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On our recent trip to Ireland, visiting the Cliffs of Moher topped my list of non-negotiables.
I’ve already discussed my first trip to Ireland back in college and how my roommate and I spent a better half of a week traipsing through the streets of Dublin without a penny to our names. Tragically, we had to pass on a bus tour out to the Cliffs of Moher due to lack of funding, and I have regretted it ever since.
This time around, I made SURE to prioritize a visit. Tyler and I spent two days in Dublin and two days at the wonderland that is the Waterford Castle. The Waterford Castle sits on the southeast side of Ireland, and the Cliffs of Moher are on the west side. We woke up very early on our last day at the castle and made the three-hour drive across the green expanse of Ireland to see the cliffs before we flew to our next destination (England).
We booked our flight to England out of Shannon to avoid having to make the three-hour drive back across to Dublin. It took less than an hour to get from the Cliffs of Moher to the Shannon airport at the end of the day, so this worked out perfectly.
Needless to say, I had a LOT riding on this visit.
I had pictured it a million times: I’d step out of the car into blazing sunshine and walk a perfectly pebbled path out to the cliffs. I would obviously conquer my fear of heights by the time the path led me to the edge of the cliffs, and I’d look out at the staggeringly rugged coastline, spanning my entire line of vision. A light breeze would whip through my hair, and Tyler and I would quietly renew our vows to each other while holding hands and taking everything in.
I’m sure you can guess how this ended.
As in any classic “expectation vs. reality” scenario, my dreams rapidly screeched to a halt as we drove up to find the cliffs engulfed entirely in a dense fog. As I stepped out of the car into six inches of mud, I thought to myself, “I’m sure this will clear up in no time. It’s only 10:54 a.m. after all.”
We spent the next hour shivering and getting soaking wet from what felt like 100 mph winds (to me) and rain. My demeanor oscillated between laughing hysterically at the raging winds and nonexistent visibility and screaming at Tyler to back away from the edge of the cliffs because of course this is how I would lose him.
A couple of times, the fog floated in and out for just 30 seconds at a time, and we were able to catch a glimpse of the few cliffs in front of us. Even with very limited visibility, we could tell that this spot is certainly not overrated. The Cliffs of Moher are astonishing and majestic.
Though our visit was not exactly what we expected, we still consider the Cliffs of Moher a must-stop on any Ireland itinerary.
Here are just a few things to note as you plan your visit:
As discussed, prepare for bad weather.
While I don’t think that bad weather should deter a visit, definitely take care to manage expectations with yourself and your travel companion(s) to avoid the same disappointment I did. Nothing could impede my staunch optimism that somehow everything would work out despite the repeated forecast suggestions that fog would be the primary player on the day of our visit. Be prepared to wait around for the fog to take an intermission, and force yourself to enjoy it even if conditions are less than ideal.
Go in the morning.
If you can help it, try to schedule your arrival before noon. Busloads of tourists roll in from Dublin right around that time, and it’s an entirely different experience trying to get a cute cliff selfie while also trying to not get knocked over said cliff by one of the many eager visitors. We got back to our car just as three buses pulled in, and we are so glad we had time to explore sans tour groups.
Avoid the Cliffs of Moher tourist center and park down the road.
Skip the crowded visitor center and turn instead just a kilometer south at the sign that says “Parking for Cliffs.” Follow the tiny, windy road up to a small house and lot. From there, make your way up the path towards the cliffs where you’ll have tons of space to enjoy them yourself.
Eat fish and chips at Gus O’Connor’s Pub.
We didn’t do any research about food in the area (shocking, I know), so we really lucked out when we hangrily stumbled upon Gus O’Connor’s Pub. We were frozen to the bone and immediately ordered soup and fish and chips. Definitely recommend stopping here for lunch after a morning walking the cliffs.
If your schedule allows, make the 30-minute drive over to Burren. We hiked around this area and basically had it to ourselves (not counting the herd of horses that prompted Tyler’s sudden transformation into the horse whisperer). This area, while slightly underwhelming following the Cliffs of Moher, was still very cool and fun to walk around.
Hopefully you’ll find these tips useful on your trip to Ireland and the Cliffs of Moher. And hopefully I can learn to start self-managing expectations.
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