A magical landscape that seems to change from craggy cliff to soft folds of green in a heartbeat. A landscape dotted with picture-post card cottages, villages and towns where the secrets of Irish life are unlocked as the music begins. Here, as you take the winding road down to the coast, the magnificent waves of the Atlantic roll in, as old as time – crashing against the ancient cliffs that tell their own beautiful story through flower, bird and animal.
This is the magic of the Wild Atlantic Way – and at its very heart, like a diamond in the finest of settings, sits County Clare
The Wild Atlantic Way stretches from Malin Head, County Donegal through to the Old Head of Kinsale in County Cork. There are several Signature Points along the way – and without a doubt some of the most naturally breathtaking and extraordinarily beautiful are in Clare.
You’ll find that in so many ways, the dramatic backbone of the Wild Atlantic Way are the incredible and ancient Cliffs of Moher – one of Ireland’s most-visited natural attractions, with over 1 million visitors each year. Situated in West Clare, close to Liscannor Village, the Cliffs stretch for 8km (5 miles) as the crow flies and reach 214m (702 feet) in height. From the top of the Cliffs, on a clear day, you can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, the Twelve Pins and the Maum Turk mountains in Connemara as well as the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands in Kerry. It’s all rather magnificent – Ireland at its most natural, rugged, panoramic and breathtaking. Another unique feature of the Cliffs is that they offer a very multi-faceted experience – as interesting historically as they are from a geological and conservation point of view.
Birders are in for a treat as the Cliffs are home to a wealth of birdlife – offering a viewing of over 20 different species. The area is a Special Protection Area (SPA) for Birds under the EU Birds Directive and you may well see endangered species there – such as the chough – with significant numbers of kittiwake and fulmar. Beautiful puffins are a hallmark of the Cliffs of Moher, and you’ll be able to catch them between May and June. You’ll see many beautiful wild flowers and grasses, many of them unique to the Cliffs countryside, while down in the waves below, you may be treated to the sight of a dolphin pod on a calm day.
The Cliffs themselves are an incredible sight – made up of rocks formed over 300 million years ago during the Upper Carboniferous period. The history of the Cliffs goes back two thousand years: as far back as the 1st century BC forts were built on the cliffs as look-out points for invading forces. The area is also famous as the site where ships of the Spanish Armada were wrecked on the rocks in 1588.
Once at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience and Cliffs Exhibition offers a wealth of information and displays to inform and fascinate. You can also visit O’Brien’s Tower which was built in 1835 by Cornelius O’ Brien, a descendant of Brian Boru, the High King Of Ireland.
Take a tip!
Have a 360 degree Cliffs experience, on foot: Follow the path that leads from Liscannor all the way along the coast to the Cliffs to Doolin. Once there, you can take a ferry which will cruise around the Cliffs – giving you a view of their greatness from the water and a chance to see their many caves and sea- stacks up-close.
Just North of the Cliffs is the The Burren National Park – a dramatically beautiful Karst landscape of 1,500 ha with its own geological and natural story to tell. It’s a symphony of limestone pavement, grassland, hazel scrub, woodland, petrifying springs and cliffs. The Park’s highest point is Knockanes, at 207m – which continues as a curving terraced ridge right down to Mullaghmor.
There are many guided walks available, letting you take in the colourful history and fascinating geography of this magical landscape.
The wild and wonderful Loop Head is situated at the very most western tip of Clare – the meeting point of the calm waters of the Shannon Estuary and the powerful waves of the mighty Atlantic. Although the Peninsula is less than 25 kms end to end, it is a place of unlimited contrasts and endless possibilities. The Peninsula is almost completely surrounded by Special Areas of Conservation and Natural Habitat Areas – making it a true Paradise for nature lovers and bird watchers . Here, around 160 dolphins live happily while thousands of seabirds have made their nests on the cliff’s rocky ledges. All around, the countryside is dotted with beautiful wild flowers – a carpet of Clare colour.
The Loop Head Drive runs right through to the farthest western tip and this area’s very famous lighthouse. Climb to the top of the lighthouse and fall in love with the splendid views stretching from County Kerry to the Cliffs of Moher. There’s just so much to discover in this small but fascinating area and as you drive around every bend, there’s something new and different. A favourite spot for holidays is Kilkee – the Peninsula’s main town that is built around a semi-circular bay with a 1km golden beach. In this sheltered spot there’s a whole world of marine-based discovery to be enjoyed – from swimming to diving and fishing, to kayaking and pleasure boating. Kilkee promises a great holiday – but don’t forget the cosy villages and pubs of Carrigaholt – or the picturesque harbour and restaurants of the village of Kilbaha. All of this is why Loop Head is so often described as ‘easy to get to but hard to leave!’