The Cliffs of Moher-Where Ireland Plunges into the Sea

Something as spectacular as the Cliffs of Moher could  never  go  undiscovered  by the   tourist   throngs.   They   are   County Clare’s  foremost  natural  wonder,  213m (700  ft.)  high  and  8km  (5  miles)  long,  a series  of  sheer  rock  faces  plummeting  to the crashing Atlantic surf below. The views from  here  are  truly  panoramic,  especially from  19th-century  O’Brien’s  Tower  at the northern end. On a clear day, you can even glimpse the Aran Islands up to the north in Galway Bay.

It’s  a  dramatic  place  indeed,  with  the roar of the waves crashing below and the call of circling seagulls. While you may see daredevils venturing onto a forbidden area of  north-facing  cliffs,  which  are  only  halfheartedly fenced off, the kids won’t need to follow  their  dangerous  example  to  get  a great view: There’s plenty enough room on the  main  cliffs,  with  their  well-paved  path and  lookout  points;  and  the  heights  are awesome  without  feeling  perilous  (and believe  me,  I’m  borderline  acrophobic). Because the cliffs jut out into the sea on a headland, you can gaze clearly over the sea to the north, west, and south.

Talk about the middle of nowhere—the Irish  country  road  R478  meanders  down from  the  Burren  and  Galway,  with  little along  the  roadside  and  very  few  cars  in sight.  Then  suddenly  you  round  a  curve, and  there’s  an  immense  parking  lot  filled with cars and tour buses—that’s how you know you’ve arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. Proximity  to  Shannon  Airport  means  that this is often a tour group’s first stop upon hitting Ireland, so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of folks staring out to sea with the glazed  eyes  of  jet  lag.  There’s  no  admis-sion fee per se, although you’ll have to pay to get into the parking lot, and some tacky souvenir  stalls  are  set  up  along  the  footpath  to  the  cliffs.  Just  shepherd  the  children past it all, and head uphill.

While you’re here, don’t rush on like the tour  groups  do—take  the  opportunity  to explore  farther  along  the  craggy  Clare coastline,  where  you’ll  find  many  off-the-beaten-path  delights  with  such  intriguing names  as  Pink  Cave,  Puffing  Hole, Intrinsic Bay, Chimney Hill, Elephant’s Teeth, Mutton Island, Loop Head, and Lover’s  Leap.  The  tour  buses  won’t  follow you, that’s for sure.