Six years ago I received a postcard in the mail from my younger sister who was backpacking through Europe that summer. The picture on the front was a photograph taken from the ocean of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Dark cliffs stretched across the front of the card, a light fog concealing the ones furthest away. Greenish-blue waves crashed at the base of the steep cliffs, creating a thick white foam. A single seagull flew, wings outstretched, in the right-hand corner.
This postcard shared a magnet with a photo of my sister and me on my fridge for over two years when it somehow got lost in the shuffle of an inter-state move. After looking at it thousands of times, I no longer need the actual postcard to remember it. The reason this particular card earned a spot on the fridge instead of finding a permanent home in a shoebox in the closet is because I knew it would never let me forget how much I longed to travel. One day, I hoped to see the Cliffs of Moher for myself. It might have taken me a bit longer than I’d hoped, but last month I finally got my chance.
The entire week before we left for Ireland, the weather in County Clare was rainy and unpredictable. When we arrived on Sunday evening, the skies were overcast and the forecast for the next few days didn’t look very promising either. Seeing as a big part of traveling for me is taking photos, I was trying hard not to let the possibility of gloomy weather get me down by telling myself that gray, misty photos would at least be very Ireland. So when I woke up Monday morning to discover sun shining directly in my face from the skylight overhead, I could barely contain my excitement. We hurriedly dressed and scarfed down our breakfast before jumping in the car to head to the cliffs. We didn’t know how long the sun would stick around and I’d be darned if I was going to let the opportunity to see the one place I’d longed to visit pass me by, on a beautiful day no less.
We started out at the main platform, the one that offers the view most commonly seen in photographs – the Cliffs of Moher stretching south down to Hag’s Head. Then we made our way north to O’Brien’s Tower, stopping to take photos along the way. The official visitors area to the north stops here, but the farmers who own property on both sides of the visitors area have kindly opened up the edge of their land along the cliffs, allowing everyone access to the complete 5-mile stretch along the Atlantic known as The Burren Way.
My favorite spot along the cliffs was less than a mile north of O’Brien’s Tower where a dozen or so triangular remnants of cliff below the path point out to the sea. Braver folks were jumping down the embankment, walking straight to the edge, and looking down. I awkwardly scooted down the grassy knoll on the seat of my pants, gripping clumps of grass with my sweaty palms on the way down, and could bring myself to walk only so far as the middle of the stone precipice before sitting down to take in the moment. Looking out over an endless sea, towering cliffs spreading out to my left and right – never have I felt so small or so humbled.
While I would have liked to continue walking north until we reached the end, time limitations demanded we turn around since we also wanted to see what was on the other side of where we started. Walking south, we reached the platform where it’s possible to get a glimpse of the puffin colony from North Africa that lives on Goat Island from April to July, but they must have been hiding in their burrows because we didn’t see a single one.
Past the south platform we exited the main area and followed the path through more farmland to get a look at O’Brien’s Tower and the An Branán Mór sea stack from a distance. In my opinion, it’s here that you’ll get the most visually stunning view of the cliffs. However, the pathway around this part is precariously close to the cliff’s edge, and on a windy day you’ll need to exercise extreme caution. We were lucky that the skies were completely still, otherwise I’d have been doing the army crawl all the way!
If we had kept going south, we’d have eventually hit the end of the cliffs at Hag’s Head, where Fort Mothar used to stand and where the Cliffs of Moher got their name, but it was time for us to turn back. We spent over two hours walking along the cliffs and if I were to go again on a pleasant day, I’d probably stay even longer. You know how sometimes you wait so long to see something that you’ve built it up to impossible expectations and when you finally get the chance to actually see it, it’s a bit of a disappointment? That absolutely did not happen for me at the Cliffs of Moher!
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