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What are the highest cliffs in Ireland? Spoiler: It’s a Debate

If there is one thing we Irish enjoy, that is a good old-fashioned debate. We tend to complicate things. And in this case, it is by having two ‘highest cliffs in Ireland’.

Wait what?! Yes, that’s right there are two different sets of cliffs on the Emerald Isle that locals claim to be the ‘highest’ in the country. And no, one of them is not the Cliffs of Moher. Although they are pretty pretty spectacular. You should definitely visit.

A statement like that may leave you scratting your head. How can there be two highest sea cliffs in Ireland? Well, there can’t be. So, in this post, we are going to get to the bottom of it.

Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

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Slieve League, Donegal, Ireland
Slieve League, Donegal, Ireland

The first cliffs in question is the stunning Slieve League in County Donegal. They offer a breathtaking panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. The rugged beauty is the perfect place to spend the day hiking with family and friends. And… according to their website, they are the highest sea cliffs in Ireland. But are they really?

The next set of Cliffs is the mighty Croaghaun Cliffs on Achill Island in County Mayo. This is one of my favourite places in all of Ireland but I will admit Slieve League comes in close second. The scenery here is out of this world, crystal clear water, white sandy beaches and some of the best hidden gems in Ireland.

But which cliffs are bigger? Don’t worry I will actually tell you. But I advise you to keep on reading because both locations have a lot more to offer than their soaring heights. And one of them is much easier to get to 😉 Which is probably the main reason for the debate in the first place.

What are the highest sea cliffs in Ireland?

Croaghaun is in fact, the highest sea cliffs in Ireland standing at 688 meters (about 2,257 feet) making them just 79 metres (257 metres) taller than Slieve League. And believe me, it is an exhilarating feeling to stand at the edge watching the roaring Atlantic below.

But…why is it such a debate? Croaghaun is clearly taller than Slieve League!

Well, Slieve League argue that they are the highest ‘accessible’ cliffs in Ireland. In other words, they are much easier to visit than Croaghaun. And to be fair, they are not wrong.

But it’s complicated…

If you are hoping to visit Slieve League for the day, you can quite literally rock up to the car park and walk to the viewpoint. And there they are in all their glory.

But with Croaghaun it’s not that easy. First of all, they are located on an island. And yes, Achill is attached to the mainland by a bridge but it takes 30 minutes to reach the Keem Bay area where the cliffs are located. And, that’s not all, it’s a further 2/3 hour hike to reach Croaghaun.

Now, you can walk up to the lookout tower at Keem Bay which is somewhat part of the Croaghaun Cliffs but the highest point is a good hike away.

Which is better to visit, Croaghaun or Slieve League?

Personally, if you are looking to view super tall sea cliffs then I would visit Slieve League. They will satisfy that desire. It is hard to compare. There is beauty in both locations. Slieve League is a much easier hike and much more accessible for people with motor difficulties. Whereas, Croaghaun is located in one of the most beautiful places in Ireland.

If you only have one day I would visit Slieve League. If you have a few days to spare I would visit Croaghaun and the rest of Achill Island.

Slieve League: Tips for Visiting

The Slieve League Cliffs are a sight to behold.

While they are not the highest sea cliffs in Ireland they do soar 601 meters tall. Which is pretty impressive. This also makes them nearly 3 times the size of Ireland’s famous Cliffs of Moher.

The name Slieve League is a translation of ‘Grey Mountain’ in the Irish Language.

Standing atop these cliffs, you will feel on top of the world. The panoramic views they offer are just breathtaking.

You can see the vast ocean, the lush green landscape, and if luck is on your side, even dolphins skipping in the waters below.

Their sheer height and natural beauty make them a must-visit spot in Ireland.

Hike Trails at Slieve League

The Pilgrim’s Path: This trail is a moderately challenging route that most people can manage with a reasonable level of fitness. Depending on your pace and how frequently you stop to take in the views, it can take between 2 to 3 hours to complete. Of course, the views along the way are spectacular. Ones not to be missed.

One Man’s Pass: This trail is more demanding and should only be tackled by experienced hikers or under the guidance of a professional tour guide. The hike can take up to 4 hours, given its steep inclines and rough terrain. The effort is well worth it, though. As you traverse the narrow ridge, you’re rewarded with unparalleled views of the surrounding landscape, including the vast expanse of the ocean, the distant mountain ranges, and the serene Donegal countryside.

Parking at Slieve League

There are two main parking areas available for visitors. The main one is located about a 30/40 minute walk from the viewing platform. However, the walk is not all too difficult and offers beautiful scenery along the way.

The second car park is located at the base of the cliffs. Sometimes it is open, sometimes it’s not 🤷‍♀️ Think it depends on the time of day and crowd levels.

Parking costs €5 for both lots but sometimes you can be late in for free in the later hours of the day.

Things to Do Near Slieve League

Beyond the beautiful Slieve League cliffs, the surrounding area offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors.

History enthusiasts can explore the ancient Kilcar standing stones, an intriguing remnant of Ireland’s distant past.

Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland
Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland

Nature lovers will enjoy the beautiful Silver Strand Beach, known for its pristine sands and mesmerizing views of the Atlantic. For those interested in local culture, a visit to the Glencolmcille Folk Village, a living history museum documenting rural Irish life, is a must.

You can also indulge in the local cuisine at the numerous nearby cafes and restaurants that serve fresh, locally sourced food. Regardless of your interests, the Slieve League area promises a fulfilling and memorable visit.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Slieve League is during the summer months, from June to August. During this period, the weather is generally mild and the days are long, providing plenty of daylight for hiking and sightseeing. It’s also the peak blooming season for the local flora, adding a vibrant touch to the already stunning scenery. However, it’s important to note that this is also the busiest season, so be prepared for larger crowds.

For those seeking a quieter experience, late spring (April and May) or early autumn (September and October) are also great times to visit, offering slightly cooler weather and fewer people.

The cliffs are open all year round, so you can also visit in the winter months, but just be careful, as it get’s dark rather quickly, and while this area is unlikely to get snow, ice and slippy conditions can be common on the trail on particularly cold days.

Croaghaun Cliffs, Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland
Croaghaun Cliffs, Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland

Croaghaun Cliffs: Tips for Visiting

One of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, the awe-inspiring Croaghaun Cliffs are a must-visit for any nature lover.

Located on Achill Island, these towering cliffs offer breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding landscapes.

To get the most out of your visit, it’s important to wear sturdy, comfortable footwear suitable for rough terrains.

The cliffs can be accessed through several walking trails, varying in difficulty, so choose the one that best fits your comfort level.

Weather on Achill Island can be unpredictable, hence it’s advisable to check the forecast before your visit and pack appropriate clothing.

Lastly, ensure you bring a camera to capture the stunning panoramas that await you at the Croaghaun Cliffs.

Croghaun Hike

The Croaghaun hike is by no means easy. It takes between 2/3 hours to complete depending on your fitness level and you will need a good level of fitness as it is STEEP in places. I mean it makes sense with it being the highest sea cliffs in Ireland.

Parking for Croghaun

You can park your car at Keem Bay and while there is plenty of spaces it gets extremely busy, especially in the summertime. So, prepare to get there early to get a good spot. Also you will more than likely to go for a swim after your hike 😉

Keem Bay, Achill Island, Ireland
Keem Bay, Achill Island, Ireland

Other Things to do on Achill Island

While you’re on Achill Island, there’s plenty more to explore! Take the time to visit Keem Bay, renowned for its emerald waters and white sandy beaches.

If you’re a history buff, check out the Deserted Village, a collection of ancient stone cottages abandoned centuries ago.

For those looking for more physical activities, try your hand at local water sports like surfing or kayaking on Keel.

And don’t forget to drive the Atlantic Loop, there are so many gems on the island that people miss.

Best Time to Visit

My favourite time on Achill is late March, still very few people about. The colours of the cliffs are amazing and it’s starting to get somewhat mild again.

But if you want to take a dip in the Atlantic then I suggest July/August. The water temp is pretty much as high as it’s going to be and your chances of a decent day are good.

No matter what time you visit it is important to remember, the Irish weather is unpredictable so be sure to have fully packed everything on your Ireland Packing list.

My Top 5 Favourite Cliffs in Ireland

Now, Ireland is famous for attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Giants Causeway, but we also have a range of hidden gems that don’t get nearly as much attention. And for such a small country, we have a surprising number of Cliffs jotted around our coastlines, here are 5 of my favourites that you NEED to add to your bucket list.

  1. The Kerry Cliffs located on the Skellig ring these stunning cliffs are a sight for sore eyes. Their rugged beauty is like no other on the island. It’s a stunning spot to go for a walk with friends and family while you enjoy the waves crashing on the cliff edge.
  2. Mizen Head in West Cork is also home to some breathtaking cliffs, this spot is particularly beautiful when the sunshine into the chyrstal clear water beneath. The are located on the most South Western tip of Ireland.
  3. If you’re looking for a hidden gem then check out Portacloy Cliff Walk in County Mayo. I was blown away by their beauty. Again, they are stunning in the sunshine and home to 18km cliff walk.
  4. Magheracross Cliff Viewpoint is so pretty, it was only opened a few years back and is becoming more and more popular among those driving the Causeway Coastal Route. There is also no walking involved to view these which is nice for those looking for a lazy day.
  5. The Cliffs of Aran is a special place to me. Inis Mór has a special kind of feel to it. So, much so that I never want to leave. Each time I visit I find a new perspective to view these cliffs from. They are not crazy tall but they are still mighty. If you have the time I highly recommend adding one of the Aran Island’s to you Ireland Itinerary.
  6. For those visiting Dublin, I’d advise escaping the city for a while and visiting Howth, this stunning seaside town is famous for it’s stunning cliffs. Which is one of the best walks in Dublin by far. They are quite easy to get to by either driving, public transport or a taxi.

Conclusion: The Tallest Cliffs in Ireland

Well, there you have it! Are you surprised to find that despite the Cliffs of Moher’s popularity, they are not in fact the talleist cliffs in Ireland. Croghaun takes the lead, following closely by the might Slieve League.

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