The cries of nesting seabirds are faintly audible amid the roar of the Atlantic crashing against the base of these breathtaking cliffs. Undulating for 8km (5 miles) along the coast, the cliffs tower as high as 214m (702 ft.) over the sea. In bad weather, access is (understandably) limited, as the wind can blow very hard here; when the weather is fine, a guardrail offers you a small sense of security as you peek over the edge. (Some foolhardy visitors always insist on climbing over it for a better view of the sheer drop—needless to say, this is against the rules and very dangerous.) On a clear day, you can see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay as misty shapes in the distance. Look the other way, however, and you’ll see a constant throng of tour groups, coaches, and cars. The enormous visitor center houses gift shops, a high-tech “Cliffs of Moher Experience,” and various other exhibits that feel designed to wring every last euro out of this natural wonder. Furthermore, the visitor center has the only (legal) parking, which you can’t use without buying entry tickets to the visitor center—effectively turning it into a steep per person parking charge. (You may see places beside the narrow road where you could illegally park and walk straight up to the cliffs without paying a cent, but we can’t recommend that.) Because of the overwhelming popularity of the cliffs, in the summer it can be very crowded. In July and August, the cliffs now stay open until 9pm, and arriving very late in the day is a good way to see the view more quietly. Head up the path beside the visitor center to O’Brien’s Tower for the best view of the cliffs. The 19th-century tower is a knockout spot for photos, although—surprise!—you have to pay an extra €2 to climb the stairs. The crass commercialization cannot completely detract from the beauty of these cliffs, but it is discouraging to see.
- Jack Jewers