Since arriving in Ireland, I’d been looking forward to a day trip to Cliffs of Moher. I couldn’t have picked a better weekend to take the Two Day Wild Rover Tour to Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Galway City and Aran Islands. The rain mostly stayed away, the temperature was perfect and the sun was actually shining. A rare treat in Ireland, I am told.
I met the tour bus in front of Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street in Dublin. Rob, our tour guide, was brilliant and kept the trip lively. He told us about Irish history and interesting facts about Ireland. He had us in stitches at his jokes. It was from Rob that I learned an Irishman never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. And why shouldn’t he?
A couple hours into the ride we made a pit stop in Moneygall at Obama Plaza (yes, that Obama), a slightly puzzling attraction. As an American, it initially reminded me of a large truck stop with Obama’s face slapped on some billboards. Tour guide Rob filled us in on the history behind Obama Plaza, and it’s admittedly a really cool story. Barack and Michelle Obama visited this small village in 2011. President Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather was born in Moneygall and emigrated from Ireland at the end of the Great Famine in 1851. Obama Plaza highlights that half of U.S. presidents have Irish ancestry, including John F. Kennedy who visited his ancestral home in County Wexford in 1963.
The bus ride from Obama Plaza to Cliffs of Moher is stunningly scenic. In 1649, Oliver Cromwell landed in the east and drove the Irish people to the west, so there the traditional Irish culture has been better preserved. The west coast is more laid back, rural and less anglicized. By the time we arrived at Cliffs of Moher, we had journeyed through 12 of the 26 counties in Ireland!
Cliffs of Moher is Ireland’s most visited natural attraction. The cliffs had 1.2 million visitors last year alone! And they were ranked the best ‘cliff-view’ on the planet by Conde Nast Traveler. With views like this, I can see why!
The visitor centre charges €6 per adult (under 16 are free), which includes parking, the Cliffs of Moher pathways and platforms, access to the visitor centre and a contribution towards conservation at the cliffs. This was included in the cost of the Two Day Wild Rover Tour.
The views are absolutely breath-taking! The dark, jagged cliffs set against a green or blue backdrop was like staring at art. After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I headed up the path towards O’Brien’s Tower. Having been warned, I dressed warm because it can be quite windy along the cliffs. There was a light mist coming down so I brought out my umbrella (they are all the rage in Ireland you know). Fortunately, the drizzle was short-lived.
O’Brien’s Tower is perched near the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher. Cornelius O’Brien built the tower in 1835 as an observation platform for visitors who were even then flocking to the cliffs. I paid €2 to enter the tower and climbed the two spiral staircases to reach the viewing platform on the top.
A costumed gentleman working in the tower told interesting facts about the tower and cliffs. He pointed out the cave in the cliffs that can be seen in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. And you may recognize the Cliffs of Insanity from the Princess Bride.
I was lucky that the day was clear enough to see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and Connemara. It really is a spectacular sight to see! It’s no wonder they were recently voted as the seventh most wonderful heritage site in the world in a UNESCO global poll.
I journeyed further up the path, passing people much braver than I who were getting eerily close to the edge of the cliffs for that perfect selfie. The mom in me wanted to scream at them to get back, but I just cringed and kept walking.
Surprisingly, the views of the cliffs change drastically depending on where you are standing along the cliff edge and allow for a variety of different photo opportunities.
When I was finally able to tear myself away from the stunning views of the cliffs, I entered the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience which is built into a hillside near the cliffs. The visitor centre has interactive exhibits and information about the history, geology, flora and fauna of the cliffs. There are an estimated 30,000 birds living on the cliffs! These include Atlantic puffins (my favorite) and razorbills. The visitor centre has an expansive gift shop and lovely cafe. I recommend the lemon yogurt.
After spending two hours at the cliffs, the tour bus took us through the Burren, an area known for its distinctive landscape. The rolling hills of the Burren are covered in limestone pavements dotted with colorful wildflowers. The word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boíreann” which means a rocky place.
The rugged, rocky landscape of the Burren is unlike anything I had ever seen before. I carefully navigated my way over ankle-turning rocks toward the ocean. The waves crashing against the cliffs and up through cracks in the limestone, splashing anyone standing too close, is really incredible to witness.
The tour bus continued along the Atlantic Coast around Galway Bay, passing the fishing village Kinvara where we glimpsed the famous Galway Hookers (I’m talking about boats, people). Next stop Galway City!