Cliffs of Moher

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The Cliffs of Moher, looking north towards O'Brien's Tower

The Cliffs of Moher are located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, where the unearthly rocks of that region tumble into the Atlantic Ocean.[1][2]

The cliffs rise 390 feet above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag's Head, and reach their maximum height of 700 feet just north of O'Brien's Tower, five miles to the north.[3]

The tower is a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O'Brien.[1][4] 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.[4] The cliffs rank amongst the top visited tourist sites in Ireland,[5] and receive almost one million visitors a year.[3]


Nineteenth-century view of the cliffs and Leacmayornagneeve rock in the foreground

The cliffs take their name from an old fort called Moher that once stood on Hag's Head, the southernmost point of the cliffs. The writer Thomas Johnson Westropp referred to it in 1905 as Moher Uí Ruis or Moher Uí Ruidhin.[6] The fort still stood in 1780 and is mentioned in an account from John Lloyd's a Short Tour Of Clare (1780).[7] It was demolished in 1808 to provide material for a new telegraph tower.[6] The present tower near the site of the old Moher Uí Ruidhin was built as a lookout tower during the Napoleonic wars.[8]


The cliffs are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland and topped the list of attractions in 2006 by drawing almost one million visitors.[9] Since 2011 they have formed a part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, one of a family of geotourism destinations throughout Europe which are members of the European Geoparks Network.[10]

Visitor centre

In the 1990s, the local council initiated development plans to enable visitors to experience the cliffs without significant intrusive man-made amenities. In keeping with this approach, the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience was built into a hillside approaching the cliffs. The centre is also intended to be environmentally sensitive in its use of renewable energy systems including geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and grey water recycling.[11]

The €32 million facility was planned and built over a 17-year period, and officially opened in February 2007. Facility exhibits include interactive media displays covering the geology, history, flora and fauna of the cliffs. And a large multimedia screen displays a bird's eye view from the cliffs, as well as video from the underwater caves below the cliffs.[12]

Cliffs of Moher Cruise

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."[13]

Separate ferry trips also allow tourists to view the cliffs from sea level.[14]

Geology and wildlife

The cliffs seen from the beach

The cliffs consist mainly of beds of Namurian shale and sandstone,[15] with the oldest rocks being found at the bottom of the cliffs. It is possible to see 300 million year-old river channels cutting through, forming unconformities at the base of the cliffs.

An estimated 30,000 birds roost on the cliffs, representing more than 20 species.[16] These include Atlantic Puffins, which live in large colonies at isolated parts of the cliffs and on the small Goat Island.[16] Also present are hawks, gulls, guillemots, shags, ravens and choughs.

Popular culture

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);
  • Leap Year (2010).

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".[17]

In music, the cliffs have appeared in music videos, including Maroon 5's "Runaway" video, Westlife's "My Love", and Rich Mullins' "The Color Green". Most of singer Dusty Springfield's ashes were scattered at the cliffs by her brother, Tom.[18]

In television, the cliffs appear in the episodes of Father Ted called "Tentacles of Doom" and "Cigarettes and Alcohol and Rollerblading" (1996).

In literature, the cliffs are an important location in Eoin Colfer's The Wish List, as one of Lowrie's wishes is spitting off the Cliffs of Moher.


Buses to the Cliffs of Moher run from Ennis, Ennistymon, Doolin (with a ferry connection to Aran Islands possible), Lisdoonvarna, Kinvara and Galway. Onward rail and bus connections are available at Ennis and Galway.


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Cliffs of Moher)


  1. 1.0 1.1 – The Cliffs of Moher
  2. Portrait of Ireland: Landscapes, Treasures, Traditions. Dorling Kindersley Travel Guides. 1 August 2000. ISBN 0-7894-6361-X. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Discover Ireland – Cliffs of Moher
  4. 4.0 4.1 "O'Brien's Tower". (Official Site). Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  5. "Ireland's most popular tourist attractions for 2012 announced". Fáilte Ireland (National Tourism Development Authority of Ireland). 26 July 2013. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Archaeology of the Burren: Prehistoric Forts and Dolmens in North Clare by Thomas Johnson Westropp. Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Vol. xxxv., Consecutive Series; Vol. xv., Fifth Series (1905). Retrieved: 24 February 2012.
  7. Clare Library – Lloyd's Tour of Clare, 1780 – Burren, Mohar, Liscanor Bay
  8. Kelly, Eamonn (2009). The Cliffs of Moher. Matthew Kelly. ISBN 0-9561746-0-4. 
  9. Fáilte Ireland – Tourism Facts 2006 – Attendances at Popular Visitor Attractions in Ireland 2006
  10. Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark The Burren Connect Project.
  11. Eco technology in Cliffs of Moher underground centre
  12. "About the Cliffs - Education". (Official website). 
  13. 2007 Awards – Atlantic Edge Exhibition – Cliffs of Moher Experience and Martello Media
  14. Doolin and Cliffs of Moher Boat Trips]
  15. Rider, M.H. The Namurian of West County Clare. 1974
  16. 16.0 16.1 – Official tourism website – Birdwatching at the Cliffs of Moher
  17. "Film of the Week – Waveriders". Sunday Tribune. 5 April 2009. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  18. "Dusty Springfield Biography". London: The Guardian. 8 July 2010. Retrieved 1 August 2012.