It was a photo on Instagram that first drew my attention to the Cliffs of Moher. The shot was from a drone on a clear day, and it looked spectacular. At the time, my knowledge of Ireland was limited. The more I learned, I was definitely interested in visiting the Cliffs of Moher. All of the sights in Ireland are rather spread out, and one of the most difficult decisions is deciding the best way to make it to these sights. We considered public tours, private tours, train, bus, and renting a car. For the Cliffs of Moher, we chose to schedule a private tour. I will explain why we came to this decision and my thoughts on the experience. I researched a number of tour companies and ultimately decided upon Kennedy and Carr. Their prices seemed the most reasonable for private tours. I emailed them to request a quote. For two people in a private car, we paid around $650 for both of us. This included admission to the Cliffs. Other tour companies I researched were all $700 plus. Kennedy and Carr also offers public tours as well in large groups or a smaller group at very reasonable prices.
Despite the expense, I am very happy we made the decision to go for the private tour. Here are some of the reasons why:
1. We were not held to a time schedule. Our driver picked us up from our hotel at the time we requested. He was in a large Mercedes van. The car was immaculate and bottled water was waiting for us. When we arrived at each stop, he did not request we arrive back at any particular time. He was unobtrusive and simply stated for us to enjoy, and he would see us back when we were ready to leave. In the afternoon, we were running a little ahead of schedule and he made an additional couple of stops for us to take photos.
2. We were able to modify the schedule as the day went on. Unfortunately, the day we visited the Cliffs there was extremely dense fog. Our driver, Gavin, said that it was the worst fog he had seen in quite some time. We arrived at the Cliffs and, after discussing with him, made the decision not to go in and first have lunch. This bought us more time for the fog to clear. The public bus tours are operating on a schedule. They have a specific time window that they are allowed to be at the Cliffs of Moher. If that happens to be when there is dense fog, you are plain out of luck. Keep in mind that morning is really not the best time to visit the Cliffs. There is an increased chance of fog and lighting isn’t as optimal for photos. We arrived back to the Cliffs around 1-1:30 in the afternoon. While we were in the visitors center, the fog cleared significantly and we were able to get some great photos. It wasn’t sunny outside, but it was certainly better than the cloud of white that was in front of my face earlier in the day.
I am going to provide an outline of what our stops were on the trip. Use this as a guide for comparison when making decisions and planning out your time.
1. Barrack Obama Plaza. Ha. This is what I would describe as one of the most amazing “gas station” stops I’ve ever been to. It would be the European equivalent of a Buccee’s for those of you who know what that is. They have absolutely everything in here. Food, candy, every drink imaginable, fancy donuts, souvenirs, and the list goes on. There is a statue of Barrack and Michelle Obama out in front of the gas station. I, personally, love seeing everyday items in other countries. They had flavors of Red Bull that were sugar free that are not available in the United States. I also enjoy getting candy and snacks from gas stations and convenience stores to take home with me. Certainly not everyones cup or tea for excitement, but for me, it was a nice addition.
2. Bunratty Castle. Okay, this was the real first stop on our tour. This is a small town with the castle and across the street some shopping. There was also a very cute pub/bar right across from the castle. We ended up doing our planned tour for the day in reverse. I was expecting this to be the last stop; however, Gavin our tour guide thought for traffic purposes it was best to start the day here. I am a sucker for souvenirs and gifts. While there is a souvenir store here, I thought that the store in the visitors center with the Cliffs of Moher was better for gifts.
3. Doolin Village. We stopped here for lunch. Our scheduled stop was the Cliffs, but we decided not to go in due to the dense fog. Therefore, we went to this nearby town to have some fish and chips plus chowder first. It was a very cute pub that did a high volume of business. We didn’t have to wait long for our food, and we also didn’t feel rushed when the crowds came in from the tour buses. It is ideally located not far from the Cliffs making it a great break in the day for food.
4. Cliffs of Moher. This is the stop that I was planning my day around, so when we saw how thick the fog was, it was very disappointing. As I mentioned, it did clear significantly by the early afternoon. Our guide Gavin mentioned that with a tour bus they are delegated a specific window to enter the Cliffs with their bus. Therefore, if you planned your bus tour and there was fog you would be simply out of luck. If we went inside the Cliffs before going to lunch, there was absolutely no way we could have visualized anything. We couldn’t even see the car in front of us when we were driving. My travel books recommended not stopping in the morning due to fog.
5. Wild Atlantic Way and Burren Region. Leaving the Cliffs, we also made a stop at what our driver called the “mini cliffs”. While they were not quite as visually impressive, they were a nice edition to the drive. This is a very scenic route, and our driver stopped a couple of times along our travel back for some photos.
6. Kinvara. This is a fishing village that we made a pit stop at. We were dropped off near the dock and allowed to do a small amount of exploring. We opted for a glass of wine in one of the restaurants and a stop in their pharmacy. I like to look at the lotions and cremes in the pharmacies in other countries for new products. I purchased a lotion here.
7. Dunguaire Castle. This castle is very impressive and grand in person. We walked up to the castle taking photos and found very few tourists. A portion of the inside area was closed due to a private party, so we mainly stopped here for pictures. Our guide said it was one of the most photographed sights in Ireland. After this, I noticed that American Airlines had this as a photo on their main page website.
8. Corcomroe Abbey. This Abbey dates back to the 13th Century. Gavin actually walked inside with us this time giving us a little of the history. We then spent some time wandering around on our own before getting in the van to return to Dublin.
This was a long day. We were returned to the hotel around 8pm making this tour the full 12 hours that we were promised. Overall, this was a great experience and a way to see so many of the sites outside of Dublin. The additional expense for me was worth it to be able to have my own timeline. I never felt rushed or like we were pressured to stick to a schedule. If I had additional time in Ireland, I would not hesitate to utilize Kennedy and Carr for one of their group tours as well.