When I think of Ireland attractions, one of the first thing that comes to Ireland is visiting the Cliffs of Moher. In fact, it is the most naturally occurring visited attraction in the country. The second visited attraction overall. I can completely see why, what with the crashing waves in the waters below, the swooping birds chirping away and the jaw-dropping cliffs themselves.
Standing at the edge of Ireland looking across at these sheer whopping cliffs and looking out at the Atlantic ocean, you’ll feel like you’re at the edge of the earth. In fact, on a clear day, you may catch a glimpse of the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, not to mention the numerous birds nesting in the cliffs. You may even see a puffin!
However, the visitors centre and carpark at the cliffs can be HECTIC to say the least and many people have their opinions on whether this attraction is worth the money or whether it is a tourist trap. Do you actually have to pay to see the cliffs of Moher? I am glad to say there are ways to see the cliffs without all the hassle and fees. And I’ll tell you how.
Here is my HONEST guide to visiting the Cliffs of Moher.
These sheer cliffs are one of the attractions you do not want to miss in Ireland. Not only to see the towering striated cliffs standing bold against the Wild Atlantic, but also to witness the views from the edge.
Although I’m sure you all know plenty about the cliffs of Moher, for those who may not know too much about the area, let’s talk about the basics first.
Cliffs of Moher facts – all you need to know before you visit the Cliffs of Moher
Where are the Cliffs of Moher?
The Cliffs of Moher are on the west coast of Ireland in county Clare. The cliffs are close to the very popular Doolin, as well as the town of Liscannor.
Galway is just 1 1/2 hours drive from the area.
How tall are the Cliffs of Moher, and how long?
At their tallest point, these towering cliffs stand at 702 feet (214 m). They run along 14km of jaw-dropping coastline.
History of the Cliffs of Moher
Geology of the area – County Clare Cliffs of Moher Geology
Okay, so I am a bit of a geology nerd – having done 4 years of geology in college. Knowing the geology and history of an area is really important and interesting to me, so I thought I’d share it with ya!
The cliffs are made up of rocks formed in the upper Carboniferous period, which was over 300 million years ago. When looking at the edge of the cliffs, the whole way down to the sea you will see clear bands of rock. These were formed by compacted layers of mud, silt and sand and show specific times during the development of the rock. The layers that resulted, are sandstone, siltstone and shale.
There are many remnants of the past preserved in these rocks and the flagstones around the visitors centre. These include fossils of Brachiopods and Corals which can be seen all over the flagstone steps. As well as trace fossils made by movements and burrows of an animal, permanently-preserved in the rock.
When you visit the cliffs, from the viewpoint, you will be able to see a lot of other geological features such as sea stacks and caves – as a result of the constant erosion.
If you want to learn more about the geology here – please click below:
Recent History of the Cliffs of Moher – a top tourist attraction in Ireland
A fort in the area gave the cliffs their name. The term Moher actually is Irish for “ruined fort”. Although the remains of the fort are long gone, some of the materials were used to build a signal tower at Hags Head by the British in 1808.
A local landlord – Sir Cornelius OBrien- built a tower at the cliffs highest point. It is known as OBrien’s tower and you can actually climb the spiral staircase to the top to look out in all directions.
The area began to get increasingly popular with visitors and in 1978, the regional tourist board actually built the first gift shop, tea rooms and toilets on the site where the visitors centre stands today. BUT in 2005 building began again. As the number of visitors continued to rise insanely, better infrastructure was needed.
It was decided to build the centre into the ground.
In 2011 the Cliffs of Moher, as well as the Burren, are awarded UNESCO recognised global geopark status. This signifies the special geology and local culture.
The nature of the cliffs of Moher
Flora and Fauna in the area – What animals will you see?
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR PUFFINS!
This area is home to so many species of animals and plants. When you visit the Cliffs of Moher, be sure to keep an eye out while you wander the area, for plants like the pale yellow Primrose, Sheeps Bit, White Sea Campion, and even the not-so-pleasantly-named Scurvy Grass, which can be seen on the cliff top – with small white flowers and kidney-shaped leaves.
Even more exciting is the variety of animals in the area. The cliffs are very popular with bird watchers, with as many 30,000 breeding pairs to the area a year and as 20 nesting bird species in the cliffs. In fact, the area has very special protection in place for these birds.
I know the bird most people want to see is the puffin, which can be seen at the cliffs from the end of March to late July – keep your eyes peeled on the grassy slopes! The cliffs have the largest colony of puffins in Ireland. Other birds in the area include the Gannet, (large black and white and yellowish head), Fulmar and even Peregrine Falcons.
For more info on the birds in the area click below:
Not only birds, but there is also alot of other life in the area, from foxes to badgers. Of course, there are countless marine animals in the waters below, even if you can’t see them. Bottlenose dolphins, grey seals, minke whales, basking sharks and sunfish are hidden by the waters at the foot of the cliffs.
Do you have to pay to visit the Cliffs of Moher?
The simple answer is no – despite what a lot of people believe. There are so many ways you can visit the cliffs for free, despite what a lot of people think. It’s for this reason that the visitors centre is often referred to as a tourist trap.
Arriving by Car – visiting the Cliffs of Moher by car
Due to the visitors centre being on the main road, there is no parking near the entrance, without using the paid car park directly across the road. This is where the fees come from as it is 10 euro per adult (not per car) to purchase your ticket to park. For me and Eoghan, it was 20 euro to park along with the included ticket for the visitor centre.
It is really due to the lack of parking nearby, that people are forced to pay to visit the attraction.
TIP: If you book online it is slightly cheaper, at 7 euro per adult (check the website for up to date pricing)
PLEASE NOTE: Children are free (online anyway).
Driving from Galway to the Cliffs
Driving from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, you will pass along some of the most scenic coastline in the country. It is a stunninggggg drive. Each time I am gawking out the window, but remember to keep your eyes on the road! There are also so many tours you can choose from too, which are very reasonably priced.
It is less than an hour and a half drive from Galway. Options to get a bus as well.
How to get to the Cliffs of Moher from Galway by car?
Okay so there is a quick way, and a scenic way. I highly suggest the scenic way.
The scenic way to drive to the cliffs 1 hour 45 minutes
You simply follow the N67 right the way out of Galway and stay on it. Follow it the entire way to Ballyvaughan where you take a right turn on to the R477 and continue following the coast until you reach Doolin. This way you will have all the best views of the Wild Atlantic Way. From Doolin you continue and pass Doonagore Castle, and the cliffs are just a short drive from here. There will be plenty of signs to keep you heading the right direction.
Rough guide: Galway -> Oranmore -> Kilcolgan -> Kinvara -> Ballyvaughan -> Craggagh -> Doolin -> Cliffs
The quick way to reach the cliffs from Galway – 1 hour 31 minutes
This way is slightly quicker but you do miss a lot of the views. Starting out the same way as the other, stay on the N67 out of Galway until you reach however you will skip big chunks of the coast Google Maps will take you this route more than likely.
Rough guide: Galway -> Oranmore -> Kinvara -> Lisdoonvarna -> Doolin -> Cliffs of moher.
Try to arrive another way to avoid fees – Avoiding having to park your car will avoid the pricey fees
So if you do not want to pay, just don’t use the car park. If possible, get dropped off at the centre and picked up again, or arrive on foot or by bicycle (this is pretty difficult though).
Note: This route is known as one of the top 10 biking routes in the world so if you can get there by bike along the Clare coastline, do it. For the views, and to save money!
However, if avoiding fees, you will not be able to enter the visitor’s centre. You should still be able to use the toilets on the grounds though.
Alternative ways to avoid the fees is to view the cliffs from other spots – visiting the Cliffs of Moher without paying for the car park
Walking the Cliffs of Moher
These cliffs stretch for 14 km. There are plenty of places to view the cliffs, not just from the visitors centre.
Guerin’s Path to the Cliff Walk – Cliffs of Moher Clare
One way to avoid the visitor centre altogether is to visit the cliffs by Guerin’s Path. Just after the centre car park, take the first right turn. There will be a small Blue and Yellow Sign.
Park your car at Guerin’s farm for 5 euro (per car not per person- very affordable). From there you can stroll along Guerin’s Path to a quieter part of the Cliff Walk along the Cliffs of Moher.
Liscannor Cliff Walk – a great way to see the best views and save money when visiting the cliffs
You can also start in Liscannor and walk as far into the path as you want. The entire thing takes 4 – 6 hours but of course, once you get your fix of nature you can turn back.
To get here you can take the same right turn for Guerin’s Path and keep driving. It is a bit of a maze with all the turns off the road but if you put “Cliffs of Moher Liscannor Walk” into maps it should bring it up for you.
The last time I parked there it cost 2 euro although I don’t know if that has changed. There was a little honesty box where you can pay the small fee. From there it was a 15 minutes walk to the cliffs. This is the place I normally go.
- Liscannor village to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre – 12 km (3 to 4 hours)
Doolin Cliff Walk
One great way to see the cliffs free of charge is to park in the adorable village of Doolin and do the Doolin Cliff walk. This is a 2.5-hour walk, which brings you right the way to the visitors centre location and you can carry on the path right the way along the entirety of the cliffs.
Of course, you don’t have to do the whole thing and can turn back at any time, or stop at the centre and try to catch a bus back to Doolin. The perfect way to go without having to pay the parking fees and you will save money in the process.
- Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre to Doolin - 8km (2.5 to 3 hours)
Note: This walk can be done with a local farmer to hear more about the area and it’s history. The one I hear most about is Pat Sweeney.
So as you can see, there are quite a few ways you can see the cliffs. You do not have to go to the visitors centre and you do not have to pay a huge fee for parking.
Tours to the Cliffs of Moher – a fun way to visit the Cliffs of Moher
There are so many tours to choose from coming from all over the country. Particularly from Galway and Dublin.
For example, the Galway Tour Company does a tour of the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren for 35 euro per adult. This takes you to numerous spots like Dunaguire castle in Kinvara, the Burren, stopping along at numerous points like tombs and the famous portal dolmen, Doolin, and then finally the Cliffs of Moher.
This fee includes your entrance to the cliffs so in that sense, you do get a lot for your money.
Different tour resources:
Alternative and Unique ways to see the Cliffs of Moher:
Most people visiting the Cliffs of Moher do it the “normal” way. A boat tour along the coast is a really unique way to visit the cliffs. While most people look from the top down, how many people get to speed along the Atlantic ocean and see the cliffs from below?
Is the visitors centre worth it? Should you get a ticket?
Recently I decided to actually use the visitor centre and use the parking facilities. After being there so many times by other routes I thought, why not try this way.
It was me and Eoghan, so we had to pay 20 euro to park the car and also got tickets for the centre. I have to say the one handy thing is you don’t have to walk far to get there. You just cross the road and bam, you’re at one of the most scenic parts of the cliffs.
Cliffs of Moher fee:
It is annoying that there is a 10 euro fee per person and not just per car. However, this includes:
- A leaflet with loads of information
- Access to the centre
- The cliff exhibition
- Access to facilities
The centre is built into the side of the cliffs so as to not be an eyesore and there are numerous little Irish tourist shops also built into the ground along the path.
Visitor centre experience – Is it worth visiting the Visitors Centre at the Cliffs?
I actually LOVED the visitor centre. Learning more about these kinds of places is something I really enjoy so it was great to learn about the history, the geology (Earth and Ocean Science graduate!) and the flora and fauna in the area. There is a little movie experience which is in a small theatre which brings you on a virtual tour of the animal life around the cliffs. Such as the birds nesting along the sides and deep underwater to see the basket sharks and dolphins. This is more for the kids.
There are also lots of interactive exhibits to keep the kids entertained too.
As with any visitors centre, there is a gift shop, toilets and a cafe.
The Views at the visitor centre – best views of the Cliffs of Moher
I have to say the views you get while at the visitor centre are actually some of the most beautiful along the cliff path. They knew what they were doing when placing the centre there!
Just a short walk from the centre is the cliffs themselves and also OBriens castle. The castle was built at the highest point. You can enter and climb the spiral staircase right to the top, to see views over the area.
So what is the verdict? Are the fees at the visitor centre worth it?
Well, it depends on what kind of experience you want to have. The facilities here are great and you can learn so much in the exhibits. Also if you have kids, it is safer along here as large stone slabs have been put along the path that you can’t get too near the edge.
Benefits of visiting the visitor centre:
- Parking right beside the best part of the cliffs
- Informative exhibits in the centre to learn all about the geology and the development of the area
- Toilets nearby
- Amazing Views and safety measures are in place
- It is FOR SURE the SAFEST part of the cliffs to visit, especially with children
However if like me, you’re not fussy and don’t mind a bit of a walk, the other options are great and give more of a sense of adventure.
Other ways to save money when visiting the cliffs of Moher
Whilst I love days out like this, they can be pretty costly. Here are some tips for saving some extra cash:
- Don’t use the main car park or visit the visitors centre.
- Arrive by bike, foot, get dropped off, use the other car parks further away
- Bring a packed lunch so you don’t have to eat out during the day
- If staying in the area, try an Airbnb rather than a hotel
If the weather is windy or stormy, I would not advise visiting the cliffs, especially the parts with no barriers. You can literally walk right up to the edge when not at the visitor centre and sadly, there are fatalities each year. In bad weather, it is only too easy to be blown around.
Always check the weather before visiting. Sometimes it is so misty you can not see your hands in front of your face and to be honest at times like this, it isn’t worth going. You will not really experience the area.
DO NOT CLIMB OVER THE WALLS. There are signs everywhere and common sense would tell you not to do this but there is always one. I have seen people climb over this and you will be brought back by a marshall.
How to dress for visiting the cliffs
IT IS GOING TO BE WINDY!
No matter how sunny it is, remember you are going to be at the cliffs and there may be blustery bitter winds.
Luckily at parts of the path along the visitors centre, the high stone wall can be quite sheltering. BUT if you choose to visit at another point, there is no protection from the elements. So dress wisely. That includes:
- Windproof & Waterproof jacket
- A hat to cover your ears – I hate when I go out without a hat and I get such bad pains in my ears from the cold.
Other FAQ for visiting the Cliffs of Moher
What is the best time to visit the Cliffs of Moher?
As you can imagine it can get INCREDIBLY busy in the summer. To the point where the car park is full and you may be turned away. Tours always visit mid-day or after lunchtime. Try to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon for the quietest parts.
How much time should you spend at the Cliffs of Moher?
It really depends on yourself. I always go for a few hours. Normally to walk along the path a bit, take pictures and just sit and enjoy being there and taking in the scenery.
The time I went to the visitor centre was the longest I’d been there as going through the exhibit took around 40 minutes in itself.
Definitely leave at least a couple of hours to spend there, to really make the most of the place. You may not be back again!
For visiting from the Liscannor walk, it tends to be much quieter at all times of the day.
What else can you do in the area when visiting the Cliffs of Moher? Well, lots actually!
- View of Doonagore castle
- Doolin Village – try Gus Oconnor’s pub and the chocolate shop
- Ailwee caves
- The Burren – such a unique landscape
- The portal dolmen
Finally, is it worth visiting the Cliffs of Moher when in Ireland?
Are the Cliffs of Moher worth it? YES I would say. They are the top natural attraction for a reason. However, whichever which way you see them, is completely up to you.
Hope you enjoyed this in-depth post on all things the Cliffs of Moher. Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts on this attraction or your favourite spot along the route.
Will you be visiting the Cliffs of Moher? Need more convincing? I doubt it, but :