Europe

Seeing the Cliffs of Moher for the First Time

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 Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

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.

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

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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The Cliffs Of Moher In County Clare, Ireland

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  • Mandy Southgate
    May 9, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    Yay! So glad you weren’t disappointed! Your photos are so beautiful that I kept flipping up and down through your post – it was all I could do to tear myself away to comment! I think it’s high time I planned a road trip to Ireland with my favourite travel partner (Ste)!

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    May 7, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    Love that place! Sounds like you had a perfect day!

  • Jo
    May 6, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Simply stunning!

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    May 6, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    So lucky to have such great weather to see the cliffs. They are on my bucket list too!

  • rorybore
    May 6, 2014 at 4:23 AM

    it’s stunning — just an amazing showing of how awesome nature is. And your photos do it justice!!
    it must be so captivating to stand there and see those towering cliffs and the great blue expanse of ocean before you. small indeed.
    but yeah – I would want the great shot too – but I am Not getting too close to that edge! And would leave the kiddos at home for this trip!

  • Natalie
    May 5, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    I mean absolutely…breathtaking and gorgeous!!!

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    May 5, 2014 at 8:24 PM

    Such amazing pictures. How awesome are the Cliffs? The day I went it was the rainiest, windiest day in history, so I am a little jealous of your nice weather!

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 6, 2014 at 3:54 PM

      I remember seeing your post about that! It looked like the wind was going to blow you guys off the cliff! I would NOT have liked that one bit. Rain I can handle, but excessive wind? No thanks!

  • Quyen Nguyen
    May 5, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    I love your photos! Cliffs of Moher is so green and sunny when you went! I went in November and it was definitely a little grey, but it was still beautiful nonetheless!

  • Stacie Stamper
    May 5, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    Wow, those pics are stunning! And it looks like you have a great family photo to add to the fridge.

  • Graeme Voigt
    May 5, 2014 at 9:52 PM

    WOAH! Meditating here would be so peaceful!

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 6, 2014 at 3:55 PM

      Especially this time of year when the cliffs aren’t as crowded. There were people scattered around there with us, but not nearly as many as will flock to the cliffs come summer!

      • Graeme Voigt
        May 6, 2014 at 7:35 PM

        Wow, I hadn’t thought of that… I’m really looking forward to visiting these cliffs, so I don’t want it to be spoilt!

  • Jay
    May 5, 2014 at 8:05 PM

    Looks like such a lovely day & so happy that the experience lived up to your expectations!

  • Emmymom
    May 5, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    So so stunning! The water is so blue! So glad it didn’t disappoint and so awesome that you finally got to see that spot for yourself in person.

  • Michelle
    May 5, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    I love your pictures! Looks beautiful!

  • Katrin
    May 5, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    Oh wow, your pictures are fantastic as usual! I am dying to travel there as well! Such a fascinating place! Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

  • andrea
    May 5, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    Gorgeous pictures!! I have been twice and it has been rainy and foggy both times, boo!

  • Irene @ Away from Tenerife
    May 5, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    Your photos are amazing, Sarah! I hope to visit the cliffs of Moher soon :)
    Have a happy week x