Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions. The spectacular seascape was shaped by the relentless waves of the North Atlantic Ocean over 300 million years. This is the visual highlight of Ireland’s west coast.

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1 Peak Elevation of the Cliffs of Moher near Liscannor, Ireland

Aillte an Mhothair is the Irish name for this stunning seascape. The namesake for this geological beauty is a 1st century B.C. fort built on the southern end called either Moher Uí Ruis or Moher Uí Ruidhin. These mean ruined fort. The stronghold was leveled by the British towards the end of the 18th century. From that position atop Hag’s Head, the cliffs begin their dramatic accent from 390 feet until reaching their peak elevation of 702 feet near O’Brien’s Tower shown here.

Ballard Rd Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
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2 Southern Vista of Cliffs of Moher near Liscannor, Ireland

The most stunning section of Ireland’s west coast is unquestionably the Cliffs of Moher. Over one million people a year come to marvel at the five miles of rock protruding into the North Atlantic. At the far end of this southern vista is a British tower built in 1808 during the Napoleonic Wars. The lookout is positioned on Hag’s Head. The promontory’s namesake is Mal. According to an Irish legend, this ugly old woman fell to her death while pursuing the love of a mythological hero named Cú Chulainn.

Ballard Rd Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
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3 O’Brien’s Tower at Cliffs of Moher near Liscannor, Ireland

Sir Cornelius O’Brien built this round tower at the mid-point of the Cliffs of Moher in 1835. His goal was to attract tourists to the geological pride of County Clare. Since it was restored and reopened in 1974, you can climb to the top for a small fee. The views of the cliffs and the crashing sea from the battlements are incredible. On a clear day, you can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay.

Ballard Rd Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
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4 Bird Colonies at Cliffs of Moher near Liscannor, Ireland

The common gulls flying gracefully along this Irish headland are among the 30,000 birds nesting at the Cliffs of Mohr. Two more of the 30 species of seabirds are the razorbill and chough. The star residents are a colony of 1,300 adult Atlantic puffins. It is virtually impossible to see the birds from the top of the cliff except through a few telescopes along the wall. Serious bird watchers get a better view by taking a one-hour cruise. Even then you can only get so close. Over 600 feet of water at the base of the cliff is a protected zone under the EU Birds Directive of 1989.

Ballard Rd Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
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5 Branaunmore Sea Stack at Cliffs of Moher near Liscannor, Ireland

The vertical column on the left is Branaunmore. The sea stack was formed as relentless waves eroded the main cliff over millions of years. The majestic, isolated tower of stone stands 220 feet. Its less formal name is O’Brien’s Stack.

Ballard Rd Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
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6 Burren Way at Cliffs of Moher near Liscannor, Ireland

Near the visitors’ center at the Cliffs of Moher is a tall wall hugging the coastline and sheltering the walking path. This affords safety but also restricts the views. It is a fraction of the Burren Way connecting two seaside villages. The distance to Liscannor is about 7.5 miles and takes about 3 ½ hours to explore. Most of the trail is incredibly beautiful. Yet there are no guardrails and the path is uneven and sometimes slippery so it can be dangerous.

Ballard Rd Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
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7 Stone Amphitheater at Cliffs of Moher near Liscannor, Ireland

You are immediately impressed at your first glimpse of the Cliffs of Moher. As you walk south along the edge, the views get more incredible. Nature spent 300 million years dating back to the Carboniferous Period carving this amphitheater of Namurian shale and sandstone. At the base is a network of water caves. No wonder this has been the location of numerous movies such as “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and “The Princess Bride.”

Ballard Rd Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
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8 Cattle Grazing at Cliffs of Moher near Liscannor, Ireland

The landscape near the Cliffs of Moher seems as untouched as I remember it in 1975 despite the millions of tourists who have visited since then. For example, livestock graze undisturbed as throngs of people march by. This strong commitment to maintain the area’s natural beauty is only one reason why the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark has gained membership to both the European Geoparks Network and the Global Network of National Geoparks.

Ballard Rd Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
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9 Visitor Experience at Cliffs of Moher near Liscannor, Ireland

The Clare County Council has invested significantly in their greatest asset. They spent €32 million over 17 years constructing a visitor’s center built discretely into the side of a mound. Inside are displays explaining the cliffs, its wildlife and flora plus dramatic films. It is called the Visitor Experience. Frankly, the best experience is still outside savoring breathtaking views like this.

Ballard Rd Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
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10 Concave Northern Scarp at Cliffs of Moher near Liscannor, Ireland

Most tourists favor the walk along the southern cliff line and often miss this dramatic concave scarp along the northern edge. This is one of my favorite views. To gain a perspective of its grand size, notice the sightseers walking along the trail in the upper right corner.

Ballard Rd Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
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