Dan and I visited Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher for the third time last December, when we spent the week between Christmas and New Years in Ireland. We got a bit of commentary from people telling us not to go to the Cliffs of Moher in the winter, but we had a great time with better weather than our prior visit (a May trip). Moral of the story – don’t let the time of year put you off from visiting stunning the Cliffs of Moher!
The Cliffs of Moher
For those unfamiliar, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most visited tourist attractions. Located on Ireland’s West coast of Ireland in County Clare, the Cliffs of Moher technically span 9 miles and rise between 400 and 700 feet about the wild Atlantic Ocean. However, most visitors visit a small portion of the Cliffs of Moher where the visitor center is located, which is about 4 miles from Doolin.
While tourists can visit the Cliffs of Moher on their own, we opted to visit on a tour with the Galway Tour Company from Galway, where we were staying. Our tour was packed, but it definitely made it an easy day. We set off around 10:00 AM with a bus pickup near Galway’s train station. This post details what we did on our tour, which one could easily replicate with a rental car or driver.
Our first stop of the day was just outside Galway at Dunguaire Castle. Dunguaire Castle is a small castle dating back to the 1500s, apparently built by the O’Hynes clan. We spent about 15 minutes exploring the castle’s exterior ruins, which was tight, as the bus did not exactly park close, and definitely did not leave time to enter the castle. If you are doing this on your own, know that the main parking area is a bit of a walk from the castle and to wear walking shoes if you plan to explore the unpaved area behind the castle.
The second stop on our tour was at The Burren, which is a large area in Western Ireland that is said to resemble a moon-like landscape. Spoiler alert, its actually limestone (not a lunar surface). According to our guide, this area was formed literally millions of years ago and has a long history in Irish tradition. While rocky and seemingly bare, some unique critters and plants call The Burren home. Our tour stopped in this particular part of The Burren, rather than elsewhere, so that we could see Poulnabrone Dolme. Poulnabrone Dolme is a rock formation built by neolithic farmers that is believed to me some sort of ancient burial site. Very interesting, but you don’t need more than about 15 minutes at The Burren in my opinion.
The Burren visit was followed by lunch at a traditional Irish pub called McGanns about 15 minutes from the Cliffs of Moher. I was very nervous about this, as it was not raining when we stopped for lunch, but rain was forecast later in the day, so I would have much preferred to go straight to The Burren. But, it wasn’t my tour! In any case, McGanns is very cute and well-versed in Cliffs of Moher tourists. Notably, McGanns has a small menu that seems to be continuously prepared so guests can get in and out fast. I had the Irish Beef Stew and, of course, a Guinness. Both were quite good! We spent about an hour here and guests should know that lunch is not included in the tour (and you do not have to eat if you prefer not to). Credit card accepted.
The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center
We finally made it to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor’s Center after lunch and, good news, it was not yet raining!! Our bus parked in the large parking lot and all guests got out and walked up a small hill directly to the Cliffs! The area along the Cliffs is paved and I suggest starting at O’Brien’s Tower and then walking back to the other side fo the Cliffs tourist area. As you can see from the pictures, the trail “closes” at a certain point, but tourists regularly blow through those warnings. While windy, we had a great time exploring the Cliffs of Moher – we even got hit with some seawater blowing up from the Atlantic Ocean!
I would also note that for those not wanting to walk, the Cliffs of Moher run a little golf buggy from the Visitor’s Center to the Cliffs. A couple in our group took advantage of this complimentary service. And, after seeing the Cliffs, most of us took a brief break inside the Visitor’s Center, which is home to a cafe, a restaurant, a movie on the Cliffs and a pretty decent gift shop.
We arrived back to Dublin after dark, but with plenty of time to get ready for an amazing dinner at Ean wine bar in Galway!
Tips for visiting the Cliffs of Moher
- Wear walking shoes that can get wet.
- Bring a variety of clothes and an umbrella. The weather can change a lot without much notice, as you can see from my photos.
- Golf carts are available free of charge for those needing assistance getting around. Our guide set this up for us by going in the Visitor’s Center and asking, but there may be a wait (no pre-reservations available).
- You can buy admission in advance online to skip crowds.
- Be careful if going off trail – there have been major accidents here.
- If the weather is good on arrival, take advantage of the Cliffs view ASAP. Weather changes fast.
- The Visitor’s Center accepts credit card.
- Restrooms are available inside the Visitor’s Center.
- Due to its location, the Cliffs of Moher are a decent “stop off” when traveling between southern Ireland and Galway.
- You can do a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin and Galway. I’ve done both and have never regretted it!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Galway Tour Company: We took the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren Tour
Dunguaire Castle: The castle’s website. Apparently there are sometimes “banquets” for guests.
The Burren: This is Ireland’s website on The Burren.
McGann’s: Pub Doolin: Main Street, Toomullin, Roadford, Co. Clare, Ireland. Open daily for lunch and dinner. No reservations.
Cliffs of Moher: Open daily 8 AM – 9 PM.
- A fully accessible Visitor Centre with self-guided Cliffs exhibition, and on-site theatre with an exhilarating virtual reality cliff-face adventure
- 800m of safe paved pathways and amazing viewing areas including access to O’Brien’s Tower and rooftop viewing where one can see five counties on a clear day
- Audio Guide and App – free to download with audio tracks from the locals, information on all aspects of the Cliffs, maps, and all information to make your trip to the Cliffs of Moher memorable
- Restrooms/toilet facilities
- Secure unlimited parking
- Accessibility for all
- Complimentary services such as binoculars and picnic blankets on loan
- Picnic areas and an internal dining area for those who wish to bring their own snacks
- Water refill station
- Phone charging and luggage storage, First Aid room, and meditation room
- “Lifts of Moher” electric mobility vehicle driven by experienced guides to ensure less mobile visitors do not miss out on the wonderful views and experience