The Cliffs of Moher: The Best Way To See Them In 2020 (And How To Avoid Getting Scammed)

Everything you need to know about visiting the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Visiting the cliffs of moher
Photo by Simon Crowe

I have a love/hate relationship with the Cliffs of Moher. I love the cliffs and the surrounding countryside.

But I absolutely hate the mayhem that you encounter when you visit. I’m also not fond of how you’re half tricked into paying in when you don’t need to (info on this below).

Now, when I say mayhem I’m referring to the hundreds (if not thousands) of people that you encounter if you visit the Cliffs of Moher at certain times of the day/year.

The car park is mental, you’re dodging people on the paths and, on the whole, it’s a general pain in the arse – BUT it doesn’t have to be.

 

What you’ll get from our No-BS Cliffs of Moher guide

  • Facts about the cliffs
  • Advice on how to visit when there’s nobody around
  • A transparent guide to tickets (and how you don’t always need them)
  • How to see the cliffs from below (on a boat tour)
  • Info on walks in the area and tours (that are actually worth doing)
  • Things to do nearby
  • Visitor centre info (opening hours, prices, etc.)

In a nutshell: in the guide below, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about avoiding the crowds at the Cliffs of Moher so that you can actually enjoy them with a bit of peace and quiet.

Visiting the Cliffs of Moher in 2020

cliffs of mother county clare
Photo by Hillwalk Tours

I’ve visited the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare around 8 or 9 times now. I grew up in Ireland, so we’d visit them on holidays and on school tours when I was a kid.

Then, when I got a little older and actually started appreciating Ireland’s beauty, I visited them a few more times with friends.

Two visits out of the 8/9 stand out in my mind. Why? Well, these were the only 2 times that I gazed out (or up) at the cliffs without having hundreds of people milling around me.

Unsurprisingly enough, these were the two most enjoyable trips. If you prefer to dodge the crowds, this guide will make you happy.

About / Quick Cliffs of Moher Facts

the doolin cliff walk
The Doolin Cliff Walk: Photo by Chris Hill

So, you’ve watched and seen hundreds of videos and photos of the Cliffs of Moher, you’re planning your trip, and you’re buzzing – but how much do you know about the cliffs themselves?

Here’s some facts about the cliffs before we dive into the main guide:

Where to find them

You’ll find the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland, in County Clare, on Ireland’s West Coast. They’re a stone’s throw from Liscannor village and Doolin.

Height

The Cliffs of Moher rise to an impressive 702 feet at their highest point and run for around 8km in length.

How they were formed

The rocks that makeup Clare’s famous cliffs were formed over 320 million years ago during the Upper Carboniferous period. Over 320 million… yes!

They were formed during a time when the area where they’re situated was much warmer, and was located at the mouth of a large river.

Heavy rain and huge floods washed sand and mud into rivers that would have normally flowed straight into the sea. Over time, the sand and mud that was left over became the solid rock that we now know as the Cliffs of Moher.

Where they get their name

The Cliffs of Moher get their name from an old fort called ‘Mothar’ or ‘Moher’ that used to stand on Hag’s Head. The fort was demolished in the early 1800s during the Napoleonic Wars.

One of Ireland’s top visitor attractions

The cliffs are the second most visited tourist attraction in Ireland (they’re Ireland’s most visited natural attraction). They’re beaten to the top spot by the Guinness Storehouse.

A staggering 1.5 million+ visit the cliffs every single year!

Bes time to visit cliffs of moher
Photo by Chris Hill

4 of the best ways to see the Cliff of Moher

sunrise at the cliffs of moher
Sunrise at the cliffs: Photo by Derek Cullen

OK, I need to be careful about how I word the next few sentences, as I don’t want to be liable for anything…

There are 4 ways to visit the Cliffs of Moher that’ll ensure you dodge the crowds. Now, while the second and third points below are perfectly legal and all above board, the first is more than likely frowned upon.

Frowned upon, but I know LOADS of people that have done it and it’s been grand:

  1. You could visit when the visitor centre is closed and the main car park is left unattended (info below)
  2. Arrive just before sunset (tours tend to visit earlier in the day so the crowds are FAR less hectic)
  3. See them from the sea (there’s a Cliffs of Moher boat tour that’s brilliant)
  4. See them from the viewing point near Hag’s Head

1. Get there before the visitor centre and car park open

Drone at the cliffs of moher
Photo by Chris Hill

So, I’ve never done this personally, but a good mate (Kev) did it recently with a group of American photographer friends that he had over visiting him in Dublin.

They wanted to catch the sunrise and, as the car park doesn’t open until 08:00 during the summer months, they needed a workaround.

According to Kev, they arrived at 05:00 (the sun starts to rise from around 05:05 in Ireland in June) and the car park was open.

Well, the barrier on the left side was up and the one on the right (where you exit) was down, but it raised automatically when you approached it.

I’ve spoken to another couple from Canada who arrived early in the morning, also, and that managed to park SAFELY in off the road at the entrance to the car park (note: they weren’t parked on the road – they were parked just in front of the ticket booth.

Am I telling you to do this? Of course not… but others have done it and it was fine. Just be careful.

And if you do happen to park in the car park before it technically opens, make sure to get back and move your car before the staff arrive.

2. Arrive at Sunset

cliffs of moher at sunset
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

Visiting the Cliffs of Moher at sunset is something that I whacked onto my bucket list ages ago. But, like most of the other items on the list, I didn’t think that I’d get the chance to tick it off for ages.

Then, one October, myself and one of the lads (Mayo Declan) ended up in Doolin for a night, and managed to get up to the cliffs just before the sun started to set.

It was pretty damn special (see the photo above).

In and around sunset at the Cliffs of Moher tends to be quiet. Now, when we were there it was Ireland’s off-season, so there was only a handful of people there, anyway.

However, I’ve spoken to a load of people over the years that have visited at sunset, and they said it was reasonably quiet for them, also.

Tour companies tend to visit the cliffs in the morning and afternoon, with few offering (I’ve only seen one) late evening trips.

Well worth doing!

3. See ’em from the see (on a Cliffs of Moher boat tour)

ferry cliffs of moher
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

The photo above is about 5 years old… I still have that damn jacket, now that I think of it!

It was taken on one of the ferries that you can get from the little pier at Doolin, and it took us right below the cliffs. Out of all the ways that I’ve seen the cliffs over the years, this was the most unique, by far.

You hop aboard a little ferry and you sail right below the jagged cliff face – it’s an experience and a half.

There’s another tour that you can do that takes you from Doolin to Inis Oirr Island. Then, on the return journey, you’ll sail below the cliffs.

Here’s a couple of Cliffs of Moher tour suggestions (these are affiliate links – you won’t pay extra, but I’ll make a small commission on the sale).

 

4. See them from the Hag’s Head side

hags head car park

This is another great option for those of you looking to dodge the crowds. Whack ‘Cliffs of Moher Liscannor Walk’ into your sat nav.

You’ll get parking here (it was €2 when I was here last) and you can take a handy 15 to 20-minute walk up to the viewing point across from the hags head.

I tend to recommend this to people that have no other option but to visit at peak times and that want to avoid a crowd where possible.

While you’ll still encounter plenty of people here during peak time, it’ll be nowhere near the number of people at the side near the main entrance.

There’s a walk from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher (we’ll cover that below) that’ll take you along part of this route, also.

stars at the cliffs
Photo by Lukasz Warzecha via Tourism Ireland

Things to do at the Cliffs of Moher 

hag's head cliff walk
Photo via Tourism Ireland

There are a number of things to do at the Cliffs of Moher and there’s many more things to see nearby.

Here’s a handful of things to do at the cliffs themselves:

  1. Switch off and soak up the view
  2. Do the cliff walk with Pat Sweeny
  3. Drop into the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre
  4. Have a nosey around O’Brien’s Tower

1. Switch off and soak up the view

cliffs of moher at sunset

This one may seem obvious, but it’s not. One of the first things people do (myself included) when they arrive at a place of incredible natural beauty is whip out their phone and take a picture.

For me, it’s gotten to the stage where it’s nearly like a natural reflex. 

When you visit, try and soak it all up – the views, the smell of fresh sea air and the feeling of the Atlantic breeze whipping across your face.

Now, this is definitely harder to do at peak times when there are big groups legging it about the place, selfie sticks all over the gaff, and noise. 

Visit before the visitor centre opens and, the chances are, you’ll have the place all to yourself.

2. Walk from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher with Pat Sweeny

There are several different people offering cliff walks, but the only one that I can vouch for based on feedback from many different people is the cliff walk with Pat Sweeny.

That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the others – not at all – I’ve just heard more people ranting and raving about Pat’s walk than any others (hit play above to see Pat in action).

Those that join the cliff walk with Pat Sweeny will be taken on a guided ramble along the sea cliffs from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre.

Here’s how Pat describes the cliff walk: ‘With the green fields of the local farmers on one side and the pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the other, this spectacular walk, led by one of these local farmers is a must. Pat is a local historian and walking enthusiast, an expert on local history and folklore.’

Need-to-knows about the Doolin Cliff Walk

  • Starting point: Outside of Gus O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Finish point: The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre
  • How to get back to Doolin: Public transport
  • Difficulty level: According to Pat, the walk is easy
  • Cost: €10 per person

3. Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience and O’Brien’s Tower

O'Briens Tower Moher
Photo via Tourism Ireland

O’Brien’s Tower is part of the visitor experience.

You’ll find the tower near the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher. It was constructed way back in 1835 and used as a viewing point for tourists.

It was restored in 1970, 2008 and then again in 2019. The interior of O’Brien’s Tower now hosts a new experiential tour, where visitors will hear the story of the infamous Cornelius O’Brien.

Expect visuals and stories. Note: you’ll need to book a ticket for this tour in the reception area.

Here’s some info for those of you planning on nipping into the visitor centre:

Cliffs of Moher Car Park

If you’re parking at the main car park at the Cliffs of Moher, you’ll have to pay €6 for every person in the car. The car park is right across from the main visitor entrance – you can’t miss it.

Now, there’s also another car park (the one we mentioned in the walks section above) over on the Hag’s Head side. This was €2 the last time that I was there and you’ll find way fewer crowds on that side.

Tickets

You’ll hear me rant about tickets below. Here’s a transparent guide to tickets:

  • If you’re walking to the cliffs and you don’t want to go into the visitor centre, you don’t need a ticket
  • If you want to park your car in the main car park, you’ll need to pay €6 for each person in the car (you’ll get access to the visitor centre for this €6, also! Note: if you book online you’ll save around €2 per person)
  • If you want to visit the new O’Brien’s Tower experience, you’ll need to book this at the reception in the visitor centre. I can’t seem to find how much this costs but it doesn’t appear to be included in the main ticket price

Opening hours

Like most tourist attractions in Ireland, the opening hours for the Cliffs of Moher changes depending on the season:

  • January: 09:00 – 17:00
  • February: 09:00 – 17:00
  • March: 08:00 – 19:00
  • April: 08:00 – 19.00
  • May to August: 08:00 – 21:00
  • September: 08:00 – 19:00
  • October: 08:00 – 19:00
  • November: 09:00 – 17:00
  • December: 09:00 – 17:00

Things to do near the Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher boat tour
Photo via Tourism Ireland

There are plenty of things to do near the Cliffs of Moher.

Here’s a handful of my favourites:

  • Take a spin out to Loop Head Lighthouse (and admire the cliffs)
  • Visit the Doolin Cave
  • Take a spin out to Doonagore Castle
  • Nip into the Doolin Chocolate Shop (the chocolate here is unreal!)
  • Grab a pint in Gus O’Connor’s and listen to some live music
  • Visit the Burren
  • Take the ferry to Inis Oirr

Do you have to pay into the Cliffs of Moher? Not really!

No, you do not need to pay in to see the Cliffs of Moher. You do have to pay for the car park (€6 per person) and into the visitor centre (it’s free in if you pay for parking) but if you don’t have a car, it’s FREE to see the cliffs.

I have a massive issue with how the official website for the cliffs sells tickets. Here’s their current booking page (see if you can see why it annoys me).

Do you have to pay into the Cliffs of Moher
Note: it’s considerably cheaper to book online

Can’t see it? Well, if you visit the website you’d be led to believe that EVERYONE needs to pay to see the cliffs. 

There’s ZERO info on what you get for the tickets (not that I can see, anyway) and nowhere (again, that I can see) does it explain that you can see the Cliffs of Moher for free if you:

  • Don’t have a car
  • Don’t want to go inside the visitor centre 

I have had hundreds of tourists in the last year alone get in touch asking about Cliffs of Moher ticket prices, many of whom were confused by the wording on the official website.

I’ve also had many others get in touch to say they felt the website was a tourist trap, as it made them believe that they had to buy a ticket to get in.

You’ll find a breakdown in the prices section of the guide on how much the various tickets cost (and where to find cheaper parking).

Getting to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin and Galway

belfast bus tour

One of the most common questions that we receive revolves around getting to the Cliffs of Moher from Galway, Dublin and Limerick.

There are a few different ways to do it:

From Galway

  • Driving: It’s a handy hour drive from Galway City
  • Bus: The 350 bus from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher is your best bet
  • Tours: See our tour section below

From Dublin

  • Driving: 2 hours and 50 minutes
  • Bus: The Dublin to Cliffs of Moher bus route isn’t ideal – you take the M7 from Dublin City to Ennis, then the 350 bus from Ennis to the cliffs – total time: 5 hours and 30 minutes
  • Tours: See our tour section below

From Limerick

  • Driving: 1 hour and 5 minutes
  • Bus: The Limerick to Cliffs of Moher bus route is handy enough – you take the 300 bus from Limerick to Ennis, then the 350 bus from Ennis to the cliffs – total time: 3 hours 
  • Tours: See our tour section below

The Cliffs of Moher shuttle bus

Cliffs of Moher Shuttle Bus Schedule

If you’re staying in Ennistymon, Lahinch, Liscannor, Doolin, Lisdoonvarna you’re in luck – a shuttle bus launched in 2019 that now serves each of these areas.

You can buy tickets and get updates on the cliffsofmoher.ie.

Note: the service only runs during the summer months (30th May – 31st August).

Cliffs of Moher Tours 

the doolin cliff walk
Photo via The Doolin Cliff Walk

There seems to be an almost endless number of providers offering tours and day trips to the cliffs.

Here’s a couple of day trips from Dublin and Galway that have ridiculously good reviews.

Day trip from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher

 

Day trip from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher

 

Cliffs of Moher weather: What to expect

The weather at the Cliffs of Moher, just like in any other part of Ireland, can be a little bit mental (hit play on the video above from Hariom Hariyani to see what I mean).

You could be lashing on sun cream one minute and diving under a tree for shelter from rain the next.

The best advice that I can give you when it comes to the weather is to wear layers. That way, if it’s too hot you can remove layers, and if it’s too cold you can put some back on.

A waterproof jacket or a poncho is key!

Another thing to keep in mind is the wind. I’ve yet to visit the cliffs (I’ve visited during every season at this stage) when it hasn’t been insanely windy. 

Frequently asked questions (yes, a scene from Harry Potter was filmed here…)

harry potter ireland

We’ve revieved many different questions about the cliffs over the years. I’m going to try and answer the most common below.

If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, just ask it in the comments section below this guide.

Was Harry Potter Filmed at the Cliffs of Moher?

Yes. A scene from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was filmed at the cliffs. Remember the scene where Dumbledore and Harry travelled to a cave to locate one of Voldemorts Horcruxes? That was shot in one of the caves at the Cliffs of Moher.

Do you have to pay for the Cliffs of Moher?

If you want to use the car park and access the visitor centre, yes. If you plan on walking up and don’t fancy going inside, no.

Where should I stay near the Cliffs of Moher?

If it was me, I’d stay in Doolin (here’s a full guide to Doolin) as it’s close, there’s loads of buzzy pubs in the village, and it’s close to loads of other places to visit, like the Burren.

Is there a train from Dublin to Cliffs of Moher?

Nope. You’d need to get a train from Heuston Station to Galway and then get the 350 bus from Galway to the cliffs. It’ll take around 5 to 6 hours in total.

Have a question, piece of advice or

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

2 COMMENTS

  1. If we purchase the discounted tickets on the website, do we have to pay for the car park when we get there or is that already included in the ticket?

  2. Hi . Will be in Doolin Sunday with my daughter to see Cliffs , her 1st time!! , she’s 21 ( shame on me ).. anyway weather is supposed to be chronic, again !
    From reading the above ( fantastically informative btw, thanks) , I’m torn between the cliff walk or boat? , presumably both with depend on how bad it is too weather wise.
    Love reading your blogs .
    Thanks

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