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.