Stretching for 8km (5 miles), as the crow flies, the Cliffs of Moher have long enjoyed the status of one of Ireland’s most visited tourist attractions – and the visitor centre provides the pivotal point to direct lovers of nature, geology and simple beauty in the right direction. The cliffs also form part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark.
And who could argue with their appeal? Certainly not the location scouts for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince who chose the cliffs as thedramatic backdrop for Dumbledore and Harry’s Horcrux hunt. Other movie scouts have been equally impressed, with the cliffs starring in films as varied as The Princess Bride, Ryan’s Daughter and The Guns of Navarone.
For first-timers to the cliffs, the visitor centre is a good place to start; it’s a hive of information on local nature and geology. Next, take in the cliffs themselves. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, over to the Twelve Bens (aka The Twelve Pins) in Connemaraand south to distant Loop Head and the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. Irish politician Cornelius O’Brien realized the outstanding vista to be had from the cliffs, and so built O’Brien’s Tower near to the highest point back in 1835. Today, the viewing platform on the roof still offers one of the best coastal panoramas on the island.
The trad town
Just 8km (5 miles) away lies the village of Doolin, a traditional (trad) music haven. In this part of west Clare, trad is king and one of Doolin’s most famous sons was Micho Russell, a world-renowned whistle player. He’s remembered with an annual festival in February. If you’re not visiting then, don’t worry. All year round Doolin’s pubs are livened up with music sessions, and with great seafood restaurants and a friendly atmosphere. There’s no wonder it’s one of the island’s most enjoyable villages.
Connect with nature
The Burren Centre in Kilfenora is only 15km (9.3 miles) from Doolin. The centre represents the ideal introduction to the fascinating limestone-covered region of the Burren. Why not try an Eco Tour with knowledgeable guide Tony Kirby. Along the tour, Tony will point out the rare and unique orchids that blossom on this incredible lunar-like landscape. There Burren also plays host to megalithic tombs and monuments older than Egypt’s pyramids – the chunky Poulnabrone Dolmen is just one of the ancient attractions on show.
Following all this fresh air, drop into O’Donoghue’s pub in Fanore, where you can sit at a table outside, order a plate of wholesome local food, listen to some Irish songs, and watch the sun sink into the sea.
Wind back to the Wild Atlantic Way for more of the west of Ireland’s offerings.
Geographical coordinates: Latitude 52 93′ 61” ; Longitude 9 47′ 08” (note, if you use your car’s GPS to go directly to this point, you may not always remain on the Wild Atlantic Way route.)