Plan your visit to the Cliffs of Moher with this ultimate guide to all the types of weather at the cliffs and when best to go.
Local marine biologist Cormac McGinley has collaborated with us to provide some great tips on weather conditions at the Cliffs of Moher to help you plan your visit to one of Ireland’s most incredible landmarks!
The Cliffs of Moher are situated along Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast. As Ireland is a relatively small landmass and our prevailing winds come from the South West, we are generally at the mercy of whatever conditions roll in from the Atlantic. This makes predicting the weather conditions at the Cliffs of Moher rather tricky. So here are a few things that a first-time visitor might want to bear in mind when visiting.
Funnily enough, this can be just as common and unpredictable as the rain in Ireland. Here are a few points to bear in mind regarding visits on a sunny day.
While bright sunny mornings at the Cliffs of Moher are always stunning, they are not always ideal for photography as the Cliffs face tend to be in shadow. Sunny evenings, on the other hand, bathe the cliffs face in light and make for spectacular pictures.
Cliffs of Moher Cruise tip:
Make the most of that beautiful evening light with our 5.15 cruise on the Star of Doolin
A top tip for photographing the Cliffs is that overcast mornings or sunny evenings provide best photo opportunities. Believe it or not, there are days at the Cliffs of Moher where we experience sunshine, warmth and no breezes. However, watch out for the “Saint Marks” fly around April. These flies don’t bite, but their numbers can make them a nuisance and an interference with photography!
Let’s move on to the less ideal weather conditions and how they can affect your visit.
This is one of the few weather factors that might lead you to changing when you visit to the cliffs. There is almost always a wind blowing at the cliffs that ranges from light breeze all the way to hurricane force. In Ireland the national weather service, Met Éireann, issues status warnings regarding high wind speeds and classifies them into three categories: Yellow, Orange and Red. Keep in mind that the forecasted wind speeds will almost always be significantly higher at the cliffs because of the topography. These wind gusts are where the danger lies for the visitor. You can check the current weather warning status at www.met.ie.
Cliffs of Moher Cruise tip: Often when the wind is coming from the east it might be extremely windy at the top of the cliffs, while conditions are absolutely fine for a Cliffs of Moher boat trip. This is because the cliffs are almost 800ft high and the sea below is sheltered from the wind. If in doubt, call us on +353 (0) 65 7075949 to see if the boats are running.
Average wind speeds of between 50 and 65 kmph with gusts between 90 to 110 kmph.
Visits during yellow wind warnings can be exhilarating experiences but are not advisable for people with mobility, balance issues or people with small children.
Average wind speeds of between 65 and 80 kmph with gusts between 110 and 130 kmph.
Gusts at this speed begin to create real danger for the visitor and causes difficulties in getting around the site. In winds like this, pieces of shale (a type of rock) begin to tear off the cliff and are hurled back up over the cliff. So there is a risk of being struck by shale pieces during these conditions. A visit to the Cliffs of Moher in this kind of wind condition is not recommended, as for the most part the visitors will only spend their time taking shelter behind walls while waiting for the worst gusts to pass by, and conditions really are not suitable for a visit.
Average wind speeds in excess of 80 kmph with gusts in excess of 130 kmph. There have even been wind speeds recorded in excess of 200 kmph.
This not only makes it virtually impossible to get to the cliff edge but also extremely hazardous to be in the general vicinity. So it is understandable that during a Status Red wind warning the visitor centre at the Cliffs will be closed as it is too dangerous for staff to be there. This means that if you were to visit and have an incident you would be on your own until the storm subsides. These conditions are not suitable for anyone visiting the cliffs and are extremely dangerous.
OK, with the nastiest of weather taken care of, we can now move on to gentler conditions. The other factor that can have the largest impact on your visit is Fog…
Understandably, travelling to see the Cliffs of Moher and not getting so much as a peek of them can be a huge disappointment to visitors. On the other hand, to arrive in fog and see the cliffs emerging from it is one of the most spectacular ways to encounter them. As said before, Ireland is a small landmass at the edge of the Atlantic that is subjected to the whims of whatever weather blows our way. These conditions do not follow a pattern like other coastal regions do. This means that when we have fog come in from the sea it is literally almost anybody’s guess as to how long it will persist and if it will clear.
I would advise phoning the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre (065 708 6141) prior to setting off to enquire about conditions. If they report fog at the cliffs try phoning the Doolin2Aran (065 707 5949), as while the fog sits on top of the cliffs, a clear view can be obtainable from below. Funnily enough, the cliffs are often the only place for miles around in fog. So if you arrive at the cliffs to find it is foggy, I would suggest grabbing a cup of tea or coffee and wait at the centre for a half hour or so to see if it clears. Like I said no one really knows, but being there when this happens can really be something special.
Cliffs of Moher Cruise tip: Fog clings to the top of the cliffs, but not the bottom! The Cliffs of Moher can emerge quite mystically from the fog as the boat gets closer, and passengers can look up under the clouds. Quite a unique view, and one you will only get from a Cliffs of Moher cruise.
As with any outdoor site in Ireland, the threat of rain is ever present at the cliffs. Getting soaked while sightseeing can ruin the rest of your day, especially if you don’t have a change of clothes nearby. I would advise packing a lightweight waterproof jacket, some light waterproof pants or a waterproof poncho. These should be easy to carry and can make a huge difference to the enjoyment of your visit if conditions turn damp. Another tip for those bringing ponchos is to also bring a belt to secure it around your waist. Rain at the cliffs is often accompanied by gusts of wind and ponchos are largely ineffective while wrapped around your head. The gusts of wind that accompany rain showers are also the reason that umbrellas are practically useless at the cliffs on most rainy days. Over the years the Cliffs of Moher have become a graveyard for umbrellas and bins full of broken brollies can be seen around the centre on such days.
Cliffs of Moher Cruise tip: The Star of Doolin has room for 110 passengers in the comfortable lower deck out of the wind and rain. From the cruise, on rainy days the famous Harry Potter cave at the Cliffs looks very mystical – almost as if there was two wizards hunting a Horcrux in there…
So there you have it, the Cliffs of Moher can be beautiful in any weather, but be sure to check the Met Eireann website for the weather forecast or call us at +353 (0) 65 7075949 to see if the boats are running.
Cormac worked at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor centre for 11 years as one of their Rangers and for 10 years as their Education Officer. The majority of this time was spent outdoors on the Cliff side in all conditions during all seasons of the year. Cormac now runs “Cormac’s Coast”, a small business that specialises in private guided walking tours of some of the Atlantic coasts most spectacular natural sights.