Cliffs of Moher on Ireland's West Coast

By: Tom Malone - Summer 2017

Limerick, Ireland - We pulled into a parking lot near the Cliffs of Moher main trailhead around 6:00 a.m. Overcast skies surrounded us, and a brisk morning wind blew in from the Atlantic Ocean.

As we strolled into the main entrance area, we realized that we were the only people in sight; apparently, no one else had the desire to hike along 200-meter-high cliffs on a cold, Irish summer day.

We saw a an old watchtower on a hill to our North, so we climbed the trail to it. The panoramic view of the cliffs left me awestruck. The sheer vertical cliffs were so dramatic, and the layers of rock color were so vibrant, that I decided the Cliffs of Moher were one of the coolest natural features I’ve ever seen (even rivaling the Grand Canyon).

Featured in films like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Princess Bride (as the “Cliffs of Insanity”), the Cliffs of Moher provided nothing but picturesque, natural drama. I wanted to explore the entire territory instantly.

I turned to explore the watchtower a bit, but it was locked, probably to keep people like me out. Though this particular watchtower (O’Brien’s Tower) was created in the 1800s to give travelers cool views of the cliffs, dozens of watchtowers like these were used throughout the Middle Ages to serve as protective measures for the lords and kings who ruled the region. In fact, the entire Cliffs of Moher trailhead was populated by these ancient watchtowers.

The Cliffs of Moher were invaded by Vikings, Spaniards, and, most notoriously, the English. Dozens of violent battles took places along the Cliffs of Moher, which echoed through the violent landscape of the cliffs themselves. Further along the trail, we saw a memorial stone dedicated in English and Irish to those who lost their lives at the cliffs.

As we descended the watchtower, we strolled along the cliff edges towards another watchtower; this one seemed to be a bit older. The cliffs provided sheer drop-offs that made each step slightly spine-tingling, though most of the pathway took us through trails protected by a rock barrier created in the late 1800s.

As we walked, the views continued to become more and more dramatic. The sun broke out of the clouds over the Irish countryside and illuminated the fields in different hues of green. The ocean turned deep blue.

And then, of course, it started to rain. So, we began our trek back to our car. Later, we realized that a sunset hike along the Cliffs of Moher would have been another incredible perspective on these natural wonders, but we’ll leave that for next time, as we definitely plan a return trip to this jaw-dropping landscape.