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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher are located in the parish of Liscannor at the south-western edge of the Burren area near Doolin, which is located in County Clare, Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, and topped the list of tourist attractions in 2006 by drawing almost one million visitors.

Cliffs of MoherThe cliffs rise 120 meters or 394 ft above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag's Head, and reach their maximum height of 214 meters or 702 ft just north of O'Brien's Tower which is eight kilometres away. The cliffs boast one of Ireland's most spectacular views. On a clear day the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay, as are the valleys and hills of Connemara.

O'Brien's Tower is a round stone tower at the approximate midpoint of the cliffs. It was built by Sir Cornelius O'Brien, a descendant of Ireland's High King Brian Boru, in order to impress female visitors. From atop that watchtower, one can view the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, the Maum Turk Mountains and the Twelve Pins to the north in Connemara, and Loop Head to the south.

The cliffs consist mainly of beds of Namurian shale and sandstone, with the oldest rocks being found at the bottom of the cliffs. It is possible to see 300 million year old river channels cutting through the base of the cliffs. There are many animals living on the cliffs. Most of these are birds, with an estimated 30,000 birds from 29 species. These include the noted Atlantic Puffins, which live in large colonies at isolated parts of the cliffs and on the small Goat Island. Also present are hawks, gulls, guillemots, shags, ravens and choughs.

Cliffs of MoherThe site has been developed by Clare County Council to allow visitors to experience the Cliffs, without the distraction of overly-imposing man-made amenities or features. In keeping with this approach, the "Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience" is built into a hillside approaching the Cliffs, blending naturally with the surrounding countryside. The centre is also environmentally sensitive in its use of renewable energy systems including geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and greywater recycling.

Officially opened in February 2007, having been planned and built over a 17 year period, the €32 million facility features an array of interactive media, exploring topics such as the origin of the Cliffs in local and global geological contexts, the bird and fish life in the area, and many more. An IMAX-type multimedia show allows visitors to experience a bird's eye view from the cliffs, as well as seeing the inside of underwater caves at the foot of the cliffs. The official Cliffs of Moher website features pictures and information on tours, school trips and other areas of interest.

There is a charge of 800€ per car for admission. This covers all people in the car and is termed a "facilities charge" it includes access to the visitor centre building, parking and a contribution towards conservation and safety at the cliffs. Visitors to the Atlantic Edge exhibition are charged an additional 4.95 euros per adult.

The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience won an award in the Interpret Britain and Ireland Cliffs of MoherAwards 2007 awarded by the Association of Heritage Interpretation. Although the award was specifically for the Atlantic Edge exhibition, the AHI assessed the entire visitor centre and site. The citation states that the entire visitor centre was "one of the best facilities that the judges had ever seen". Ferry trips also allow tourists to view the Cliffs of Moher from sea level. As of June 2009 the Cliffs were in 5th place in the Seascapes section of the "New Seven Wonders" competition. The "New Seven Wonders" winners are expected to be announced in 2010.

The Cliffs of Moher have been featured on film numerous times, including in The Princess Bride on 1987, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on 2009, and in the Tentacles of Doom and Cigarettes and Alcohol and Rollerblading episodes of Father Ted on 1996. It was also at the cliffs that the majority of Dusty Springfield's ashes were scattered by her brother Tom Springfield.

The album artwork for U2's 12th studio album, No Line On The Horizon, was taken by Hiroshi Sugimoto and shows the Atlantic Ocean from the Cliffs Of Moher. The cliffs are mentioned in the Martin Scorsese movie "Bringing Out the Dead". In the 2008 Surfing documentary Waveriders, the cliffs are the location of a famous wave known as Aileens, a now world famous Big Wave Surfing spot.

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