In County Clare, Ireland close to the small village of Doolin sits the magnificent Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are 241m high at their highest point just north of O’Brien’s Tower, a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs that was built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O’Brien.
The cliffs take their name from an old promontory fort called Mothar or Moher, which once stood on Hag’s Head, the southernmost point of the cliffs, now the site of Moher Tower.
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.
One of the best ways to view the cliffs are from the sea so we decided to take a boat trip from Doolin Harbour.
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.
O’Brien’s Tower was built on the cliffs in 1835 by local landlord and MP Sir Cornellius O’Brien as an observation tower for the Victorian tourists that frequented the cliffs at the time: “strangers visiting the Magnificent Scenery of this neighbourhood”. It is said to have initially served as a teahouse, featuring a large round table with seats of ironwork.
Another version tells of O’Brien building the tower in order to impress women he was courting. On a clear day the view can extend as far as Loop Head at the southern tip of Clare and beyond to the mountains of Kerry. Looking north from O’Brien’s Tower on clear days, the Twelve Bens in Connemara (also known as the Twelve Pins) beyond Galway Bay can be seen, and typically the Aran Islands to the west.
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, and razorbills.
After the wonderful boat trip to see the cliffs we decided later in the day to visit the cliffs from the top at the visitor’s centre. It just goes to show how the weather can change so quickly as by the time we got ther it was raining and misty making it almost impossible to see the cliffs at all.
The €32 million visitor facility was planned and built over a 17-year period and officially opened in February 2007. Facility exhibits include interactive media displays covering the geology, history, flora and fauna of the cliffs. A large multimedia screen displays a bird’s-eye view from the cliffs, as well as video from the underwater caves below the cliffs.
The visitor’s centre charges €6 per adult, with children under 16 admitted free. This covers parking, access to the visitor centre and Atlantic Edge exhibition, and a contribution towards conservation and safety at the cliffs.
The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience won an award in the Interpret Britain & Ireland Awards 2007 awarded by the Association of Heritage Interpretation (AHI). 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.
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