I’ve evinced a few fairly unpopular takes over the years, and I have a feeling this one might go on the list as well. Many people will tell you that your Ireland itinerary isn’t complete without seeing the Cliffs of Moher.
Honestly I didn’t believe that the first time I visited back in 2011, and that didn’t change on subsequent Ireland trips. I looked instead for great alternatives to the Cliffs of Moher and was deeply satisfied.
But on my most recent Irish roadtrip, I decided to make a quick stop at the Cliffs of Moher since I was in the area, so I could experience it firsthand. And having done that…I stick with my original opinion, and in fact it was even less cool than I’d imagined. FOR ME.
That doesn’t mean you’d be insane to visit the Cliffs of Moher. I believe travel is deeply personal, and you should do whatever most appeals to you. The Cliffs of Moher experience was just the complete opposite of my personal travel style.
(hint: this is not the Cliffs of Moher; the pic above IS)
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So in this post I’ll share my experience and photos from the Cliffs of Moher, to let you make up your own mind. Then I’ll share photos and my experience from two different amazing sea cliff spots that make a great alternative to the Cliffs of Moher. And I’ll provide a short list of other options that many people say are great.
What I can say with certainty is that there are MANY other Ireland cliff options that are less crowded and allow you to truly experience the rugged beauty of the cliffs and raw power of the crashing waves, up close and personal. You’ll get better pictures, a cooler experience, and not fight hordes of tourists.
One note, if you’re not taking a guided tour, you’ll definitely want a car. For renting a car, I always search in a few different places and compare both the prices and specific offerings/benefits. My go-to’s are DiscoverCars, RentalCars.com, and AutoEurope as well.
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How to visit the Cliffs of Moher
Let’s first talk about what it’s like visiting the Cliffs of Moher on your own. There’s a giant parking lot across from the visitor center and cliffs, and this is where you’ll need to park and pay if you’re not on a giant tour bus. The famous cliffs average around 1.5 million visitors a year, so there are a LOT of tour buses.
The drive there is on good roads and there are plenty of signs. The parking lot and visitor center opens at 8:00am in high season and 9:00am in off-season, and closing times vary. You can see the most updated times here and costs here. It’s usually around €10 if you book ahead online and €12 if you purchase on arrival.
As soon as you cross the street you’ll hit the big visitor center complex, which includes a self-guided Cliffs exhibition, an on-site theatre with a virtual reality cliff-face adventure (sure to get your blood pumping), restrooms, wifi, food and drink options, luggage storage, a meditation area…I mean, it’s a lot. One nice thing is that they offer complimentary services such as loaning binoculars and picnic blankets.
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I was on a tight timeframe, so immediately hit the walking paths out to the main cliff viewpoints. I didn’t have time to hang a left and walk on top of the main cliffs, but you can kind of see what this would look like in the two photos below. Instead I hung a right and climbed.
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The height of the cliffs ranges, from 390 feet (120m) on the low (southern) end, to 702 feet (214m) on the northern end. They’re insanely big. I found myself really frustrated by not being able to get a really good view, though, and particularly how poor the photo opportunities were.
This is the best I could do…there was so much extra grass space between the railing and the cliff that it undermined the majesty of the view.
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I fought the tide of people to then keep climbing up to the tower, but the view didn’t really improve much and I was really running late for my amazing afternoon tea at an Irish castle, so gave up and hot-footed it back to my car (hitting the very nice restrooms on my way out…always a bonus to find good restroom options on the road).
Side note, there is a really cute café called Moher Cottage that is nearby, perfect for a quick snack stop!
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Are the Cliffs of Moher worth it?
Again, not really, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong—towering a mind-boggling 700 feet over the Atlantic at their highest point, there’s no question the Cliffs of Moher are impressive.
The problem is, the tourist complex built around them is distracting and keeps you at a distance from the majesty of the cliffs. Because of that, you don’t really FEEL the height, you get a very pale and sanitized experience, and are besieged by tourist crowds pouring forth from the seemingly-infinite buses.
If you don’t want to rent a car and just want to do it as a day trip, I’d compare this tour that includes more scenery and Galway City (from Dublin), this one that includes the Aran Islands (from Galway), and this private one (if you need to completely control the timing).
I haven’t done it, but I’d hazard a guess that the Cliffs of Moher boat trip option (here’s a different option that includes a sheepdog demo), which views the cliffs from out on the water, would be an exception. It definitely would help you grasp the size and feel much more Plus you could pretend you’re approaching the Cliffs of Insanity in pursuit of Vizzini.
Or, consider taking the Doolin cliff walk as a more unique way to see the Cliffs of Moher. You can do it alone or on a guided tour, and it’s about 3 hours long.
One other note—the Cliffs of Moher experience was designed for accessibility, so if you have someone with mobility challenges or other disabilities then this may be a great option for you.
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The Best Cliffs of Moher Alternatives
As I said at the outset, there are amazing cliffs EVERYWHERE, particularly all along the western coast of Ireland. I truly hate battling crowds and will always prioritize better photographs and fewer people in my itinerary choices.
So here are two alternatives to the Cliffs of Moher that I absolutely loved, and then several others you should consider.
The cliffs at Dun Aengus, Inis Mor (Aran Islands)
Ireland’s Aran Islands are a fascinating addition to your Ireland itinerary from both a scenery and history/culture standpoint. The largest island (Inis Mor) features perhaps the most impressive Iron Age fort in Europe, called Dun Aengus.
I didn’t realize until I was there that the sheer vertical cliffs that Dun Aengus is perched upon were a draw all on their own (and my favorite part of the visit)…they definitely have a lot of visual similarities with the famous Cliffs of Moher, but it’s a much more visceral sea cliff experience.
And I had them all to myself. I had arrived on the tiny island of Inis Mor late in the day and had to scramble to visit the fort before it closed. There wasn’t a soul around as I *carefully* inched up to the edge, battling the intense wind gusts trying to pull me over.
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Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa) is set right on the edge of the vertigo-inducing 330-foot (100m) sheer vertical cliffs. That height makes it equal to the lower ends of Cliffs of Moher. The thing is, from the top of the cliffs you can’t necessarily tell the differences in height.
Without guardrails or any obstacles, you get amazing views of the ocean and cliffs out to either side. There is something so intense and primal about being that close to the cliffs, with their contrasting colors and craggy face, and deep green-y teal and white-capped waves churning and crashing at the base. Give me this over the sanitized Cliffs of Moher experience any day.
With a lot of caution and a good selfie stick (or selfie stick/tripod combo), I was able to get some great pics that really showcased the true scale of the rock face without getting *too* close to the edge. It was super windy, and you need to be insanely careful because it would only take a strong gust to take you over.
I was having to walk at a 45-degree angle at times to combat the wind as I climbed up the hill. If you have vertigo issues, poor balance, or fear of heights, this isn’t for you.
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It costs €5 to visit Dun Aengus, but if you’re staying overnight on Inis Mor most accommodations provide you with a free voucher. You can see times and ticket details here.
Where to stay on Inis Mor: There are limited accommodation options on the tiny, remote Aran Islands, so I recommend booking early. I only booked my trip a few weeks ahead, and so ended up staying in the unique glamping pods near the beach (see TripAdvisor reviews as well). If there had been availability I’d have booked Kilmurvey House or Seacrest B&B.
The cliffs at Loop Head, Kilkee (Co. Clare)
Not too far from the Cliffs of Moher is a more authentic (in my opinion) cliffs experience that still looks very similar to the Cliffs of Moher and doesn’t require you to visit a remote island. Loop Head is definitely more isolated, less crowded, doesn’t cost, and has a cute lighthouse, to boot.
It’s gorgeous, dramatic, and seems largely undiscovered. We had the place entirely to ourselves when we visited at sunset (which I recommend!). There are no guardrails, no paved paths. Just you, the wind, the crashing waves below, and hopefully your brain so you don’t do something stupid and fall over the edge.
One note, these pics are ROUGH, as I took them over a decade ago with a little digital camera and the weird oversaturation filter on.
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As the clouds turned cotton candy pink and the golden light washed over everything, we took gobs of pictures and then I army-crawled my way right up to the edge…the grass is super slippery and long, and the wind is intense, so it would be easy to get your feet caught and fall.
The cliffs are around 200 feet high (60m), so not as tall as Cliffs of Moher, but you don’t really feel the difference from the top anyway.
Being on the Loop Head peninsula is like being on the edge of the world, and not having to share it with anyone. It’s a bit out-of-the-way for some itineraries, but it’s an amazing and off-the-beaten path alternative to the Cliffs of Moher if dramatic waves and sheer cliffs are your aim.
There’s a great cliff walk near Loop Head Lighthouse, which we didn’t have time to do. It’s a 5-hour looped walk from the lighthouse car park to Kilbaha and back.
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Some other Cliffs of Moher alternatives:
- Slieve League Cliffs – A bit out of the way for many itineraries, but a MUST DO if you’re able to get there. The Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) cliffs are the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe, with a height of almost 2,000 feet (601m). That’s nearly 3x the height of the Cliffs of Moher. And you’ll have them all to yourself, from what I hear.
- The Kerry cliffs in Portmagee, along Skellig Ring Road – Also higher than the Cliffs of Moher, and much less crowded. You get amazing views out over Puffin Island and the Skellig Islands too.
- Similarly, the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry has some amazing cliffs and views as well, though not as high (Dunquin Pier or Coumeenoole Beach).
- Bromore Cliffs in County Kerry seem a super under-the-radar gem
- Downpatrick Head
- Mizen Head (a different style of cliff but still very impressive)
- Baltimore Beacon cliffs (not as tall, but gorgeous views)
- Definitely a different feel, but I’d throw the Ardmore cliff walk on the list as well
Hopefully this has given you the info you need to figure out whether you want to visit the famous sea cliffs, or find an alternative to the Cliffs of Moher!
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