I visited the Cliffs of Moher on my very first trip to Ireland in 2015 as part of a day tour from Ennis. We had two hours to spend at the Cliffs, along with about 20 other full tour buses. The weather was clear but incredibly windy yet that all seemed to fade away as I caught my first glimpse of the Cliffs of Moher. I promised myself that someday I’d return to Ireland and revisit the Cliffs on my own. I fulfilled that promise on my recent trip with a sunset coastal walk from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher.
First Attempt at the Coastal Walk
My first afternoon in Doolin, I attempted the walk. It was a beautiful and very windy afternoon as I expected. But as I followed the path I came to a crossing where the stones were washed away and I wasn’t sure if I should continue on. It was getting closer and closer to sunset so I decided to turn back to Doolin, a bit defeated.
Maybe I should just give up the dream of seeing the Cliffs at sunset and join the guided walk at 10:00 am the next day with local legend Pat Sweeney?
Then I went to the pub, as you should when you’re in Doolin, home of traditional Irish music.
I met a fellow solo female traveler at the pub and over a few pints she told me about how she completed the coastal walk to the Cliffs that very afternoon. Shocked, I asked her about the part of the path that appeared washed away, she shrugged and said, “I just went around”.
Second Attempt at the Coastal Walk
I awoke the next morning with the kind of resolve that comes from a powerful conversation with another solo female traveler. If she could do it, then so can I!
Thankfully, Doolin did not disappoint. I walked out of my B&B to clear blue skies and a gentle breeze. It was actually fairly warm. But I still brought my raincoat with me, because Ireland weather can change at the drop of a hat.
I’m sure the guided walk is lovely and a great way to get more information about the area and meet other people.
But I wanted to do this walk on my own. I did not want to feel rushed or force small talk with other travelers. I needed to address the thoughts going on in my own head and there is no better way to do it than surrounded by sweeping coastal views, lush green landscape, a few cows, and one foot in front of the other.
It was perfect.
As my foot fell inches away from the Cliff’s edge I wondered how I like to spend my time when it’s not filled with to do lists.
As I returned to the part of the path that was washed away I considered how I handle obstacles in my life.
As I breathed heavily up the inclines I wondered how I could bring this sense of exploration back home with me.
As I approached a confusing part of the path, left or right, I wondered how I make so many small decisions each day and how they play a role in the overarching story of my life.
With each incline, I kept waiting for the wind to pick up. But it never did. It was just a gentle breeze carrying me forward through the mud.
And then as I crossed over the crest of the final incline, the sun beginning to create beautiful pinks and oranges in the sky that reflected in the water below, the majestic Cliffs of Moher came into view.
All the thoughts, self-doubt, and questions vanished. All I could do was marvel at these gigantic cliffs that fall into the sea and realize that the only thing that matters is this moment.
My shoes covered in mud. The raincoat I never had to put on. The windless fresh air. The rocky Cliffs. The birds flying overhead.
Me in Ireland witnessing the sunset over the Cliffs of Moher.
Bucket list item checked, but also so much more than that. The realization that all I have to do is decide to do something and then go do it. Embrace the self-doubts, embrace the setbacks, and after that last incline, that last push, soak it all in.
Practical Tips for the Coastal Walk from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher
Want to recreate this coastal walk for yourself?
It’s pretty straight forward and one of the best things to do in Doolin. From Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher visitor center is 8 km and will take roughly three hours to reach the visitor center.
The walk begins in the heart of Doolin, just across the bridge from the photogenic pink sweater shop.
You’ll follow the road for a few minutes, with Doonagore castle to your left keeping a protective eye on Doolin. Then cross through a gate into a farm road. At the end of this farm road, turn right, step over the barrier and you’re on your way to the Cliffs of Moher.
The path has a barrier between it and the edge of the Cliffs for the majority of the walk. Do not step over the barrier to get closer to the edge for the photo op. The ground is unstable and known to fall away without any warning.
After following along the edge of the earth for a while, you’ll eventually turn left up a hill and pass through farmlands. There are about four inclines like this, I mean you are walking to cliffs that are 700 ft high, so inclines are to be expected!
At one point the path brings you directly to a cattle pen. You can go either right or left here. I started going right, but it seemed like the earth just dropped off and I couldn’t see the edge, so I turned around to go left around the pen. But as I rejoined the path, I saw people coming around from the opposite direction, meaning they went right. It seemed that if I’d gone right I would’ve had an epic view of the Cliffs. The choice is yours!
From the cattle pen, you are almost to the Visitor Center and you’ll notice the crowds beginning to pick up a bit. You may have had the whole walk to yourself up until this section.
When you reach the Visitor Center you can take Bus Eireann back to Doolin or if you have the time (and energy) you could continue on to Hags Head which is another 6 km. The entire walk from Doolin to Hags Head is 14 km.
As it was getting dark when I reached the Visitor’s Center I ended my walk there and returned to Doolin. I planned to return to the Cliffs the following day and walk from the Visitor’s Center to Hag’s Head, but it was incredibly rainy and foggy making the walk unsafe.
What to Wear for the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk
Here are a few practical tips for visiting the Cliffs of Moher.
- Layers. Always layers in Ireland. Waterproof pants and jacket are essential. Pack gloves and a warm hat to shield you from the wind at the top.
- Waterproof hiking boots. I wore Nike running shoes and immediately regretted it. The path is muddy and slippery in parts. It’s necessary to wear good hiking boots or shoes.
Safety Tips for the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk
- Be aware of the weather. If it’s incredibly foggy, windy, or rainy, it is unwise to attempt this walk. There are a number of sheer drop-offs which are incredibly dangerous. The best aspect of this walk is the views you’ll have and you won’t have them when the weather is poor, so save it for a better day.
- Bring water and snacks. Once you leave Doolin, there is nowhere to purchase any food or drink until you get to the Visitor’s Center.
- I have to say this again, don’t go off the trail. The trail is clearly marked. Be sure to follow it and don’t cross any barriers. The area is known for landslides, being part of one is not on my bucket list!
The Cliffs of Moher are truly a sight to see, no wonder they receive 1 million tourists each year. This coastal walk is a great way to see the Cliffs without the crowds while clearing your mind with the wild ocean breeze and crash of waves as your soundtrack.