the Cliffs of Moher.
Sleepy again and with a belly full of hearty soup, I sadly missed any commentary our Paddywagon guide offered up about the Cliffs on our way from Doolin. But it didn't matter. When Mother Nature creates something like this, you don't need to know a whole lot of background about it in order to appreciate it.
(In case you're curious, though, the Cliffs of Moher are located on the edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland. They rise from 390 to 702 feet out of the Atlantic Ocean, and are home to tens of thousands of birds — including puffins!)
Upon arrival at the Cliffs, our guide set us free to explore for 90 minutes on our own. Could I have used more time at the Cliffs? Perhaps. After all, the hike out to Hag's Head (the southernmost point of the Cliffs) takes about 3 hours round-trip, and there's also a visitor's center to explore. With a chilly wind blowing, however, an hour and a half suited me just fine.
Most people made a beeline for O'Brien's Tower, the round stone tower that stands on the edge of the Cliffs. It's supposed to have some nice views. I, however, decided to go the opposite way, toward's the south.
My reasoning for this was simple: since it was the afternoon by this point, walking this way along the Cliffs would provide the best light for photos. And I was well rewarded for my logic.
Even though the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland's biggest tourist attractions, it didn't FEEL like I was sharing my views with lots of other people. In fact, most of my walk along the packed-dirt cliff trails was quiet.
And oh so green.
I left the Cliffs of Moher tired and more than a little windswept, but with a huge smile on my face.
Though most people will tell you that the best way to explore Ireland is by renting a car and driving yourself around, there's a lot to be said of full-day trips like this one, too. Yes, you spend quite a bit of time on a bus, but you don't have to worry about navigating Ireland's narrow roads, and you can truly enjoy the scenery as it slips by (or, you know, you could take a nap).
Overall? Totally worth it.
IF YOU GO…
I went to the Cliffs of Moher with , where a trip like this Cliffs of Moher day tour starts at 40 Euro ($62 USD). This price does not include lunch, but does include a guide, your transportation, and entrance to the Cliffs.
Alternatively, you can check out with Viator.
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*Note: I was invited on a complimentary tour to the Cliffs of Moher with Paddywagon Tours. All opinions, as always, are entirely my own!