County Clare – Doolin & The Cliffs of Moher
For many good reasons, most visitors to Ireland have the Cliffs of Moher on their “must see” list. The cliffs and the surrounding area are beautiful and unique to this part of Ireland. There are a variety of ways to see the cliffs, but some enhance the experience more than others:
- Guided Bus Tour
- Bus Éireann
CLIFFS OF MOHER
Guided Bus Tours are available from Dublin and Galway and stop at other sights in County Clare. The bus tours only offer just a short visit to the cliffs, but the visit can be accomplished without checking out of your hotel room and without the stress of driving, etc. You can get referrals to guided bus tours from your hotel, B&B or from the web.
The other four methods for seeing the cliffs usually require an overnight stay near the cliffs. It can be done in one long day without staying the night, but this is not my preference. My preferred place to stay is Doolin with a variety of B&B’s, restaurants, and music pubs. Lisdoonvarna, Liscanoor, and Ennistymon are good alternate places to stay. When driving from Galway to Bunratty (or the reverse) a detour to the cliffs is practical.
I covered Bus Éireann routes (350) and times in the previous Clare blog. The bus goes directly to the cliffs without a bus change from Galway (or Ennis). The same bus is available for a short hop from Doolin to the cliffs and can be used for the return trip to Doolin
On a good weather day there are two great ways to see the cliffs: Hiking and Boat. The definition of “good weather” is different for each type of transport. Crashing waves on the shore and high swells indicate bad weather for the boat. This can happen even if the weather is sunny or still. A perfectly still sea is not required, just not a rough sea. Lashing rain is the only indicator of bad weather for hiking to the cliffs. For the hike it is still best to take a rain jacket and to carry some water. Hiking boots are not required. The boat ride and the hike both take about two hours. The hike will require another hike back or a bus ride back to Doolin, my preferred method.
Two tour companies provide boat tours of the cliff:
Both boat operators also provide service to the Aran Islands. Inisheer (Inis Oirr) and Inishmaan (Inis Meain) are a great day trip from Doolin, but I prefer an overnight trip to Inishmore (Inis Mór). The boat ride to Inishmore is longer than the route from the alternate ferry terminal at Rosaveel, but I enjoy seeing all three islands during the journey. The Doolin ferries are also smaller and tend to rock more, so probably not optimal for those prone to seasickness.
The ferry price to the cliffs is about €15. There are also package deals for both an Aran Island visit and a tour of the cliffs. Bus transport from Galway to the ferry can also be purchased.
The boat tour at the foot of the cliffs is a different experience than from the top. Doing both is best to get the full perspective. The boat ride is a must for the photographers and bird watchers. The puffins nest on the cliffs in late spring and are a great spectacle. The boat ride is well worth your time and euros.
The hike is about two hours and has stunning view after stunning view, and then the Cliffs of Moher top it off. The hike is not difficult. Only some of the hike is on graded trail, but all of it is very obvious except for one or two places. A person who has no problems walking for about an hour, should have no problem finishing the walk. There is about a 100-150 meters that is relatively steep. For this hill, I like to occasionally “stop and take in the view”, otherwise the trail has gradual grades and pretty easy hiking.
The start of the trail to Cliffs of Moher is not obvious. When standing on the bridge in Doolin (acroos from Doolin Hostel) and with Gus O'Connor's on the right, take the road up the hill to the left (on the same side as the Hostel) and walk about 1/4 mile until reaching a turn in the road and a farm gate that blocks a straight path. There is a set of small steps over the fence. This is the start of the trail.
The Cliffs of Moher have a visitor center with a unique architecture and a very well done set of exhibits along with a nice tearoom. The displays and exhibits at the visitor center explain the geology, wildlife and human interactions of the cliffs. The tearoom has a good selection of food and soft drinks that is enhanced with a great view of the surrounding area.
The admission by car to the cliffs is €6 per person (not car) and €5 for seniors.
There are a variety of places in or near Doolin. I have experience with the following B&B’s and they are in the order of my preference:
Cullinan's Seafood Restaurant & Guesthouse – My favorite B&B (and restaurant). This B&B is located a short walk from several music pubs. The breakfast room has a great view of a meadow and small river. Some of the rooms also have great views of the small river.
O'Connor's Guesthouse – This B&B is a two minute walk from Cullinan’s. The rooms have a similar view.
St. Anthony's B&B – Basic B&B conveniently next door to Gus O’Connor’s Pub.
I’ve eaten at several places in Doolin. The list below is in order of my preference:
Cullinan's Seafood Restaurant & Guesthouse – This is one of my favorite restaurants in Ireland. It is a little pricey but worth it. During the busy months a reservation is almost required.
Gus O’Connor’s Pub – This is my favorite place for music and as a bonus the pub grub is way above average. The mussels are plentiful and great. A later dinner at about 7:30 is a great way to be early enough to get a good seat for the music. Be sure not to sit in the musician’s booth or else you will be forced to change seats at the wrong time. Ask if you are not sure.
Sea Salt Café – A great place for breakfast or lunch. It is a good place for breakfast before starting your day, particularly if you’ve driven from Galway. I’ve heard this is a great place for dinner.
Fitzpatrick’s Pub at Hotel Doolin – This pub has good pub grub and offers outside seating for a drink and/or food on a sunny day.
This is not a complete list. For more recommendations check the ratings on Trip Advisor.
There are a variety of music pubs in the Doolin area. My favorite is Gus O’Connors Pub. This pub also has music 7 days a week.
Many of the other local pubs irregularly have music, mostly on Thursday and the weekend, so check with your B&B proprietor for more local info.
Doolin has a variety of festivals throughout the year. You may choose to intentionally show up for these festivals, or avoid them if you prefer to miss the crowds. It’s good to attend one festival during your Irish Holiday as “the Craic can be mighty”.
Doolin and The Cliffs of Moher should be on your Irish vacation "must see" list. To really see Doolin and the surrounding area including some of the Aran Islands, consider a one to three night stay. No matter the length of your stay, I'm confident you'll really enjoy Doolin, the Cliffs of Moher, and the surrounding area.
See You In The Pub!
Jet Lag Jack