If you’ve ever asked me for travel tips, I’ve undoubtedly told you “don’t fight jet lag”. Allowing yourself to wake up at an ungodly hour affords you the opportunity to experience a new place (especially a very touristy one) without the crowds or the hassle they bring with them. If the early bird gets the worm, this morning’s worm was the Cliffs of Moher.
On the west coast of Ireland in the County Clare, these spectacular cliffs meet the ocean in dramatic fashion. I was staying at a bed & breakfast a couple hours north of the cliffs, but with the help of jet lag, I was up and ready to go by 4:30 am. After 2+ hours winding down the narrow roads of the Irish coast I had reached my destination with one obstacle, it was 7 am and the parking lot & visitor’s center didn’t open until 9 am. Remember how I said I like to avoid crowds? I had a plan.
Thanks to a friendly B&B host, I found out there is a small dirt offshoot from the intersection north of the entrance that is open to the public, but only fits about 6 parked cars. From there it’s a short hike along some pastures to the land’s edge.
Very few experiences rival the feeling you get when you first walk up to the cliffs’ edge and feel the magnitude of the landscape around you. The sheer cliffs, angular rocks and crashing waves make for a tumultuous yet calming experience. Apart from a few warning signs, you’re left completely unobstructed from nature – no railings and no paved sidewalks.
If you hike in from the north this early in the morning, the next 3000ft is all yours. No one else and nothing else will interrupt you. Feel the ocean’s breath, look straight down the cliff’s edge, and know this is how people have experienced this place for thousands of years.
Eventually, you’ll hit a shared gate with the paved tourist complex and O’Brien’s Tower, where you’re welcome to just walk in and continue along the cliffs, but at this point, seeing the cliffs over a man-made barrier just won’t be the same. By now it was just after 9 am and the buses of tourists had arrived and were swarming the area, so I began my trek back as the signature Irish rain clouds started rolling in. I stopped to take a few more pictures but primarily reflected back on my trip, as this was my final day before heading back to the States.
I was grateful for the opportunity to experience these beautiful spaces without distractions. I wasn’t bumping shoulders with people, there weren’t troupes of kids running around screaming, and no one was chatting on their cell phones – it was just me and nature. So remember, sometimes less is Moher.
Glenn Rodgers is an avid traveller/photographer based out of Austin, Texas. Growing up in Singapore, Glenn has been fortunate to spend most of his life travelling the world looking for beautiful and unique landscapes. In the last few years has recently turned his attention to visiting the 59 US National Parks. Follow his journeys on Instagram, @rodgerswithad, or his website.