The Cliffs of Moher:
Ireland's Jaw-Dropping Natural Wonder

by Brian Vaszily, founder of

While I deeply agree with poet William Blake that one can find "a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower" ...

While I believe like Walt Whitman that in the right frame of being one can find a world of meaning in simple leaves of grass ...

Certain of nature's wonders are SO monumental that, even if you tried to fight it, they'd figuratively tackle you, make your jaw drop in awe, and insist that you be amazed at the beauty of the universe and ponder your place in it.

In a sense, then, they're the beautiful bullies of the natural world ... and Ireland's Cliffs of Moher are definitely one of them.

The Cliffs of Moher, also known as The Cliffs of Mohair, are Ireland's top tourist attraction, drawing almost one million visitors in 2006. And they certainly deserve that designation.

Perhaps the only time my jaw dropped lower in sheer awe at one of nature's beautiful bullies was upon seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time (we had to hike to the bottom of the canyon to retrieve my jaw for that one.)

The Cliffs of Moher are 702 feet (214m) high at their peak point and continue for nearly 5 miles (8km) over the Atlantic Ocean on the western coast of County Clare. The many different views from atop the cliffs are stunning; on a relatively clear day you can even see the distant Aran Islands, Galway Bay, The Twelve Pins, the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara and the Loop Head to the south.

You can also see 300-million-year-old river channels cutting through the base of the cliffs, which consist mainly of beds of Namurian shale and sandstone.

O’Brien’s Tower

At the cape of the Cliffs stands O’Brien’s Tower, which was built in 1835 by Cornelius O’Brien as an observation point for tourists.

Cornelius O’Brien, a descendant of Ireland's famous High King Brian Boru, strongly believed that the development of tourism would benefit the local economy and lift people in the region out of poverty.

In addition to the tower he built a wall of Moher flagstones along the Cliffs. The story goes that Mr. O'Brien, a one time member of the parliament for County Clare, won a bet with English counterparts by proving he could build this fence a mile long, a yard high and an inch thick. These were the dimensions of his Moher flagstones wall; they were later adapted as building material and floor covering in farmhouses in the region throughout the 19th century.

Birds Paint the Cliff Walls

The almost vertical sheer drop into the Atlantic Ocean makes the Cliffs of Moher a haven for many birds. In fact, there are approximately 30,000 birds of 29 species that make the Cliffs their home, including Atlantic puffins, hawks, gulls, shags, and ravens.

While you won't quite get the lucky birds' unsurpassed view of The Cliffs (unless you take the time to view the worthwhile IMAX-type multimedia show in the visitor's center), if you ever get to visit the unbelievably beautiful island known as Ireland, make sure the Cliffs of Moher on the western coast are on your itinerary.

Just watch where you're standing when they make your jaw drop in awe, though -- it's a long way down to the frigid Atlantic waters slamming into the cliff walls below to retrieve it.

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