The Cliffs of Moher is by far one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, attracting over one million visitors each year. The Cliffs of Moher are approximately 14 km long, and they rise to 214 meters (just above 700ft) at their highest point, just north of O’Brien’s Tower.
The Cliffs of Moher are perhaps one of the most stunning areas of Ireland and an absolute must visit in my opinion. I had a few days in Dublin on my short trip to Ireland and ended up taking a day trip to see the Cliffs along with a few other sights.
How far are the cliffs of moher from Dublin?
The Cliffs of Moher are about 275km from Dublin city. It’s a roughly 2.5 to 3h drive by car. There is really no public transportation to speak of that you can use to visit the Cliffs in a day. Really, the only options of going here are renting a car, or taking a day trip which there are many of.
Booking a tour or self drive for the Cliffs of Moher?
So now that you know how far the Cliffs are from Dublin, then it’s time to decide whether you want to book a day tour or self drive by renting a car.
I opted for a day tour as it was just me traveling solo. I scoured the internet for various tour groups, prices, itineraries etc before finally settling on a tour with Finn McCool’s. There are probably ten different companies that do this day tour as the Cliffs of Moher is the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland after the Guiness storehouse.
Each tour has slightly different itineraries in that they may visit one site that the other doesn’t. For example, one of the tours visits Doolin city but does not go to Galway. I had heard good things about Galway so I made sure it was on my itinerary. Of course, all of the itineraries will visit the Cliffs of Moher as this is the main highlight.
Crowd size on the tour
As this is an incredibly popular tour, expect huge groups. I went in January which I thought it would be low season. When I arrived at the meeting point, there was not 1 but three huge tour buses all doing the same itinerary. I can only imagine how it is in the high season summer months! Don’t worry, they do not all travel together as they choose to split the tour times to not overcrowd everyone.
Each bus was completely packed with about 100 people. The bus itself was not very comfortable. The seating was crammed, no ports to charge your electronics and generally too squeezed to have a good sleep. I heard other buses like Paddy Wagon have on board wifi but Finn McCool’s did not.
Although the bus was uncomfortable, our tour guide Lisa was very energetic and enjoyable to have. As the group sizes are huge, the format of the tour is your guide gives you the lowdown of where you’re going when you’re on the bus leaving you time to explore on your own. Otherwise, leading a tour of 100+ is just impossible for one tour guide.
To be honest, none of the sites really required a dedicated tour guide so this is totally fine.
Self Driving from Dublin to Cliffs of Moher
If going on a tour bus with 100 other people sounds like it’s not your thing, don’t worry, it’s very easy to self drive this. The roads in Ireland are quite good and the road to the Cliffs of Moher is very easy to follow. Keep in mind they drive on the left side of the road but again, there isn’t much traffic to speak of in Rural Ireland so this shouldn’t be a problem.
If I was traveling with another person, I would have definitely opted to rent a car and self drive. This way, I could see more sights on my list and spend as much or as little time as I wanted to in certain spots. The problem with the tour bus is the constant bathroom breaks and unloading and reloading 100 people is time consuming.
I saw some car rentals for €50 a day the night before I was slated to go on my tour. Let’s say €50 for the gas and essentially you’re paying the same amount of money as two tickets on the tour bus. You can get even cheaper rentals if you can drive manual!
Day Tour Itinerary
Most of the tours function the same with similar timings. I think they communicate with each other so to not all be at the same place at the same time. The day trip on Finn McCool’s from Dublin went something like this:
- 6:30am – Meet at the meeting point
- 7:00am – Depart Dublin
- 8:00am – Stop at service center to stock up on breakfast and supplies
- 9:30am – Arrive at the first sight for the day at Kilmacduagh Monastery
- 10:30am – Arrive at Cliffs of Moher, roughly 2 hours to hike around the cliffs
- 12:30pm – Depart Cliffs of Moher for the Mini cliffs at the Burren
- 1:30pm – Arrive at the Burren, about 30 minutes at the mini cliffs
- 3:00pm – Arrive in Galway
- 5:00pm – Depart Galway
- 8:00pm – Arrive back in Dublin
Starting our Dublin to Cliffs of Moher Day Tour
The tour started promptly at 6:30am. I arrived around 6:40am which was the time on the ticket but by the time I arrived, all the buses were already filled up. There were three buses in total, all packed.
We left at 7am from Dublin. Our tour guide, Lisa, spoke to everyone over the intercom about the plan for the day. She also gave some interesting snippets of Irish history and would continue to do so as the day went by. I really enjoyed this as we learned stuff that I had never known, like how Ireland was pretty much colonized by the English. Most of the people on the bus were half passed out, from a night out at Temple Bar I’m sure, and I’m sure Lisa knew all about this. She kept the speech short and let everyone sleep until the first stop, the service station.
After 1 hour of being passed out on a way too small bus seat, we arrived at the Galway Plaza Service Station.
This is a place for you to buy breakfast as most places in Dublin are closed at 6:30am. The service station had a few restaurants, coffee shop, and a general convenience store area to stock up on water and snacks. I bought two bottles of water, some peanuts, and a sandwich from Supersubs which I was told is similar to Subway. It is much better than Subway in my opinion and can definitely recommend this one!
We had about 20 minutes here before having to go back to the bus. This wasn’t enough time to eat the entire breakfast however but eating on the bus is heavily encouraged according to our guide.
We drove another hour or so until we hit our first stop.
The first real stop on our day trip was the Kilmacduagh Monastery. The tower was constructed in the 7th century AD and later pillaged by vikings in the 9th and 10th century AD. As the centuries went on, more churches and cathedrals were constructed in the vicinity.
The monastery contains a round tower, notable as both fine example of this particularly Irish feature but also because of its noticeable lean, over half a metre from the vertical. The tower is over 30 metres tall, with the only doorway some 7 metres above ground level. It was quite an interesting building to look at I must say!
We spent about 20 minutes walking around this monastery and cemetery area. We arrived as the sun was going up which afforded some fantastic photos of the area that was already covered in frost! Absolutely stunning.
Cliffs of Moher
Next stop was the main highlight of the day, the Cliffs of Moher! The ticket for the Cliffs of Moher was included in the price of the tour so we didn’t have to worry about paying for parking or lining up at the ticket office to get in.
Our guide gave us some general background of the cliffs before we got off the bus. But really, there’s not too much information you need to know. It’s all for the views here!
We had almost two hours to explore the Cliffs which I think is a good amount. If I had done this trip on my own, I’d probably spend another hour or so just so I could walk all the way down to Hag’s Head at the end.
Nevertheless, from the main entrance area, you can either turn left or turn right depending on what you’re after. I turned left first as this was what our guide recommended. The walk is quite easy but just have your wits about you.
There are two pathways that follow the same route along the cliffs; one of them is behind a fence, away from the edge of the cliffs, and the other is accessed by climbing over the fence and walking right along the edge. While it is in no way advised that visitors walk so close to the edge, everyone was doing it. I thought it was not allowed until I saw a bunch of other people doing it so I had to join in.
The views are insane looking out over the cliffs. It’s about 220m high and stretches for many kilometers on both sides. Our guide told us that around 12 people die here a year from negligence, selfies, and the lot. I thought it must just be stupid tourists seeking the perfect Instagram at first. The views kind of reminded me of the Chapman’s Peak drive on the way to Cape Point from Cape Town.
However, as soon as you look over the edge, you can tell that a rogue gust of wind could easily knock you over the edge. You don’t even have to be a vain Instagram selfie seeker either. Anything can happen! Thankfully, one the day I went, there was no wind but nevertheless, I still gave the cliffs the respect they deserved!
The Cliffs may be the main attraction, but they aren’t the only part of the landscape I noticed. The Irish countryside stretched as far as I could see, with rolling green hills dotted with houses and farms in every direction.
Where to take the best photos
But to be honest, there isn’t a bad picture here. It is just fabulous everywhere you go!
Mini Cliffs of the Burren
Our journey then took us along Galway Bay and the Wild Atlantic Way, which is famous for being home to some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world.
We stopped for a bit at the Burren, which is famous for its limestone rock and the “mini cliffs” that overlook the ocean. It’s no surprise that people get injured- or even killed-walking along these mini cliffs each year; uneven surfaces and cracks between the rocks have led to many people getting their feet stuck and tripping if they weren’t cautious. Seems like this whole area of Ireland has things that will easily kill you!
We had about twenty minutes to wander around and take photos before it was time to move on to the town of Galway for lunch and the last part of our trip. We were in the bus for another hour and a half before arriving in Galway!
Known in Irish as Loch Lurgan or Cuan na Gaillimhe, Galway Bay is an significantly sized bay on the west coast of Ireland, located between the Burren to the North and County Galway in the province of Connacht. The bay itself is about 10 kilometres wide and 50 kilometres in length.
Located on the west side of the Bay are the Aran Islands which consist of 3 Islands, Inishmore, Inisheer and Inishmann along with many other smaller islands. Galway City itself sits on the river Corrib between Galway Bay and Lough Corrib and is the 4th largest city in Ireland and probably the most scenic.
Galway Bay is famous for its unique traditional sailing craft, the Galway Hooker. The Hookers were probably at their greatest presence in the Bay in the years preceding the Great Famine. Galway Bay is well-known worldwide for its Deep Sea fishing, Sailing as well as the daily boat trips to the nearby Aran Islands.
We came here as our last stop before heading back to Dublin. The guide walked us to the main strip and we were free to explore on our own.
Most of us had a bite to eat, with the King’s Head being the famous local options that a lot of people chose to eat at. They are famous for their oysters which are supposed to be among the best in the world.
The town is super quaint. Cobblestone streets were adorned on both sides by colorful Irish bars. This is actually what I thought Dublin would look like but it seems my Irish state of mind was actually in Galway!
On my next trip around Ireland, I will definitely spend more time here!