Don’t get me wrong: The Cliffs of Moher are friggin’ amazing. They are awe-inspiring hulks of limestone, soil, and tufts of deceptively inviting grass that erupt 200m (or 700 feet, for you Americans) out of the western headlands of Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher are basically Ireland face-palming the Atlantic Ocean and telling it to piss off. Thus you have the churning sea on one side and the stoic, immovable cliffs on the other, and together they are a sight to behold.
Dramatic images of pounding waves slamming themselves into cliffs aside, there is more to the Cliffs of Moher (haha, that was sort of a pun) than the cliffs themselves. Unless you have a car, a friend with a car, or a very sorry horse, the only way you’re making it there and back in the same day is by bus. There are tons of bus tours going to the cliffs, and they all charge about the same price: 15 Euro for students/seniors and 20 for adults. You don’t have to make a reservation either; I literally bought my ticket the same day I was in Galway, the nearest city.
So what else besides the Cliffs of Moher is worth seeing while you’re out there?
1. For starters, castles. This is Kinvara castle, and it’s one of three or four that you see along the way. They’re all in habitable condition, as long as you’re into leaky ceilings, drafty rooms with gaping holes in the walls, and perhaps ghosts of former occupants wandering around at night and threatening to behead you.
2. Fancy escaping the ghoulies and ghosties? You’re in luck, because your bus will take you into the uplands of The Burren, possibly the most spot-on name for a bunch of mountains besides the Rockies. The Burren is literally covered in weathered limestome, and there are even caves in the area which you can enter–for a nominal fee, of course. My bus stopped at one park charging a cool 5 Euro for a short tour, and I decided to spend the time climbing around on the rocks and doing my best llama impressions (more on that later).
3. No, aliens did not put that there–humans did, about 5,000 years ago. This Neolithic dolmen has been sitting in the Burren for the last five millenia, enduring wind, rain, and in the last decade or so, a ton of annoying tourists. According to my tour bus driver–who I took with a grain of salt, as you always should when you’re on a tour–there are almost 100 dolmens like these sitting around this part of the country. This particular one had a bunch of bodies buried around it, so it probably had a ritual significance beyond the astrological, as at Newgrange .
4. One of the really neat aspects of the tour I went on was that it stopped in a few villages along the way. It’s likely that without the tour buses these places would be completely deserted. But even on its own, the town of Doolin, the last village we passed through, seems to merit an extended visit. There are several charming pubs and seafood restaurants around, lots of hostels and B&Bs to choose from, and a beach with surfable waves. Just bring a wetsuit, if that’s what you plan on doing.
5. Yes, Llamas. Supposedly a local farmer realized he could make a lot more money selling highly-rated llama wool as opposed to the traditional sheep wool. So he flew over to Peru, scooped up a bunch of these guys, and brought them back to County Clare, where they’ve been grazing happily ever since. Although they’ve probably not even noticed a change in habitat–thanks in large part to the Irish climate being so resiliently…Irish–they must wonder why so many humans are always marching off their buses just to take pictures of them. Just like the Cliffs of Moher, llamas do tend to stand out.
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