Hiking the Cliffs of Moher Walking Trail in December
We always wanted to try hiking the cliffs of Moher walking trail.
But we wanted it to be a bit of a challenge.
That’s why we went in rainy, windy December to get a taste of adventure worthy of the name “Cliffs of Insanity”
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Hiking the Cliffs of Moher walking trail was a dream come true for us.
I only knew them as the “Cliffs of Insanity” from the Princess Bride. I had no idea they were real until I saw a picture of them many years after watching the movie.
Ireland always had a certain draw. But it was sealed as a bucket list destination once I learned this little nugget of truth.
Below we outline our trip to hiking the cliffs of Moher coastal walk.
Like that classic movie, it proved to be a treacherous tale of a trail and we brave protagonists using our skills, brawn, and whit to make it through everything which that clever nemesis could throw at us.
Getting to the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk
One of the best parts of flying into Cork is how quickly you can be at the Cliffs of Moher.
We flew overnight from Stewart International Airport in New York to Shannon Airport in Ireland.
Landing at 6 a.m., we were at the famous Cliffs by 8 a.m. for an amazing morning hike.
You can check for the best deals of flights here.
When to Hike The Cliffs of Moher Walking Trail
The trail is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The Irish rain keeps the rolling hills vibrantly green. Which makes a feast for the eyes and a banquet for the resident sheep.
The Irish spring bursts with green rolling hills (not the soap, the real Irish springtime).
Summers are mild and bring the Puffins to roost in the cliffs.
Fall temperatures are moderate and the crowds begin to dwindle leaving you alone on the rocky cliffs.
But it’s too rainy in the winter. So any sane person would visit Ireland in one of their 3 beautiful seasons.
Our Experience – Hiking the Cliffs of Moher Walking Trail; (aka The Cliffs of Insanity)
That’s why we went in December. It’s much colder, rainier, more muddy, and challenging. Because who wants to hike at leisure?
This hike was going to challenge our whit, our brawn, and our fencing skills if we were to make it through.
Defeating the Cliffs of Insanity with our Whit
The weather was a bit chilly, but we don’t mind that whenever we are hiking. In fact, we find it much more enjoyable than hiking in the heat.
We knew it could be breezy hiking the Cliffs of Moher. But in the winter, hurricane strength winds turn them into the Cliffs of Insanity!
In fact, the wind blew so hard that all of the small streams that would ordinarily fall to the sea below were blowing straight up and back in and endless cycle.
It was as if the waterfalls themselves had gone insane!
While it felt like a trope in a Dr. Seuss book, it was an amazing phenomenon seldom seen. It was certainly a first for us.
It was also very wet.
If you have never hiked near backward waterfalls, one of two things happen when they reach a certain height.
- They reach a point of critical mass and lose the will to rise any more. Or
- The wind abates just as you are passing under them
At any rate, between the constant rain and the water fountains we were hiking under, it was wet.
This required using our whits to outsmart this gauntlet.
You see, by wearing the right rain gear the Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk turned into a cakewalk.
When you are dressed for it, there is nothing better than hiking in the rain. Or under water as the case may be.
Defeating the Cliffs of Insanity With Our Brawn
The wind didn’t just act out on the water. At times it was all we could do to stay on our feet. As the trail turned into and with the wind it would be a challenge one minute and an ally the next.
At times facing the wind took all of our strength to walk uphill in the mud.
Digging one foot at a time into the muddy hillside, we used our brawn to slowly but surely subdue the treacherous trail into submission.
So, we had bested the rain and the backwards waterfalls which means we had studied. So certainly the Cliffs of Moher were no match for our whits.
We had beaten the giant Irish hills and gale force winds with our will and grit which makes us exceptionally strong.
So, that meant there was one more test to finish our quest
Defeating the Cliffs of Insanity With Our Fencing Skills…Sort of
By this point we had gotten used to the Cliffs of Insanity. Like the fire swamp, we had gotten pretty used to the inconveniences and had actually began to enjoy it.
But, we didn’t expect the final challenge: Irish fencing.
It turns out that each time we went through a piece of the gauntlet, Ireland was setting us up for the most difficult challenge yet.
You see, all of this rain and water are making the trail super muddy. Your boots are covered with a thick layer of Irish clay. Each step is muddy boots on muddy trail, which may be the most viscous (or vicious) combination in nature.
Slipping and sliding, we catch ourselves time and time again. Landing on hands, knees, elbows, faces. We were wallowing in the mud. We must’ve seemed like pigs as the sheep looked on.
Now the wind, the rain, the mud, and the insanity all converge for their final blow.
My strength, my intelligence, and my fencing skills all came down to the final encounter.
The wind, now pushing me uphill I attempted to parry which put me on bad footing for nature’s riposte.
With one enormous gust, the wind changed tactics. From out of nowhere the wind shifted to blow downhill and to my left.
Slick shoed and off balance, I was being blown straight into the sheep fence.
With muddy hands I desperately grabbed the fence and screamed like a little girl “Ah! It’s electric!”
To which Lill couldn’t help but finish that with “boogey woogy woogy woo!”
I was shocked! No, seriously. I was shocked by an electric fence. The Cliffs of Insanity had hit their mark.
We were not the strong, intelligent, skilled hikers we thought we were.
We were just a couple of stubborn, strong-willed idiots that couldn’t give up.
Despite all of our obstacles, we traversed along these cliffs of insanity to O’Brien’s Tower and the nearby visitors center to lick our wounds and find some shelter from our nemesis.
The End of the Cliffs of Moher Walking Trail at O’brien’s Tower
Once you reach O’Brien’s Tower you are at the highest point on the cliffs of Moher.
Originally built as a teahouse for English tourists in 1835, this relic at least offers a reprieve from the wind.
But once you see the view you will understand why O’Brien built this tower here.
On a clear day you can see as far north as the Twelve Bens in Connemara (a mountain range of 12 “pins” or sharp ridgelines), as far south as Loop Head to the mountains of Kerry, and west to the Aran Islands.
Aill na Searrach are 40 foot waves that crash off of the coast of Ireland. This tower provides a bird’s eye view of intrepid surfers trying to tame this massive break.
After taking some magnificent pictures along the cliffs of Moher, head down to the visitor’s center below.
Inside you will find artwork from local creators as well as a museum, gift shop, and cafe to warm up and dry off from the long trek.
Wrap Up – Hiking the Cliffs of Moher Walking Trail; Defeating the Cliffs of Insanity
Despite the challenges, or maybe because of them, the Cliffs of Moher are truly a bucketlist destination.
No matter the weather, we still highly recommend it. (except when the wind is pushing you into the sea – that would be incredibly dangerous).
I hope this article doesn’t seem like we are complaining about the wind and the rain. Quite contrarily, we think this enhanced our trip.
We were cold, muddy, and at times literally shocked. But it was all worth it for the amazing views and lifetime of memories from our hike along the Cliffs of Insanity.
What’s next for us? We’re actually considering piracy. But that’s another story.
Tips for Walking the Cliffs of Moher
- Bring rain gear
- Bring good shoes
- Protect your camera
- Do not hike if the wind is blowing toward the Ocean
- Park in Doolin and walk to O’Brien’s Tower
- Never bet against a Sicilian when death is on the line
Tours to the Cliffs of Moher
Take a tour from Doolin including ferry ride Here:
Or check out other tours for the cliffs of Moher here:
And Accommodations Near the Cliffs of Moher
Find the latest vacation rentals at VRBO. Expedia has great offers on accommodations near the Cliffs of Moher. Or search the map below: If you are looking for more guides, we cover hiking, camping and road trips all around the world. For some great ideas on road trips nearby, read our post on the Best Road Trips in Europe. It’s part of a series on the Best Road Trips Around the World. If you happen to be in Iceland, here is our popular guide on the Best Campsites in Iceland. Speaking of camping, this guide on making coffee when camping is near and dear to our heart.
More Travel Guides in Europe
Find the latest vacation rentals at VRBO.
Expedia has great offers on accommodations near the Cliffs of Moher.
Or search the map below:
If you are looking for more guides, we cover hiking, camping and road trips all around the world.
For some great ideas on road trips nearby, read our post on the Best Road Trips in Europe. It’s part of a series on the Best Road Trips Around the World.
If you happen to be in Iceland, here is our popular guide on the Best Campsites in Iceland.
Speaking of camping, this guide on making coffee when camping is near and dear to our heart.