Cliffs of Moher is not off the beaten path, but it is not in Galway, nor in County Galway.
My intention had been to visit Cliffs of Moher independently on a day trip from Galway and to do some hiking there. But to my disappointment there were very few buses on a Monday in the end of February, only two arriving before the last one returned and it would not give me more than 2h at the cliffs.
At the hostel where I was staying, Kinlay House Hostel, I asked about the day tours going to Cliffs of Moher to see if that could be an option. I was told that the tour was a better option as it would give me 2h at the cliffs plus stops at interesting sights along the way, and it would be cheaper than going independently. The tour was with Galway Tour Company and booking from the hostel I paid 20 Euro (February 2013) and that also included the ticket to the visitor centre at Cliffs of Moher. The tour started at 10 and finished at 18.
The day of the tour I and a few others were picked up by a small bus and taken to the coach station. To my surprise we there changed to a big coach and it turned out to be fully booked. I think I was the oldest tourist on the bus. In the beginning of the tour we were told that we were not staying 2h at the Cliffs of Moher as the brochures says, but were only staying 1h 15minutes. This was because they used to eat lunch there, but they are very slow at the restaurant there so we were now stopping in Doolin for lunch instead (I wonder how long it has been like that). Well, lunch or not, I was disappointed to get less than 2h at the cliffs.
The bus driver talked almost all the time and gave us lots of information about the places we passed. At a few places we stopped and we got 15 minutes or less at each stop. These are the stops we made:
Ballyvaughn (for bathroom and snacks)
Ballyalban Earthen Ring Fort
Kilfenora (High Crosses)
Doolin for lunch at a pub (not included in the tour)
Cliffs of Moher, where we stayed 1h 15min
I will soon build a separate travel page about this trip and you can find it here: County Clare .
After visiting the Cliffs of Moher, the Healy Tours bus took us to Fitzpatrick's Bar in Doolin for lunch. When I first heard that we were stopping for lunch, I thought it might be some sort of tourist trap where the tour operator and restaurant benefit at the expense of the tourist. While I'm sure that the tour operator and restaurant have some sort of arrangement, this situation also worked out for me because Fitzpatrick's Bar serves a great carvery meal for a fair price.
A carvery is a restaurant where cooked meat is freshly sliced to order for customers. The meal also comes with potatoes and other vegetables. The term "carvery" is most commonly used in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and is also occasionally used in other places such as the United States.
At Fitzpatrick's, I ordered the traditional Irish meal of bacon and cabbage. In Ireland, the term "bacon" is not the same as in the United States. Instead, this bacon is basically what folks in America would call a pork loin. Both the quantity and quality of the food were excellent. I ate my meal up at the bar -- and, to drink, I enjoyed a glass of Bullmers Irish Cider. All together (including tip), the meal cost about 15 Euros.
I was very satisfied with this meal, and I would recommend Fitzpatrick's Pub to anyone passing through Doolin.
Near the Cliffs of Moher, there is a grass-roofed visitor centre set into the hillside. When I got off my tour bus, I paid 1 Euro for access to the centre which contains restrooms, an information desk, a restaurant, and a souvenir shop. It is a new, modern facility -- opened in 2007.
It is a short walk from the visitor centre to the cliffs themselves. However, the paths are fairly steep and contain a lot of stairs. Therefore, you will want to wear comfortable shoes when you visit.
The Cliffs of Moher are south of Galway along the coast in County Clare. I visited them on a half-day bus tour by Healy Tours that left Galway at 11:30 am and returned a little after 5:00 pm. The cost of the tour was 20 Euros.
The cliffs are a place of amazing natural beauty! They rise 120 meters (394 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag's Head, and reach their maximum height of 214 meters (702 ft) just north of O'Brien's Tower, eight kilometres away. Needless to say, you don't want to get too close to the edge! Fortunately, there are short walls around the most common tourist areas for the safety of visitors.
Please note that the cold and wind are noticeably greater near the cliffs, so dress accordingly.
Galway certainly is a great city but off the beaten track you can discover even more of Ireland. Bus Eireann although chronically poor in both pricing and punctuality do operate bus tours leaving on a regular basis from galway bus station to Connemara and the Burren. The natural beauty of these two areas is frankly incredible and you simply can't leave galway without taking it all in. Although I've already spoken of bus tours I'd say the best way to do this is either have your own car or else stick your thumb out and hitch hike, do it during the summer when it's not always raining, it'll be worth it.
The Blackrock - Silver Strand walk is an excellent way to get a little excercise and see great views at the same time.
Being roughly 5 miles long, this path is excellent for the serious walker. You will take in features such as the diving board at the end of Blackrock, passing the Galway Golf Course and the impressive Rusheen Bay. The Bearna Woods appear en route and if you turn left at Bearna Church, which features a unique picture window, you will find yourself upon Silver Strand.
I didn't wander out there, but I talked to a guy who was staying at the Eyre Square Hostel who said it's a nice place: Salthill. You need to take the bus out to there, but don't know which one. It's a crap shoot if you ask me.
Connemara is a region which is often described as the heartland of Irish culture. It is rich in tradition and is famous for it's warm hospitality. The area offers a dramatic mix of scenery from lakeland to rugged coastline, from bogland in the South to lush woodland in the North.
Always be prepared to hunt leprechauns. Carry a bag with a large club and a rusty nail at the end of it. If you see a rainbow like this one, run don't walk, and find the end of it before it goes away. When you find the leprechaun at the end hoarding that pot of gold, beat him senseless and steal the gold. Then return victoriously and knock back a few with a big box of Lucky Charms.
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