The car trembled as I pulled into a parking spot. The wind was relentless. In the distance, I saw people braving its force, taking one step at a time as they made their way to the cliffs. I opened the car door and it blew wide open. My road map of Ireland flew out the door like it had been sucked out of a vacuum. “Right! This is going to be a bit of a challenge!”, I thought as I stumbled out of the car to chase down the map.
It wasn’t my first time in this part of Ireland. During my student days, I backpacked (yes, I was once a backpacker!) around the country but oddly enough, I gave the Cliffs of Moher a miss. By the time I heard from other travellers about how spectacular the cliffs are, it was too late to turn back and I kicked myself for missing it. About two decades later, here I was… at the Cliffs of Moher… chasing a map!
there are puffins here?
The wind tossed me around like a paper doll as I finally pinned down the map with my foot. It was a short distance to the Visitor Centre (love how it’s built into the hill like a bunker) and I almost fell over as I turned, out of the wind, into a sheltered spot. I was thankful for the brief respite from the wind and made my way to the Information Desk. There, I was presented a map of the area and some information about the Visitor Centre. The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s top natural attraction. Stretching about 8 kilometers (5 miles) and reaching a height of 214 meters (700+ feet), the cliffs are also home to a great variety of birdlife. As I spoke to the cheery lady at the information counter, I spied a photo of puffin birds behind her. “Wait a minute… there are puffins here?”, I asked excitedly. “Yes, and you’re very lucky because they just arrived a week ago”, she replied. She sensed my excitement and told me to ask one of the park wardens stationed on the cliffs to help me spot them.
I left the Visitor Centre and embarked on the challenging stroll to the edge of the cliffs. The wind howled like a pack of wolves, tossing fine grains of sand and water droplets at me. They stung my face and I covered my eyes, sneaking a peek every once in a while to check where I was heading. Miraculously, the wind died down as soon as I reached the edge. I gasped! The views of the majestic cliffs, the lone O’Brien’s Tower standing proudly atop the cliffs and the pounding ocean below were simply breathtaking!
I continued up the hill and the wind returned in full force. It wasn’t raining but it sure felt like it as the wind blew droplets of water from far below up the surface of the cliffs and onto the trail. Every once in a while, I lowered my hand from my face to catch a glimpse of the amazing views. I approached a warden and asked about the puffins. He confirmed their presence and whipped out a pair of binoculars. He scanned the cliffs but didn’t find any. I had a go myself and alas, I didn’t spot any puffins either but I did spot some of the numerous razorbills.
I continued to the highest point of the cliffs near O’Brien’s Tower and the views were just phenomenal – I was very literally… blown away!
I slowly made my way back to the Visitor Centre, sneaking glimpses of the cliffs along the way, and treated myself to a hot chocolate. As I sipped on the rich chocolate, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought of how perfect this was: huge cliffs, thundering waves and gale-force winds! It made the experience so much more intense! This was my first stop on my road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way – the coastal road that winds its way along the Irish Atlantic coast – and what a spectacular appetiser it was! [Read about my road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way]
Explore the Burren region
If you’re visiting the Cliffs of Moher, make sure to spend some time exploring the Burren region, with its beautiful hiking trails, geosites, caves and wonderful cuisine. A lovely place to stay near the Cliffs of Moher is the town of Lisdoonvarna, a ten-minute drive away. This little town is famed for its Victorian Spa complex and annual Matchmaking Festival (yes, there’s even a Chief Matchmaker!) every September. The festival is reputedly Europe’s largest singles festival and boasts a week of music, dancing and craic (good ol’ Irish fun!). Lisdoonvarna is a great base from which to explore the Burren region as there are various hotels, country inns and B&B’s. I stayed at the gorgeous Sheedy’s Country House Hotel, owned by the lovely John and Martina. Make sure to treat yourself to dinner at Sheedy’s – John is a fantastic chef who uses local ingredients to create gastronomic heaven!
Note: I was hosted by the Ireland Tourism on my road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way. As always, all views expressed above are mine.