on May 14, 2012
Some things you just cannot control or schedule for and weather is one of them! We had our day trip with Galway Tour Company (GTC) scheduled for the only day while in Galway that would work given the other activities and long driving days we expected. Unfortunately for us, it was mostly cloudy throughout our eight hour tour. Worse yet, the rain and strong winds would most affect our time spent at the Cliffs of Moher.Mention going to Ireland to someone who has been, and you'll almost always get a list of "must see" places. Ireland is full of them and now that we've returned, I too have my list to share with anyone wanting another opinion. The Cliffs of Moher are almost always on the list, often with the caveat *IF* the weather is good. Even with the lousy weather, Cliffs of Moher would be on my list.At the western side of the island, the meeting of the Atlantic Ocean with land is quite dramatic. At their highest point, the cliffs are a sheer drop to the ocean more than 700 feet below. Spanning a shoreline distance of nearly five miles, you can imagine just how impressive they are. I've seen photos of the cliffs on a bright sunny day, and now I've seen them (in person) on a cloudy rainy day. I'm still in awe!When you arrive at the Cliffs you will first notice that the visitor center and exhibit area has been built into the hillside, preserving the profile of the landscape. While nice in concept, we were told that the real reason why this was done was because the farmer who owned this land would not sell for the development. A deal was reached whereby he could keep his grazing farmland for his cattle, while the tourist industry could still have access to develop the visitor center. Whatever the initial reason, the 2007 opening of this unique design was a blessing for many.People local and native to Ireland do not like that this development has occurred, largely because of how the entire concrete complex of parking lots and walk paths detracts from the natural beauty of the area. From a safely and people traffic perspective, I can appreciate what has been done in the name of progress.With the poor weather conditions and high winds, we didn't do as much walking as otherwise we would have liked to. At times the wind was so forceful, it even blew me sideways stumbling as I walked. I was thankful for a walkway and railings.Also located on the grounds at the Cliffs of Moher is O'Brien's Tower. Ironically enough, this area was even a tourist attraction back in 1835 when a local man Cornelius O'Brien built the tower as a viewing area overlooking the cliffs expressly for the benefit of visitors coming to look at them.Admission to the climb the tower is not included in the Cliffs of Moher fee. Expect to pay €6 for the Cliffs of Moher and €2 for O'Brien's Tower. Additionally for those who do not want to walk up or out to the cliffs, there is another level of entrance fee (€3.95) that allows access to the interesting "Atlantic Edge" exhibition inside the visitor center. Note: All of these admissions do have discounts for seniors and students. As part of our GTC tour, our admission to the Cliffs and the Atlantic Edge exhibition was included.Also inside the visitor center is a decent sized gift shop and a walk-through snack bar. Upstairs, there is also a restaurant with what I'm sure on a clear day would be a lovely view. Outside the visitor center there are a couple of other gift shops including one featuring Irish music. Our driver Declan bought a CD there as his in the tour van was dysfunctional.When planning a visit to the Cliffs of Moher, I would think on a good weather day you'll want at least three hours. For our tour, we had almost two hours and with the rain and wind, we spent a little over an hour outdoors and the remaining time inside viewing the exhibits. If you are wanting to walk over to O'Brien's Tower (an additional 15 minutes to get there) and climb to the top, you'll probably need another 45 minutes to an hour.For people with an interest in a more up close and personal view of the cliffs, boat tours are also available. From those, it is possible to get a great look at the many bird species that call the Cliffs of Moher home, including the quirky and beautiful puffin. Passengers on the Aran Island ferry from Doolin may also get a nice view of the cliffs on a clear day.
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