CLIFFS OF MOHER AND THE ISLAND OF INIS OIRR
If you are visiting Co Clare in Ireland, just south of the Burren on the western seaboard are the Cliffs of Moher. Formed some 320 million years ago, these dramatic cliffs rise straight up from the Atlantic to heights of 700ft (214m) and are home to a variety of cliff nesting birds. The interpretive center presents the evolution of this natural spectacle and the wildlife that live there in easy to understand formats that both adults and children alike can enjoy.
I took a day out and visited the island of Inis Oirr (Inisheer), the smallest of the three Aran Islands, with the intention of returning to the mainland via a boat trip that will take me to the face of these magnificent cliffs viewing them from sea level.
Drove to Doolin for 9.30am, a small village with information center, coffee shops and hotels. Had a lovely coffee in the Sea Salt Café just over the bridge. Heading for Doolin Pier, a five minute drive out of the village, to board the ferry for the half hour trip to the island of Inis Oirr (Inisheer). There are a number of ferries servicing the Islands and I travelled with The Doolin Ferry Company to the island but also included their “Cliffs of Moher Cruise” for the return journey on my ticket.
I’m not one to talk about the Irish clichéd past (leprechauns, donkeys and thatched cottages) but prefer to dwell on the present and how the past influenced Ireland as it is today. The half hour boat trip gave me my first glimpses of this small island; beautiful dry stone walls, hill top forts and the small village, all remnants of the recent past lifestyle and island life. I met with Stiofan Deoighe (Tour Guide Tel: 086 6073230) on the Pier. Boarded his open trailer pulled by a tractor and settled onto the benches for a trip around the island. There were also horse and trap options to explore from. Heading in a southerly direction the landscape opened up in front of us. Small fields surrounded by dry stone walls, and stony coastline. This is “Craggy Island” as depicted in the TV Show “Father Ted”. Through the slight haze, the ghostly shape of the shipwreck “Plassy”, a cargo ship that ran between Limerick and Galway that grounded here on March 1960, now resting on this grey karst limestone scene, the rusting hull and the exposed seaweed giving the only colour against the grey, overcast skyline. Rounding the back of the island and climbing to the higher parts, we head for O’Briens Fort that commands a 360º view of the island. On the way back to the harbour, we called into “The Church of St Keevaun”, original building dating back to c10 Centaury, before calling to one of the pubs for lunch before catching the ferry at 2.00pm for the “Cliffs of Moher Cruise. The island is perfect for walking or sight seeing with one of the guides, or you may hire a bike from “Joyce Bike Hire” at the quay. (Martin Seoighe 086 3523462).
On the ferry again and heading for the Cliffs of Moher. It was a bit foggy which limited distant visibility. As we got nearer, the cliffs loomed out of this ghostly vista like a gigantic wall. As we closed in, the size of them became apparent. The cliffs are home to Ireland’s largest mainland seabird nesting colony with some 20species of nesting birds including 9 species of breeding seabirds and up to 30,000 breading pairs. These include the colourful Puffin, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Gannets to name a few. The stone layers of stone make perfect ledges for the nesting birds and the “Stacks” provide dramatic picture material for your memory book.
Back to Doolin, getting in around 3.30pm, I headed up to the “Cliff of Moher Visitor Experience” to help me understand further what I had just experienced. The center has been constructed in the side of a hill and does not detract from the environment. Amazing, easy to understand exhibits and video presentations bring the magic of the Cliffs to life through themes like the ocean, rocks, nature and man. Lovely restaurant and coffee bar will help you relax and absorb what you have just experienced.
Time now to view the Cliffs from the top. Walking trails, guided if you wish, view points, treks along the cliff tops. O’Brien’s Tower was built in 1835 and is easily accessible from where you get great views of the cliffs. The calls of the birds drifting upwards from below and this vast visual scene prompting visions and thoughts of time past in the forming of this impressive natural wonder and the people who frequented them throughout history.
This is a really nice day out and a meaningful experience. The old life Island of Inis Oirr (Inisheer), the amazing Cliffs of Moher and the friendly, light hearted company of local people.
Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience: www.cliffsofmoher.ie
The Doolin Ferry Company: www.doolinferry.com
Doolin Information: http://www.visitdoolin.ie
Inis Oirr (Inisheer) Tour Guide: Stiofan Deoighe (Tel: 086 6073230)
Inis Oirr (Inisheer) Information: www.discoverinisoirr.com
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