One Day in a City Itinerary: Cliffs of Moher and Other Top Sites in Ireland’s Mid-West Region
How to Visit Cliffs of Moher from Dublin & Also See Ireland’s Prettiest Village, a Medieval Castle & More
When you visit the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin, you’ll be traveling to Ireland’s gorgeous mid-west area. The Mid-west region of Ireland is entirely different from the good ol’ Midwest of the United States (and not just because one generally uses a hyphen and the other doesn’t). Instead of corn fields and cities that get below freezing in the winter — which I became quite accustomed to growing up in Minnesota — you’ll find fields of bright green backing up to flowing rivers, and rugged cliffs bordering the crashing waves along the Irish coastline.
Here’s how to visit the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin plus what else to see around the Irish Mid-west during your day’s journey from the east coast of Ireland to its west coast. Plan on starting your day early and heading straight from Dublin to Ireland’s most visited site: the Cliffs of Moher.
Cliffs of Moher from Dublin: Ireland’s Top Attraction is Worth the Drive
The Cliffs of Moher make for a dramatic vista thanks to a sheer 600 foot vertical drop into the sea. The cliffs are made up of mudstone and sandstone, which helps create the ambiance you’ll experience since the mudstone is softer and erodes which creates beautiful ledges on the side of the cliffs that seabirds habitat and breed on. The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most important sea bird colonies in Europe and you’ll likely see many birds flying around while visiting, including the possibility of puffins.
The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction in Ireland and with scenery like this, it’s easy to understand why.
For a small €2 fee, you can go up in O’Brien Tower located near the cliffs and which is just a short walk from the visitor center. The tower was built by Cornelius O’Brien, a local landowner in the 19th century who was the person that originally had the vision to bring tourism to the Irish Mid-west and specifically the Cliffs of Moher. From the top of the tower, you can see all the way to Newfoundland on a clear day.
The visitor center is also good for a walk-through or a warm haven if you’re visiting the cliffs on a blustery day like I did. The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre is actually built into the side of the earth and has beautiful views of the cliffs from its onsite café.
Bunratty Castle is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland. When visiting, you can tour the main castle plus its historic Folk Park, which is a recreation of what a village in the area would have been like in the 19th century. It is seriously cool as you feel like you’ve been transported back in time to a full village complete with homes and businesses. Bunratty is a great spot for families to visit; adults will appreciate the history and attention to detail while kids will enjoy the exploration factor of all the different buildings to visit plus live animals onsite.
Bunratty Castle was built in a Norman style in the 15th century and used to be surrounded by a moat. Though it was left in ruin for 100 years before being restored in 1954 the floors never collapsed, so you’ll be walking over the same floor as the Great Earl did hundreds of years earlier. The fireplace you’ll see in the guard room (which now serves as a banquet room) is also the original.
While touring Bunratty Castle during your day trip to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin, you’ll learn about the home life of earls in Mid-west Ireland in the 15th century, like that the ceiling has a vent above the “central heating” fireplace and how the stone walls absorbed the heat and spread it all through the room. Much more complicated than turning a knob on a thermostat – good thing Ireland doesn’t get to 20 below zero on a regular basis like the Midwest winters I remember growing up with in Minnesota.
The bedrooms are also interesting to see, particularly the beds, which are covered in a 500 year old bedspread and a nightgown that would have been worn in the era. The beds didn’t have springs, just ropes. At night the ropes would have to be tightened so people didn’t fall down the middle of the bed. This is where the term “sleep tight” comes from.
There are many other old and interesting artifacts to see within the castle walls, including a sheela na gig, which is an ancient Irish fertility stone. I rubbed it and…I became pregnant several months later! Use that information as you see fit to decide whether to rub it while you’re there or to keep your distance.
Once you leave the main castle, there’s even more fun to be had as you explore the Folk Park and see how people who weren’t earls lived back in the 1800s.
You’ll be able to walk through recreated homes that have an impressive attention to detail and see various home furnishings and the way they were set up.
The grounds of Bunratty Folk Park are also simply pleasurable to walk around on thanks to meandering trails by cute Medieval-style buildings and lots of trees.
Along the way through the village, you’ll also have the opportunity to see a school house, mills and a blacksmith work area, plus lots of farmhouses.
If you have time into the evening, stick around for Bunratty Castle’s banquet, which takes place every night in the castle. You’ll be served food by the “butler and ladies of the castle” (dressed up in historic attire) and be entertained by live musical performances.
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One Day in Dublin
Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum
The Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum sounded boring to me when I first heard of it, but it ended up being a highlight of my trip to Ireland for two main reasons.
First, you can tour a replicated Flying Boat, which gives you a good taste of what air travel was like back in its early days.
Second, the museum is housed in the old Foynes Airport, which is where the Irish Coffee was invented. At the end of your tour you’re given a demonstration on how to make one and then get to drink one. Now that is a pretty awesome museum experience if you ask me.
To see more pictures and read more about my time at this interesting air museum (and get the Irish Coffee recipe!) read my article on Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum.
Adare, the Prettiest Village in Ireland: Worth a Stop Before Heading Back to Dublin After Seeing the Cliffs of Moher
Adare is nicknamed Ireland’s Prettiest Village, and it’s easy to see why. The main street is lined with old homes that stand out thanks to their thatched roof characteristic.
Adare isn’t just quaint little cottages, though; it also has a gorgeously green and leafy public garden to walk through called Village Park. Though if you’re short on time during your trip to Cliffs of Moher from Dublin, then you’ve probably had enough nature at the cliffs and can skip this part.
Holy Trinity Abbey Church
If you want to see more historic architecture – or just love visiting churches – stop into Holy Trinity Abbey Church, which dates back to the 13th century. Inside, you’ll find medieval looking arches leading to the understated, yet impressive altar. The one thing I particularly love about this church that makes it stand out compared to others in Europe is the layers of asymmetrical and haphazard gray bricks that make up the walls. They create an unexpected and intricate design aspect within the stone parameters of the church.
I also loved the pop of red from the door outside.
Adare is also home to the stately Adare Manor, which will have you feeling like you stepped into a more understated, but still fabulous, version of Downton Abbey. The grounds are immaculately groomed around the stone mansion, making it ideal for a leisurely stroll.
Inside there is a welcoming lobby that leads to rooms for lucky people who book a room here. Even if you’re not spending the night, you can reserve a spot for afternoon tea in Adare Manor’s charming tea room. It’s a great way to take a break after what has probably already been an eventful day of sightseeing.
Getting to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin
The quickest way to get to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin is to fly into Shannon Airport, which is located just 16 miles from Limerick. But for a day trip, you’ll likely just want to keep things simple and drive. From Dublin, it’s just a roughly three hour drive (and a scenic one at that) to the Cliffs of Moher along the M7 highway. Many tour companies in Ireland also offer day trips to the Cliffs of Moher and surrounding sights that leave from Dublin.
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