How The Cliffs Of Moher Became The Majesticest Attraction In Ireland
The Cliffs of Moher, formed over 300 million years ago, are stunning not only for their beauty but also for their fascinating history.
The majestic Cliffs of Moher are the crown jewels of Ireland’s west coast, standing 700 feet high and stretching for approximately 9 miles. These rock formations are some of the most visited natural attractions on the Emerald Isle, thanks to their incredible height and breathtaking views.
But the Cliffs of Moher are well-known for more than their natural beauty. They were formed over 300 million years ago and have a fascinating history — and mythology. There’s no doubt that these cliffs have inspired some of the most intriguing Irish folktales, from mermaids to a lost city.
Even in recent years, the Cliffs of Moher have served as the perfect setting for a number of Hollywood fantasy films, including Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Princess Bride.
Take a closer look at these well-known cliffs and discover why over a million people visit them each year.
The Formation of the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher, located on the southwestern edge of Ireland’s Burren region, began to form during the Upper Carboniferous period.
The formation began approximately 320 million years ago, when the region was much closer to the equator than it is now. A landmass was located to the southwest of an ancient marine basin around this time. Heavy rains caused massive floods on this piece of land, washing sand and mud into rivers that flowed northeastward to the sea.
The sand and mud were eventually dumped into the sea near the mouth of a delta. The sediments consolidated into solid rock over millions of years. And, as the earth’s plates moved, these rocks moved further north, forming the Cliffs of Moher as they are today.
Even if you’re not a rock expert, the cliffs’ advanced age is visible due to their striking bands of sandstone, siltstone, and shale. Each rock layer tells its own historical story, representing a different event in the history of the ancient delta. Even more incredible, these rock formations can be seen from above sea level.
You can also see caves and sea stacks from the top of the cliffs, including the famous Branaunmore (meaning “Big Prince” or “Big Raven”). Erosion caused this sea stack to separate from the cliffs.
The sea stack is located directly beneath O’Brien’s Tower, an observation tower built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O’Brien, a self-proclaimed descendant of Ireland’s first High King. The view of the cliffs from this tower is breathtaking.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to see the Aran Islands, the Twelve Bens mountains, and Loop Head, a narrow piece of land marked by an intriguing lighthouse.
The Cliffs’ Folklore
The Cliffs of Moher, like many other natural wonders, have inspired a number of folktales over the centuries.
The cliffs got their name from a promontory fort called Mothar or Moher that once stood near the rock formations. This fort was eventually demolished in the early nineteenth century to make way for a signaling tower at the southernmost point of the cliffs, known as Hag’s Head.
The name Hag’s Head comes from a legend about Mal, a “hag” who fell in love with Cchulainn, an Irish warrior. According to legend, she pursued her love all over Ireland until he arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. Mal followed him even though he jumped to a nearby piece of land. She eventually lost her footing and died after collapsing into rocks.
The rocks at Hag’s Head are still thought to form Mal’s profile — the face of an unfortunate woman gazing out to sea.
The fate of the Mermaid of Moher was slightly better. This story begins with a local fisherman meeting a mermaid wearing a magical cloak. In an attempt to capture the mermaid, the man steals the cloak and flees to his home. Because the mermaid needs the cloak to return to the water, she looks for it inside the house.
In the absence of the cloak, she agrees to marry the fisherman and has two children with him. She does, however, find it years later, while her husband is out fishing. The mermaid returns triumphantly to the sea, never to see her family again on land.
Then there’s the legend of the eel that eats corpses. According to legend, Irish Saint Macreehy killed a giant eel that had wandered into a nearby cemetery to feed on the dead bodies beneath the graves.
Two visible stones are said to mark the bed of Macreehy when the water is low at the cliffs. For generations, a carving of the legendary eel appeared on one stone before slowly fading away.
But, of all the legends, the Lost City of Kilstiffen is perhaps the most intriguing. The city was said to have sunk beneath the cliffs after the leader misplaced the golden key that opened the castle doors.
The myth holds that the city will remain underwater until the key is found and returned. Some believers believe the key is hidden beneath a gravestone on Slieve Callan. Others claim that the key is hidden in a lake on the peak of another mountain. In terms of the city itself, some visitors claim to have seen it shine beneath the surface.
In one disturbing version of the story, however, the city rises every seven years. And anyone who witnesses it will die before it rises again.
In the Modern Era, the Cliffs of Moher
While you’re unlikely to see a mermaid or a corpse-eating eel near the Cliffs of Moher today, you will most likely see some of the local wildlife.
The cliffs have been designated as a Special Protection Area for birds since 1989. Razorbills, puffins, kittiwakes, and even falcons are among the 20 bird species that live on or near the cliffs.
Visitors arriving in late February may see seabirds such as razorbills and great black-backed gulls returning to the area. You may also see the Atlantic puffin if you visit near the end of March.
There are also many marine animals near the cliffs, such as seals, whales, dolphins, and basking sharks, which are the world’s second-largest living sharks.
Because the cliffs are such a unique and spectacular location, they have appeared in a number of shows and movies in recent years. They were most famous for being the setting for the “Cliffs of Insanity” in the 1987 film The Princess Bride.
The cliffs were also used in a pivotal scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a 2009 film starring the lead character and Albus Dumbledore. Just one year later, the cliffs appeared in Amy Adams’ 2010 film Leap Year.
The Cliffs of Moher have even been featured in a few music videos, including Maroon 5’s “Runaway” and Irish band Westlife’s “My Love.”
Exploring the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations, thanks to Hollywood, word of mouth, and, of course, Instagram. They’re one of the highlights of the Wild Atlantic Way, a breathtaking driving route that runs along Ireland’s western coast.
The Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Geopark joined the Global Geoparks Network in 2011. Only a few years later, this network was designated by UNESCO. This provides organizations with a better chance of protecting the cliffs, as well as opportunities for more sustainable tourism.
However, due to the waves crashing at the foot of the cliffs, the natural wonder is still in constant danger of coastal erosion. As one might expect, this can result in rockfalls and landslides, which can be hazardous for explorers who stray too far off course.
The good news is that, despite the presence of several high-risk areas, there is a clearly marked path along which visitors can walk safely.
Because the cliffs are so massive, you can get a great view of them from a distance, especially if you’re near the coast. Some may even prefer to see them from the water, as there are numerous boat tours and cruises that provide this view.
But, regardless of how you see them, the Cliffs of Moher are unquestionably worth a visit if you happen to be in Ireland.
Topic: How The Cliffs Of Moher Became The Majesticest Attraction In Ireland
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By: Travel Pixy