The Cliffs of Moher (Irish: Aillte an Mhothair) are located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland. They rise 120 metres (390 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head, and reach their maximum height of 214 metres (702 ft) just north of O’Brien’s Tower, eight kilometres to the north. The cliffs receive almost one million visitors a year.
O’Brien’s Tower is a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O’Brien to impress female visitors. From the cliffs and from atop the watchtower, visitors can see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, the Maumturks and Twelve Pins mountain ranges to the north in County Galway, and Loop Head to the south.
The cliffs take their name from an old fort called Moher that once stood on Hag’s Head, the southernmost point of the cliffs. The writer Thomas Johnson Westropp referred to it in 1905 as Moher Uí Ruis or Moher Uí Ruidhin. The fort still stood in 1780 and is mentioned in an account from John Lloyd’s a Short Tour Of Clare (1780). It was demolished in 1808 to provide material for a new telegraph tower. The present tower near the site of the old Moher Uí Ruidhin was built as a lookout tower during the Napoleonic wars.
The cliffs consist mainly of beds of Namurian shale and sandstone, with the oldest rocks being found at the bottom of the cliffs. It is possible to see 300 million year-old river channels cutting through, forming unconformities at the base of the cliffs.
There are an estimated 30,000 birds living on the cliffs, representing more than 20 species.These include Atlantic Puffins, which live in large colonies at isolated parts of the cliffs and on the small Goat Island.Also present are hawks, gulls, guillemots, shags, ravens and choughs.
The cliffs are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland and topped the list of attractions in 2006 by drawing almost one million visitors. Since 2011 they have formed a part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, one of a family of geotourism destinations throughout Europe which are members of the European Geoparks Network.
The site has been developed by Clare County Council to allow visitors to experience the cliffs without the distraction of intrusive man-made amenities. In keeping with this approach, the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience is built into a hillside approaching the cliffs. The centre is also intended to be environmentally sensitive in its use of renewable energy systems including geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and grey water recycling.
Officially opened in February 2007, having been planned and built over a 17-year period, the €32 million facility features interactive media displays which explore topics such as the origin of the cliffs in local and global geological contexts, and the bird and fish life in the area. A large-screen multimedia display allows visitors to experience a bird’s eye view from the cliffs, as well as seeing the inside of underwater caves below them. The official website features pictures and information on tours, school trips and other areas of interest.
There is a charge of €6 per adult, and children under 16 are admitted free. This charge includes access to the visitor centre building, entry to the Cliffs Exhibition – Atlantic Edge, parking, and a contribution towards conservation and safety at the cliffs. Discounts for seniors and students are available.
Cliffs of Moher Cruise
The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience won an award in the Interpret Britain & Ireland Awards 2007 awarded by the Association of Heritage Interpretation. Although the award was specifically for the Atlantic Edge exhibition, the AHI assessed the entire visitor centre and site. The citation stated that the entire visitor centre was “one of the best facilities that the judges had ever seen.”
The Cliffs of Moher have appeared in numerous media. In cinema, the cliffs have appeared in several films, including: The Princess Bride (1987) (as the filming location for “The Cliffs of Insanity”), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), and Leap Year (2010). The cliffs are mentioned in the Martin Scorsese film Bringing Out the Dead (1999), and are noted in the 2008 documentary Waveriders as the location of a large surfing wave known as “Aileens”.
In music, the cliffs have appeared in music videos, including Maroon 5’s “Runaway” video, Westlife’s “My Love”, and Rich Mullins’ “The Color Green”. Most of singer Dusty Springfield’s ashes were scattered at the cliffs by her brother, Tom.
In television, the cliffs appear in the episodes of Father Ted called “Tentacles of Doom” and “Cigarettes and Alcohol and Rollerblading” (1996).
In literature, the cliffs are an important location in Eoin Colfer’s The Wish List, as one of Lowrie’s wishes is spitting off the Cliffs of Moher.