Guests can sail along the Cliffs of Moher on our ferry, as part of our Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher day trip from Galway City. Passengers will see the majestic Cliffs of Moher from the water on the return journey to Galway City.
Fun Facts about the Cliffs of Moher
Measuring around 8 kilometres or 5 miles long and towering up to 200 meters, or 700 feet, high, the Cliffs of Moher are at least twice the height of famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and the Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben. This magnificent coastline was formed over 300 million years ago.
Movies filmed at the Cliffs of Moher
Their jaw-dropping beauty has attracted the attention of artists and directors who have used them in a number of movies, music videos and tv shows over the past fifty years. For any Harry Potter fans, the sea cave was featured in the sixth movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Standing on a sea stack on a dark cloudy day, Dumbledore and Harry looked towards this cave which Voldemort used to hide one of his Horcruxes. For those of you who are fans of the 1987 cult classic the Princess Bride, you may recognise the cliffs as the 'Cliffs of Insanity'. It was here that Westley relentlessly chased Inigo, Fezzik and Vizzini, in search of the kidnapped Princess Buttercup. Besides these two iconic movies, the Cliffs of Moher featured in Leap Year, Ryan's Daughter and The Guns of Navarone. They were also used in a number of music videos.
History of the Cliffs of Moher
Two hundred years ago, the British viewed the stunning scenery of Ireland's western coastline as an easy access point for their dreaded enemy, Napoleon. They feared he would invade Britain via Ireland, so to avoid this, the British Army built hundreds of defensive towers along our western coast. The silhouette of one of these towers was a signal tower, built in 1808 to communicate messages with passing ships and other towers along the coast. The ruins of the signal tower stand in an area commonly referred to as the Hag’s Head.
Hag's Head takes its name from an unfortunate woman called Mal, who had fallen deeply infatuated with Ireland's legendary hero Cú Chulainn. Sadly, Cú Chulainn did not share Mal's feelings of love and tried to avoid them at all costs. Not getting the hint, Mal chased Cú Chulainn all over Ireland until they reached Loop Head. Here Cú Chulainn was cornered by Mal, but instead of succumbing to her unwanted love, he leapt across the narrow sea stacks towards the Cliffs of Moher. Mal tried to follow our great hero but did not have his balance and agility. She stumbled and fell to her death. As she fell, her face smashed against the cliff, which turned the rock red and gave the area its unflattering name, Hag's Head.
How the Cliffs of Moher were Formed
These colossal cliffs were created by layers of mud, silt and sand that were compacted and turned into solid rock over millennia. The different compacted layers can be seen in the different coloured bands that stretch horizontally across the cliffs. The lighter coloured rock is Namurian Sandstone and the darker coloured bands are siltstone and shale. Each line of rock is a sort of time capsule, containing fossils of plants, insects and marine animals that were trapped between the layers of sediment millions of years ago. Due to its sedimentary makeup, the stone breaks into large sheets or flags, which are ideal for building materials. For many years humans have quarried this rock and used it to build houses, decorate fireplaces, and even tile roofs. Perhaps the conveniently breakable stone was used over a thousand years ago to build Ó Ruaín’s fort here on the cliffs. This fort which has now been destroyed was known in Irish as An Mothar Uí Ruaín meaning ‘the ruin of Ó Ruaín’. Over the centuries, An Mothar Uí Ruaín was shortened to An Mothar and soon became known in English as the Cliffs of Moher.
Coastal erosion continues to sculpt these magnificent marvels. The stormy Atlantic relentlessly chews away with every wave, breaking down some of the lower strata of softer stone, and causing sections of the cliffs to collapse. This can be seen at the Branaunmore sea stack. This free-standing pillar is all that remains of a collapsed section of cliff, whose layers of stone now lie beneath the waves. If you look above Branaunmore to the top of the cliffs, you will see O'Brien's Tower. Built in 1835 by local landowner and member of parliament, Cornelius O’Brien, this tower was designed to give visitors an elevated view over the cliffs. O’Brien’s Tower is still used by visitors today. It proudly stands 214 meters or 702 feet above sea level and marks the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher.
Marine Life at the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most important seabird habitats, with the largest kittiwake and razorbill colonies in the country, along with fulmar, herring and black-backed gulls, shags, guillemots, the peregrine falcon – the fastest bird on the planet that can reach 240km/h, and, perhaps the most popular of all, the Atlantic puffin. They typically spend the autumn and winter out in the wild open ocean, with dull coloured beaks & feet. As spring approaches their bright colours return and they head back to the same burrows they left the previous autumn, to reunite with their mates. Puffins have one of the lowest ‘divorce’ rates in the animal kingdom, with 93% remaining with the same mate for life. They can stay paired up for over 30 years. They lay just a single egg in early summer, which parents take turns incubating until it hatches, then they take turns provisioning the puffling chick until it fledges in late summer. As autumn begins, the puffin families separate again, heading back out on their winter migration, some heading as far as the eastern coast of Canada. Puffin numbers are increasing at the Cliffs of Moher, however their population in other parts of Ireland and mainland Europe is unfortunately dwindling fast, and these charismatic birds are now on the red list of species facing possible extinction in the near future, threats include over-fishing and climate change.