How do you go to a popular tourist site, but not feel like a tourist? It’s really a challenge at times, especially since I really dislike crowds and ‘over-populated’ tourist sites. This makes being a travel blogger a bit difficult at times. When my Wild Atlantic Way road trip itinerary took me to the uber-touristy Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, I wondered if I would really like it, or if all of the people would annoy me. They say 1.5 million people visit the Cliffs of Moher each year. Ugh. So what exactly is the best way to see the Cliffs of Moher without those crowds?
Luckily Ireland Walk Hike Bike stepped in and saved me from a travel meltdown. Instead of just going to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center area to take the same photos everyone takes and fight the crowd, they suggested I hike along the Cliffs of Moher on the Burren Way trail and see much more than what people typically see, all while escaping the crowds!
I’m not suggesting you don’t go to the Cliffs of Moher, I simply think there are ways to better experience it where you’ll have fewer people to dodge and have a better overall experience.
Table of Contents
Where are the Cliffs of Moher Located?
The Cliffs of Moher are on Ireland’s west coast right along the Wild Atlantic Way drive in County Clare. They span an area of approximately 9 miles with the Visitor Center located practically in the middle. They dip down into the Atlantic Ocean. The closest little towns are Doolin and Liscanor where you can find small B&B’s to stay at or grab some food and drink.
How Tall are the Cliffs?
At their southern end, they rise to a height of 390 ft above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head, and 5 miles to the north, they reach their maximum height of 702 ft just north of O’Brien’s Tower.
They are not the tallest cliffs in Ireland though. That recognition goes to Slieve League in County Donegal at 1,955 ft. high.
And the tallest cliffs in the world are Kalaupapa Cliffs in Molokai Hawaii at a height of 3,315 ft. I’ve had the joy of seeing them too!
What is in the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center?
I honestly have no idea because I never went in it! I was much more interested in spending my time outside taking photos and enjoying the real thing. The visitor center was built to enhance the Cliffs of Moher experience. The architecture is quite beautiful since it’s built into the landscape so that it doesn’t take away from the Cliff’s beauty.
According to my research, the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center has bathrooms, food, and exhibits. You can learn more about the geology and history of the area and it includes a special exhibit known as the Atlantic’s Edge.
Can you Visit the Cliffs of Moher for Free?
You can go see the cliffs for free if you walk there from Doolin (as explained below), however if you want to park your car in the lot (the only lot around there), then you have to pay 6 euros per person even if you are all in one car! This gets you entry into the visitor center (and a place to park your car).
This honestly is a little confusing – much like Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland – the visitor center and parking lot cost money, but you can go see the coastline for free.
If you book your tickets online (for parking), then you do save 2 euros per person – so it’s best to do it that way.
How to View the Cliffs of Moher
Carefully! Safety first – be aware that there is often strong wind at the cliffs and people are known to lose their footing and there have been multiple deaths there. So please, please don’t get too close to the edge! I am scared of heights, so I stayed well away from the edges, but I saw people dangling feet over, laying over, etc – all to get a good picture. It’s not worth it!
You can also take in the view from O’Brien’s Tower marks the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher. The tower was built on the cliffs in 1835 by the local landlord and MP Sir Cornellius O’Brien as an observation tower for the English tourists who frequented the cliffs at the time: the OG of tourism! Another version of the story tells of O’Brien building the tower in order to impress the women he was courting.
You can also see the cliffs from a new perspective – by boat. I didn’t have time to do this, but if I ever go again I will because I think it would be a great way to see the cliffs in a different light.
Here are a few Cliffs of Moher boat trips that have been recommended:
The Best way to See the Cliffs of Moher
There’s no better way to see the Cliffs of Moher and experience their power and presence than hiking on them! The Burren Way hiking trail runs all along the cliffs from Liscannor to Doolin; the visitor center is practically in the middle of the hike.
- Liscannor village to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre – 12 km (3 to 4 hours).
- Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre to Hags Head – 5 km (1.5 to 2 hours).
- Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre to Doolin - 8km (2.5 to 3 hours).
The total distance is 8 miles but due to time constraints So with a little coordination, you can find yourself on a solo hike in some of the most picturesque landscapes in Ireland!
Hike the Burren Way from Doolin to Cliffs of Moher
I did this hike in 2014, and it has become much more popular now. When I did it, I chose to drive out to the visitor center, park my rental car and walk the 4.5 miles back into town along Burren Way. Then my B&B owner agreed to drive me the short distance back out to my car in the visitor parking lot to pick it back up.
However, if you want to visit the Cliffs for free, then it’s a bit easier to do this if you walk from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher visitor center. Then maybe you can convince your nice Irish B&B host to pick you up…or hitch a ride back into town.
Best Time to do Cliffs of Moher Hike
I personally prefer sunset – the daytrippers have left by then. You could do the hike from Doolin to the visitor a couple of hours before sunset and schedule a taxi to pick you up. You’ll get some great sunset pictures and have the trail to yourself.
My Cliffs of Moher Hike Experience
The visitor center area was crowded, however, once I got out of that vicinity, everyone seemed to disappear and soon I found myself walking along some of the most spectacular cliff trails in my life – all alone. It was just me, some cows, the occasional rainstorms, and gusts of wind.
I kept thinking to myself – why aren’t more people on this trail? And then remembered that I actually loved this trail because there was no one on it. The trail led you right along the coastline through fields of livestock, and sea spray.
Even though I had to weather a number of storms during the walk, the best thing about a storm was it would blow through, the sun came out, and everything appeared so green and fresh it practically hurt my eyes. I’d never seen such a vibrant green like that before, it made me want to cry tears of happiness as I took it all in.
Before I knew it the sound of the crashing waves disappeared and the sounds of Irish music started wafting through the air. The trail took me right into the village of Doolin past the pubs – which is the perfect way to end this walk.
I was overjoyed with the Cliffs of Moher walk and found it was a great way to connect to the landscape. I walked this solo and felt safe the whole time, however you can do it with a guide or group normally for a fee.
How to Plan Your Cliffs of Moher Hike:
Location of the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk – plan your visit
Difficulty – easy (most is downhill or flat)
Coastal Walk Map (on your left) – The trail is well marked – no map is really necessary – just keep the coast on your left if you are heading from the Visitor Center to Doolin. Or keep it on your right if you are going from Doolin to the Visitor Center!
For more hiking help around the area – Ireland Walk Hike Bike
Burren Way website – Remember the Cliffs of Moher walk is only a small section of this overall trail.
Don’t Leave Without This Essential Hiking Gear
I’ve hiked all around the world and have found some key gear that I take on every hike for every kind of weather. From backpacks to socks, check out my list of the best hiking gear out there!
Where to Stay in Doolin
I stayed at Suantrai House, a B&B in Doolin with a lovely host. You can read reviews about it here!
It was a great home base for me. However, there are a number of options in Doolin: