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Cliffs of Moher

Coordinates: 52°58′18.302″N 9°25′34.802″W / 52.97175056°N 9.42633389°W / 52.97175056; -9.42633389
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cliffs of Moher
Native name
Irish: Aillte an Mhothair
Looking north towards O'Brien's Tower
Nearest cityLahinch, County Clare, Ireland
Coordinates52°58′18.302″N 9°25′34.802″W / 52.97175056°N 9.42633389°W / 52.97175056; -9.42633389
Elevation155 m (509 ft)
OwnerClare County Council, private farmers
Cliffs of Moher is located in Ireland
Cliffs of Moher
Location of Cliffs of Moher in Ireland
Aerial video of the cliffs (2014)

The Cliffs of Moher (/ˈmʌhər/; Irish: Aillte an Mhothair)[1] are sea cliffs located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland.[2][3] They run for about 14 kilometres (9 miles). At their southern end, they rise 120 metres (390 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag's Head, and, 8 kilometres (5 miles) to the north, they reach their maximum height of 214 metres (702 ft) just north of O'Brien's Tower,[4] a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs, built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O'Brien,[2][5] then continue at lower heights. The closest settlements are the villages of Liscannor 6 km (4 miles) to the south, and Doolin 7 km (4 miles) to the north.

From the cliffs, and from atop the tower, visitors can see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, the Maumturks and Twelve Pins mountain ranges to the north in County Galway, and Loop Head to the south.[5] The cliffs rank among the most visited tourist sites in Ireland, with around 1.5 million visits per year.[6]


A 19th-century Photochrom postcard of the cliffs, with Leacmayornagneeve rock in the foreground

The cliffs take their name from an old promontory fort called Mothar or Moher, which once stood on Hag's Head, the southernmost point of the cliffed coast, now the site of Moher Tower. The writer Thomas Johnson Westropp referred to it in 1905 as Moher Uí Ruis or Moher Uí Ruidhin.[7] The fort still stood in 1780 and is mentioned in an account from John Lloyd's A Short Tour of Clare (1780).[8] It was demolished in 1808 to provide material for a lookout/telegraph tower that was intended to provide warning in case of a French invasion during the Napoleonic wars.[7][9]


The cliffs are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland and topped a list of attractions in 2006 by receiving almost one million visitors at the official visitor centre. With additional visitors to other locales included there are around 1.5 million a year.[10] In 2022, approximately 1.1 million visited the Cliffs of Moher, with 41% arriving from the U.S.[11] Since 2011, they have formed a part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, one of a family of geotourism destinations throughout Europe that are members of the European Geoparks Network[12] and also recognized by UNESCO. The cliffs are also a "signature point" on the official Wild Atlantic Way tourist trail.

While the cliffs can be accessed at multiple points, and there is an 18 kilometres (11 miles) Cliff Walk,[13] the majority of visitors come to the official visitor centre.

Visitor centre[edit]

Visitor centre

In the 1990s the local authority, Clare County Council, initiated development plans to enable visitors to experience the cliffs without significant intrusive man-made amenities. In keeping with this approach, a modern visitor centre, the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, was built into a hillside approaching the cliffs. The centre was planned to be environmentally sensitive in its use of renewable energy systems including geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and grey water recycling.[14]

The €32 million facility was planned and built over a 17-year period and officially opened in February 2007. Exhibits include interactive media displays covering the geology, history, flora and fauna of the cliffs. A large multimedia screen displays a bird's-eye view from the cliffs, as well as video from the underwater caves below the cliffs.[15] There are also two cafés and several shops.

Visitor numbers[edit]

The visitor experience recorded 1,427,000 visits in 2016, up 14% on 2015, and up 52% in off-peak December, for example.[16] In 2017 the Cliffs of Moher was the second most popular 'fee charging' tourist attraction in the country with 1,527,000 visitors.[17] This increased again by 3.8% in 2018 to 1,580,010 visitors.[18]

The nature and speed of increase in visitor numbers has led to some capacity problems at peak times and in peak season. To counter this, visitors are increasingly encouraged to come at other times, with discounts given to coach operators who book for off-peak slots, and late opening of the centre introduced for July and much of August. Later-arriving visitors have also been facilitated by the fitting of automatically opening exit gates from the official car parking facilities.


The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience won an award in the Interpret Britain & Ireland Awards 2007 awarded by the Association of Heritage Interpretation (AHI). Although the award was specifically for the Atlantic Edge exhibition, the AHI assessed the entire visitor centre and site. The citation stated that the entire visitor centre was "one of the best facilities that the judges had ever seen."[19]


The official Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk runs for 18 km, from Hag's Head to Doolin, passing the Visitor Centre and O'Brien's Tower, with good viewing throughout, subject to rain or sea fog.

There are two paths near the visitor centre, the official one being set back a little for safety, while an unofficial path runs closer to the edge. In July 2016 the so-called Cliff Walk, outside the official Cliffs of Moher amenities, was temporarily closed because of the risk of rock falls. People were warned to stay on the official path further off the cliff edge instead of the unofficial seaside trail.[20][21] Injury and even casualties from visitors straying off the trail continue to be a problem despite signage and other prevention initiatives.[22]

Separate ferry trips also allow tourists to view the cliffs from sea level,[23] and at certain times fixed-wing aircraft from Connemara Airport also provide a viewing opportunity.[24]

Geology and wildlife[edit]

The cliffs seen from the beach

The cliffs consist mainly of beds of Namurian shale and sandstone,[25] and the oldest rocks are at the bottom of the cliffs. During the time of their formation between 313 and 326 million years ago, a river dumped sand, silt and clay into an ancient marine basin. Over millions of years, the sediments collecting at the mouth of this ancient delta were compacted and lithified into the sedimentary strata preserved in the now-exposed cliffs. The area is considered a geologic laboratory that preserves a record of deltaic deposition in deep water. Individual strata vary in thickness from just a few centimetres to several metres, each representing a specific depositional event in the history of the delta. In aggregate, up to 200 metres of sedimentary rocks are exposed in the Cliffs of Moher. Trace fossils are abundant, comprising two main types: (1) scolicia or worming trails, which are interpreted as feeding trails left by as-yet-unidentified invertebrates, and (2) burrow marks, which are circular features preserved as casts of burrows once occupied by as-yet-unidentified marine creatures. Ripple marks are preserved in some stones.[26]

Today the cliffs are subject to erosion by wave action, which undermines the base of support causing the cliff to collapse under its own weight. This process creates a variety of coastal landforms characteristic of erosional coasts such as sea caves, sea stacks, and sea stumps. Branaunmore, a 67-metre high sea stack at the foot of the Cliffs of Moher below O'Brien's Tower, was once part of the cliffs, but coastal erosion gradually removed the layers of rock that joined it with the mainland. A large sea arch can also be seen at Hag's Head below the Napoleonic signal tower and many smaller sea arches can be seen from sea level.[26]

It is possible to see 300-million-year-old river channels cutting through, forming unconformities at the base of the cliffs.[citation needed]

At peak season, there are an estimated 30,000 pairs of birds living on the cliffs, representing more than 20 species.[27] These include Atlantic puffins, which live in large colonies at isolated parts of the cliffs and on the small Goat Island,[27] and razorbills. The site is an Important Bird Area.[28]

A wide range of sea life can also be seen, from grey seals through porpoises, dolphins, minke whales and basking sharks, as well as, occasionally, sunfish. On land, feral goats, foxes, badgers and the Irish hare are found, along with various breeds of farm cattle.[29]

Popular culture[edit]

The Cliffs of Moher have appeared in numerous media. In cinema, the cliffs have appeared in several films, including The Princess Bride (1987) (as the filming location for "The Cliffs of Insanity"), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009),[30] Leap Year (2010) and Irish Wish (2024).[31] The cliffs are mentioned in the Martin Scorsese film Bringing Out the Dead (1999) and are noted in the 2008 documentary Waveriders as the location of a large surfing wave known as "Aileens".[32]

In music, the cliffs have been the scene for music videos, including Maroon 5's "Runaway", Westlife's "My Love",[33] and Rich Mullins' "The Color Green". In 1999, most of singer Dusty Springfield's ashes were scattered at the cliffs by her brother Tom.[34] There is also an Irish fiddle tune called The Cliffs of Moher.[35]


Bus Éireann route 350 links the Cliffs of Moher to several locations: Ennis, Ennistymon, Doolin, Lisdoonvarna, Kinvara and Galway. This service includes a number of journeys each way daily. There is also a privately operated shuttle bus that serves the site from Doolin.[36]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cliffs of Moher". Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  2. ^ a b "The Cliffs of Moher". myguideireland.com.
  3. ^ Portrait of Ireland: Landscapes, Treasures, Traditions. Dorling Kindersley Travel Guides. 1 August 2000. ISBN 0-7894-6361-X.
  4. ^ "Discover Ireland website (official tourism site) – Cliffs of Moher". Discover Ireland. Archived from the original on 9 January 2010.
  5. ^ a b "O'Brien's Tower". CliffsofMoher.ie (Official Site). Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Record numbers visit Cliffs of Moher in 2016 – over 1.42 million visits just to the official visitor centre". Irish Examiner (national newspaper). 4 January 2017.
  7. ^ a b Thomas Johnson Westropp (1905). "Archaeology of the Burren: Prehistoric Forts and Dolmens in North Clare". Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Consecutive Series; Vol. xv., Fifth Series. xxxv. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Lloyds Tour of Clare, 1780: Burren, Mohar, Liscannor Bay". clarelibrary.ie.
  9. ^ Kelly, Eamonn (2009). The Cliffs of Moher. Matthew Kelly. ISBN 978-0-9561746-0-4. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012.
  10. ^ "Failte Ireland – TOURISM FACTS 2006". failteireland.ie. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011.
  11. ^ Post, Irish. "More than one million visitors enjoyed Cliffs of Moher experience in 2022". The Irish Post. Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  12. ^ "Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark". The Burren Connect Project. Archived from the original on 26 December 2011.
  13. ^ Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk
  14. ^ "Eco technology in Cliffs of Moher underground centre". ConstructIreland.ie. Archived from the original on 12 March 2012.
  15. ^ "About the Cliffs – Education". Cliffsofmoher.ie (Official website).
  16. ^ "Record numbers visit Cliffs of Moher in 2016". Irish Examiner (national newspaper). 4 January 2017.
  17. ^ "Cliffs are Ireland's second most popular tourist attraction". Clare Echo. 7 June 2018.
  18. ^ "Visitor Numbers at Cliffs of Moher 2018". Cliffs of Moher. 23 January 2019.
  19. ^ "2007 Awards – Atlantic Edge Exhibition – Cliffs of Moher Experience and Martello Media". AHI.org.uk. Archived from the original on 4 May 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  20. ^ Elaine Power (9 July 2016). "Warning issued for visitors to the Cliffs of Moher". Newstalk 106-108. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  21. ^ Pat Flynn (22 July 2016). "Warnings issued for visitors to Cliffs of Moher to avoid leaving official coastal path after landslides". Irish Mirror. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  22. ^ "Thousands risk their lives every year along Cliffs of Moher trail". The Irish Times. Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  23. ^ "Doolin Ferry to Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands". doolin-tourism.com. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013.
  24. ^ Aer Arann – scenic flights over the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands
  25. ^ Rider, M.H. (1974). "The Namurian of West County Clare". Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section B: Biological, Geological, and Chemical Science. 74: 125–142. JSTOR 20518942.
  26. ^ a b "Cliffs of Moher Geology" (PDF). Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  27. ^ a b "Birdwatching at the Cliffs of Moher". DiscoverIreland.com – Official tourism website. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011.
  28. ^ "Important Bird Areas factsheet: Cliffs of Moher". BirdLife International. Retrieved 16 June 2015. Downloaded from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 July 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  29. ^ Cliffs of Mohers – FAQs – Wildlife
  30. ^ "Weekend Window: The Cliffs of Moher". United States: ABC News. 7 June 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  31. ^ Ruairi Scott Byrne (19 March 2024). "Irish Wish: Where in Ireland Lindsay Lohan's hit Netflix romcom was filmed". Irish Mirror. Retrieved 22 March 2024.
  32. ^ "Film of the Week – Waveriders". Sunday Tribune. 5 April 2009. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  33. ^ "Movies made at the Cliffs of Moher". Cliffs of Moher Cruises. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  34. ^ "Dusty Springfield Biography". The Guardian. London. 8 July 2010. Archived from the original on 4 December 2020. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  35. ^ "The Cliffs of Moher (jig)". The Session. 18 May 2001. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  36. ^ "Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk Shuttle Bus" (PDF). Cliffs of Moher. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 June 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.

External links[edit]