The Best Way to Experience the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are on many a bucket list, and one of the fan-favourite places to visit in Ireland (and in Europe I would say). As it’s such a hot spot among tourists, there are no shortages of tour companies who have day tours running from Dublin, Belfast, Galway, etc. They drive you to the Cliffs, give you an hour to explore through the Visitor Centre. It could be a bit underwhelming for those of you who have been dreaming of visiting them for years. Or those who love the outdoors, and who want to see the iconic views and places important scenes (ahem, Harry Potter?) have been filmed. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see the version of the cliffs you see online from the Visitor’s Centre because you’re right on top of the main chunk of the Cliffs. But most people don’t know they have an alternative, well here it is:
Fasten up your hiking boots ladies and gentlemen, because the best way to see the Cliffs of Moher is by hiking them. There is an 8km loop from the village of Doolin straight to the Visitor’s Centre and back. You get up close and personal with the Cliffs because you’re right. On. Top. Of. Them.
Getting to Doolin…
If you’re starting in Dublin, you can easily take a bus or train to Galway. Then, transfer onto another bus headed to Doolin. Bus Éireann is super easy to book with! On their website they’ll tell you exactly where each bus is stopping. You can pre-book and just show the driver your email confirmation and they’ll print you a ticket right on the bus!
I would say it’s worth making an overnight stop in Galway, because it’s at least a 3 hour bus ride between Dublin and Galway…. And then another two hours to Doolin! You could do it in a day, and I did on my way back, but Galway is beautiful and a stopover makes it all a bit less stressful and more leisurely! Plus, you’ll get to see the hustle and bustle of Dublin, a little bit more relaxed Irish city in Galway, and then head on to a rural Irish village.
A bit about Doolin…
The village to hike from, Doolin, is worth visiting in itself because of the quaint and quintessential Irish nature of it. It surrounds the Aille River in County Clare, it’s right by the Burren Naitonal Park, and it’s the home of Irish folk music! That means after your long hike up the cliffs, you can go to one of the pubs in the village, get a hearty dinner, and listen to some of the best Irish folk music in the world every night.
How to get to the trail…
Getting to the trail is easy from Doolin! I walked right from my bed at the Aille River Hostel to the cliffs and back. All of the hostels and hotels in Doolin know that people go there to hike the Cliffs, so they can give you easy directions to find the beginning of the path. They’ll also give you advice on weather and footwear, where the best spots to stop are, etc. Solo travellers: there are some guided walking tours that you could sign up for! If you’ll be travelling alone, you might feel more safe going with a group.
Don’t worry about getting lost!
If you do plan on going alone, it’s a pretty straightforward path. You walk up a big hill and then you’ll see a big sign of the Wild Atlantic Way footpaths. The sign will outline the route to the Visitor Centre. You could just take a picture to refer back to in case you’re worried you’ll get lost! But, it’s pretty hard to get lost because the path runs with fields of horses, sheep, and cows to your left, and the cliff edge to your right. At the very end there’s a big incline. Once you reach the top you’ll be surrounded by tourists who have come on a day tour!
Once you arrive you can take a break at the Visitor Centre, chat with some tourists there, maybe get a coffee or some postcards. You don’t have to hike all the way back, either. You could easily grab a bus back to Doolin from the Visitor Centre. Then you only have to do half the hike! Even if you’re not a big hiker, hiking the Cliffs of Moher is much more accessible than you’d expect!
Wear the right footwear.
I had hiking boots with me, but I wore my runners because I forgot to change after getting off the bus! It wasn’t until I was slipping down the muddy footpath, headed towards the cliff-edge that I realised my mistake. Shoes with a good grip will put your mind at ease when you’re hiking closer to the edge than you’d like.
Bring a waterproof layer.
The West Coast of Ireland gets a lot of rain, that’s no secret! Even if it’s calling for sunshine (lucky you!) the sea spray of the waves crashing over the Cliffs will absolutely drench you in some spots, so be prepared!
Always have water, snacks, and a way to contact home!
This is just standard hiking advice. You don’t want to be caught out without any food or water, and with no one knowing where you are! Luckily, the hostel or hotel will know where you’ve headed. If you don’t get back, you won’t be left stranded!
Proceed with caution.
I mean it when I say you’ll be right along the cliff’s edge. When you get to the Visitor’s Centre you’ll see tons of tourists hanging off the edge, playing daredevil. It’s not worth it. Even in January of 2019, a tourist died while taking a selfie on the Cliffs of Moher. Though you’ll be along the Cliffs, you don’t need to worry about falling! You’ll be fine as long as you’re taking care and treating the Cliffs with the right amount of caution!
If you have any questions about hiking the Cliffs, just leave a comment or send me an email. I’m happy to help! It was easily one of the coolest experiences of my life and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone willing to try it.