The Cliffs of Moher are a dramatic span of carved caves and cliffs along the Atlantic coast of County Clare. The tallest point reaches a towering 700 feet in this five mile stretch in the west of Ireland.
The first evidence of life at the cliffs dates back to the 1st century BC. Since then it has served as a fort and lookout, (The name Mothar means ruined fort, giving the cliffs their name.) fishing and quarrying and now as the primary tourist destination in all of Ireland. And no spot in Ireland would be complete without local legends like mermaids, witches and lost cities!
Our story begins with the journey west to the town of Doolin, jumping off point to the Cliffs of Moher. It is also a wonderful base for touring the Aran Islands, the flora and fauna laden Burren and is Ireland’s center of traditional music! We were thrilled to make our way into the west toward this magical-sounding place. After checking in at our lovely inn we were directed down to the town (one block of shops and pubs) for dinner and live music. We had our fill of both and headed back up to the inn. Standing very nearly on the edge of the country in a remote town, we looked up at the sky to see more stars than I had ever seen. I could see THE MILKY WAY! The night was lit up with more stars than my congested city could ever dream of. It was glorious (and very hard to head inside)!
Our innkeeper advised us to take the “Cruise to the Cliffs of Moher”. Unfortunately it was fairly gray and stormy that morning so she called ahead to make sure they were running. They were holding out for better weather so we would have the morning to explore and head out in the afternoon. We decided to head to the Burren and visit the matchmaking town of Lisdoonvarna, also put on the map by the fabulous tune from Christy Moore. We headed back after a wonderful morning spent meandering through this wild terrain.
It was still raining when we arrived back at the dock in Doolin. They were waiting for the tide to come in a bit more before heading out so I stood in the trailer with a few other poor souls. I listened to a conversation of a young family whose little girl didn’t do too well on the “Cruise to the Aran Islands” earlier that morning. The little darling looked up and said in the tiniest, woeful voice, “I was feeling poorly…” It really should have been a sign to this weary girl. Did I mention I get seasick? I was determined to take this cruise! My husband looked at me a few times to make sure I was serious. He knew… Finally we head down to the dock to board. My second sign should have been the boat. You see, I was under the impression this was a cruise and the boat before me was more like a ramshackle fishing vessel. Soldier on! I said.
We all headed inside to the middle of the boat to covered seats. A few crazies stood out on the bow. The sea was rough that day…like an old man sending soup back at a deli! (Sorry, Seinfeld…can’t help it.) But in all seriousness, the sea was quite rough and my insides were quaking in a matter of minutes. We tossed from side to side a few times and I swear we almost went on one side at one point. One of the captains smiled at me as I tried find a focal point (near the barf bags) and said, “Oh! It’s been much worse!” Excellent.
Eventually we got out to the cliffs…I wasn’t keeping track of time at this point. My husband went back and forth, cast iron stomach that he has, to see the sites along the ride. At some point that same captain came in a said to me specifically, “You wanted to see the Harry Potter cave? We’re almost there!” Well, somehow a mighty force came over me. Harry Potter?! What? I’m up! Now I don’t remember hearing about the Harry Potter cave so I’m not sure how he knew I would want to see it but let’s call it magic. I made my way to the back of the boat with the rest of the crazies. I wish there was video of me balancing on this boat crashing against the waves while manually focusing my camera. It really was a feat. Also, the people blocking my way. But the air felt great and the sight of the cliffs really took me by surprise. Wow! Gorgeous! And the cave? Well, it was where Harry and Dumbledore went in the Half Blood Prince to get the horcrux from the fountain. I kind of felt like Dumbledore a bit at this point…
I found a decently safe spot at the back of the boat and started to really enjoy myself. We were going slower now and the sea seemed to calm a bit. The wind and rain abated and I got to take in the majesty of the scene in front of me. There are times that I truly, viscerally understand why the Irish have fought so hard for this stunning country. To let go of all of this beauty would be a tragedy. Oh, it was grand!
I snapped a bunch of shots in between the fresh air and conversation. What a wonderful way to experience the cliffs! And those captains, they were so kind to this weary gal. How did he know I love Harry Potter? Or was he just trying to get me out to see his favorite spot? Clever man! My first trip to the Cliffs of Moher will be emblazioned in my memory as a wild trip into the west of Ireland. You can be certain it won’t be my last!