On the west coast of Ireland the Cliffs of Moher are one of the most outstanding coastal features of
The Cliffs are located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland.
They rise to 120 meters (390 feet) above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head, and reach their maximum height of 214 meters (702 feet) just north of O’Brien’s Tower, eight kilometers to the north.
From the Cliffs of Moher on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as the Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk mountains in Connemara, Loop Head to the south and the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands in Kerry.
O’Brien’s Tower stands near the highest point and has served as a viewing point for visitors for hundreds of years.
The 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”.
The human story and history of the Cliffs of Moher dates back at least two thousand years as the name
derives from a 1st Century BC fort that stood where Moher Tower now stands. The old Irish word “Mothar” means ruined fort and it is this that gives the cliffs their name.
Moher Tower is the stone ruin of an old watchtower which stands on Hag’s Head, at the southern end of the Cliffs of Moher. It was built as a lookout/signaling tower during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).
Hag’s Head is a natural rocky promontory that resembles a seated woman when viewed from the north.
The Cliffs of Moher were originally the site of a gigantic river delta and were formed about 320 million years ago during the Carboniferous period.
The cliffs consist mainly of beds of Namurian shale and sandstone, with the oldest rocks being found at
the bottom of the cliffs.
The rock layers are rich in fossil formations and geologists consider the area one of the world’s foremost natural laboratories for the study of deltaic deposition through deep water systems.
Today the cliffs are undergoing coastal erosion. Waves constantly crash against the foot of the cliffs, and this incessant wave action erodes the cliff base, causing sections of the upper cliff face to
collapse into the sea under their own weight.
Being almost vertical, their sheer drop into the heaving Atlantic ocean is a haven for sea birds.
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. The site is an Important Bird Area.
Land mammals inhabiting the area on the cliff edge include badgers, stoats and rabbits. There is also a large population of hares and can often be seen early in the day during spring. And a herd of feral goats
live precariously on narrow paths below the top of the cliffs.
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions and receive more than one million visitors a year.
The closest settlements are Liscannor (6 kilometer / 3.7 miles south) and Doolin (7 kilometers / 4.3 miles north).
Quarrying of the flagstone that occurs along the Cliffs of Moher and in their vicinity was a substantial industry in the 19th & early 20th century. The stone is prized for its ability to break naturally into thin sheets, which are easily quarried by hand.
The Cliffs of Moher form part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark which was awarded membership of the UNESCO supported Global Geoparks Network in 2011.
There’s no surprise that an odd bunch of tall tales surround the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs’ jarring beauty has inspired legends ranging from underwater mythical cities to a witch falling in love with Cu Chulainn.
The cliffs have appeared in several films, including Ryans Daughter (1970), 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 have also appeared in music videos, including Maroon 5’s “Runaway” video, Westlife’s “My Love”, and Rich Mullins’ “The Color Green”.