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A Little Adventure…Off-Roading to the Cliffs of Moher

Ailie River Hostel, Ireland

Loved the Aille River Hostel, Doolin

There are two ways to set out on any adventure:

  • The way the Lonely Planet tells you
  • The secret map hand-drawn for you by a local.

I mean really, is there even a choice?!

Laura and I were ready to tackle the famed Cliffs of Moher and Carl, the owner of the fantastically accommodating and friendly Aillie River Hostel in Doolin, Ireland, let us in on a little secret – as long as you don’t park your car on the main road leading to the Cliffs, they won’t ticket you and you don’t have to pay the €8 parking fee.

Map to Cliffs of Moher from Doolin

Secret map to Cliffs of Moher from Doolin

And to sweeten the deal, in addition to this parking tidbit, there’s a couple hour hiking path that hugs the cliffs and drop-offs that lead up to the main Cliffs of Moher from the tiny little town of Doolin.

The Cliffs of Moher are traditionally visited as a day-trip from Galway…but I loved the highly dangerous and cow-filled adventure of hiking to the Cliffs myself, and then jumping the fence and strolling in oh-so-casually.

Carl instructed us on a little road a couple of kilometers before the car park for the Cliffs of Moher visitor’s center and the Cliffs proper. I marooned my miniature European car (that wouldn’t even be road-worthy and legal in the US) on a grassy bank off the side of the road and set off to follow this lightly detailed map to the right.Danger Bull on Cliffs of Moher Path

Step One: Jump the gate

Both Scotland and Ireland are pretty tolerant to tourists (and locals for that matter) wandering through their sheep and cow pastures…but Laura and I felt a little weird jumping the fence since the owner was right there and just finishing up with his bull! He really didn’t mind though and even pointed out the easiest spot for jumping the fence.

Step Two: Parallel the fence to the very edge of the cliff

Once inside of the cow pasture…it’s pretty messy. We hiked along the fence, occasionally venturing away from the fence if it looked like the grass was less of a muddy, gooshy, sopping mess of churned grass and sludge…it never was.

At one point we spotted salvation on the other side of a pass-fence – it looked so dry and firm on that side. Well, let me tell you, the grass wasn’t greener on that side. After sinking ankle deep, we decided to make a messy break for it and sprint to the edge.Cow pasture gook

Step Three: Avoid the cows

One key problem with tromping through an active cow pasture – they are cows. The friendly farmer got a momentarily snippy as we carefully picked our way across his field while he was trying to heard his cattle through the fence.

Step Four: Tread very lightly and DON’T SLIP

The cow pasture adventure was all about the mud – and once we made it to the grassy, overgrown path that sits about three feet from a 500 foot drop, balance was all that was running through my mind.

The caution sign my deter less adventurous hikers, but Carl was adamant that we would get some of the best views of the Cliffs if we ignored the sign and just carefully made our way up the steep path.

Picking out way to the Cliffs Extreme Danger - Ha, I laugh in the face of danger!

Step Five: Enjoy the Spoils

By the time we got to the top of the grassy pasture Laura and I took a few minutes to merely sit in the near-silence, listen to the waves crash, and look into the distance at the rugged Cliffs of Moher.Stunning Cliffs of Moher

The soft sounds of our feet on the grass was enough to disturb the birds resting under the Cliff face; every few minutes a startled flock of gleaming white birds flew out from below us and fanned out across the blue ocean, the sound of their frantic wings competing with the rushing waves slowly wearing at cliffs.

Clifs of MoherClifs of Moher

Step Six: Jump the fence and gloat

About two hours after leaving on this adventure hike to the Cliffs of Moher our little path abruptly ended at a wire fence intended to keep the paying tourists from heading off in the very direction we had just come from. There were certainly a few disgruntled looks as we dodged a glance around and then quickly catapulted over the fence, into the highly fenced and paved “tourist” sections of the Clifs of MoherCliffs.

I’ve heard rumors that there’s a movement to have the Cliffs of Moher considered for the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World…I don’t think I will ever visit them again if that happens because, in all honestly, they are incredibly touristy already.

The sheer size of the Cliffs, contrasting with the vibrant green Irish country-side and the blue ocean is really amazingly pretty. There is no denying that the Cliffs are one of Ireland’s most prominent attractions and I’d go back all over again given the opportunity, buuuuut I would still take the adventurous path and let the tour busses stay on the paved roads  ;-)


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  • andrewghayes

    Great story (am trying to print out the secret map). Proof that you shouldn't go anywhere in the Isles without good boots :)

  • ShannonOD

    You let me know when you head there and I'll give you the scoop on the secret map ;-) And boots were essential – I was sad that one of mine had sprung a leak by that point :(

  • ShannonOD

    You let me know when you head there and I'll give you the scoop on the secret map ;-) And boots were essential – I was sad that one of mine had sprung a leak by that point :(

  • andrewghayes

    Great story (am trying to print out the secret map). Proof that you shouldn't go anywhere in the Isles without good boots :)

    • ShannonOD

      You let me know when you head there and I'll give you the scoop on the secret map ;-) And boots were essential – I was sad that one of mine had sprung a leak by that point :(

  • CandiceW

    Aghh, I wanna go back to Ireland do this so badly! The landscape is so incredible…reminds me a lot of Newfoundland. Also, I love the happiness in the photo in contrast to the deathly sign.

  • CandiceW

    Aghh, I wanna go back to Ireland do this so badly! The landscape is so incredible…reminds me a lot of Newfoundland. Also, I love the happiness in the photo in contrast to the deathly sign.

    • ShannonOD

      Newfoundland is on my list! I've never been :-) I love that photo too, such a blatant defiance of what it says ;-)

      • CandiceW

        You must come, and if you do, look me up!

    • http://notintentonarriving.wordpress.com/ Laura Carter

      “I laugh in the face of danger!” Bwahhahaha… :)

      • ShannonOD

        You are a nut.

  • ShannonOD

    Newfoundland is on my list! I've never been :-) I love that photo too, such a blatant defiance of what it says ;-)

  • CandiceW

    You must come, and if you do, look me up!

  • lilvtchic

    This was one of the most memorable experiences of My entire trip! Hopping fences and cow patties. Love the pics…I hadn't seen any of them yet. Helps me go re-live the day all over again. :)

  • http://notintentonarriving.wordpress.com/ Laura Carter

    This was one of the most memorable experiences of My entire trip! Hopping fences and cow patties. Love the pics…I hadn't seen any of them yet. Helps me go re-live the day all over again. :)

    • ShannonOD

      I thought you saved these from my camera?! Hugs and love, wouldn't have been the same without you :-)

      • http://notintentonarriving.wordpress.com/ Laura Carter

        Yeah – somehow I didn't see or get these when I took the rest! Ha. Good times my friend.

  • ShannonOD

    I thought you saved these from my camera?! Hugs and love, wouldn't have been the same without you :-)

  • lilvtchic

    Yeah – somehow I didn't see or get these when I took the rest! Ha. Good times my friend.

  • lilvtchic

    “I laugh in the face of danger!” Bwahhahaha… :)

  • ShannonOD

    You are a nut.

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