The Cliffs of Moher
The Wild Atlantic Way is a 1,500-mile-long coastal route that stretches the length of the West coast of Ireland, from Kinsale in the south to Malin Head in the north. Day 8 on our road trip took us along the section from Dingle to Galway with stops at the famous Cliffs of Moher and the Burren National Park.
Instead of driving around via Limerick we caught the car ferry across the sound. The ferry only costs $20 and takes half an hour which is a huge time saver. Something we were very glad about when we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher.
Visitors to the Cliffs of Moher have three options for exploring the area. Depending on how much time you have, you can…
- Park at the visitor’s center ($20) and walk out along the cliffs in either direction,
- Park in Doolin and hike the spectacular 3-hour Doolin cliff trail to the visitor’s center and then catch a shuttle bus back to Doolin. Or…
- Settle somewhere in between and park at Hags Head ($5), hike 3 miles along the cliff trail to the visitors center, and then catch the shuttle bus back to Hags Head.
Our original plan was to go with option 3. Unfortunately, the parking at Hags Head is on another privately owned farm, and since the Dingle Peninsula had cleaned us out of cash, we had to head to the visitor's center instead. We arrived at 10am and the car park was already starting to fill up. By the time we left at 11:30 it was packed, with a long line of traffic waiting to get in.
I found the cliffs around the visitors center very crowded and touristy. Had we just remained there I would say to skip this location all together, however if you walk to the right, past O'Brien's tower, to the very end of the "official" fenced off area, you leave a large portion of the crowd behind, and can finally sit down and enjoy uninterrupted views of this geological wonder. So its definitely worth it if you time your visit early enough.
After grabbing a picnic lunch from the Burren Visitor's Center Café we headed to our next stop, the Poulnabrone Dolmen, at the heart of the Burren’s limestone plateau. This is the remains of a portal tomb which would have housed a grave chamber in a cairn stacked with stones. All that remains of the original tomb is a stone table – which, understandably, 200 years ago, led the locals to believe it was a ‘druids alter’.
The Burren is unique among Ireland’s national parks. Geologic forces in the earth’s crust heaved up the land, glaciers swept it bare, and rain reacting with the limestone cut through weak zones, leaving crevices on the surface and an extensive cave system below. Cromwell’s surveyor described this as, “a savage land yielding neither water enough to drown a man, nor tree to hang him, nor soil enough to bury him.” A little grim perhaps, but an understandable conclusion when you gaze out over this barren landscape. However, if you take the time to look a little closer you'll see a huge diversity of plant life - in fact over 70% of Ireland's native plant species can be found here!
After checking in to our Airbnb in Galway we walked the short distance up the road through Eyre Square to the Latin Quarter. This is another very busy, popular destination and the streets were crowded with tourists. Even if you travel in the shoulder season like we are, I would recommend making reservations ahead of time at all of the more touristy towns like Dingle and Galway. We were able to enjoy a lovely pint at The Kings Head, which I believe is the oldest pub in Galway, but ended up having to grab some sub standard Greek food from a café as everything else was full.
Cities are not my favorite places so I am perhaps biased, but in my opinion Galway was like cities everywhere - overpriced, overcrowded, and dirty. However, I'll let you be the judge of whether it is worth a visit.
Cliffs of Moher, Poulnabrone Dolmon, Galway City