O'Brien's Tower: The Complete Guide

An incredible Victorian lookout at Ireland's famous Cliffs of Moher

Tourist visiting Obrien Tower on Cliffs Of Moher by sea against cloudy sky

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Standing alone on a high cliff, O’Brien’s Tower is the best lookout over what are arguably the most impressive views in all of Ireland. The 19th-century tower was built by a local landowner to attract more tourists to the Cliffs of Moher and its stone viewing platform can still be visited today.

Here is your complete guide to O'Brien’s Tower in Ireland, including how to make the most of your visit.

History

The tower takes its name from its creator: Cornelius O'Brien. O'Brien was a lawyer and wealthy landowner in Co. Clare and one of the first people to realize the potential for tourism in the area. He built O’Brien’s Tower in 1835, around the same time that well-to-do British men were embarking on grand tours around Europe to experience its most interesting and wonderful places as a way to round out their formal education.

Cornelius O'Brien decided to build the tower to attract what he called "strangers visiting the Magnificent Scenery of this neighbourhood." In that way, O’Brien’s Tower became the first Visitor’s Center in Ireland. It was designed to be a lookout point over the impressive horizon, and may have even provided a bit of shelter in which Victorian visitors could enjoy a cup of tea while taking in the cliff setting.

Cornelius O'Brien went on to become an elected member of parliament for Clare and served as a MP for 20 years. In addition to building O'Brien’s Tower, the politician was known for his good works. As a landlord, he tried to help his tenants and formed a famine relief group. He also constructed other landmarks on the Emerald Isle, including bridges, roads, schools and the well house that still protects St. Brigid’s Well.

What to See

The Cliffs of Moher are one of the top things to see in Ireland and are well known for having some of the most dramatic and gorgeous scenery in the country. As the highest point on the cliffs, O’Brien’s Tower is the best lookout point to take in the otherworldly Cliff of Moher themselves, as well as the surrounding landscape.

How far and what you can see depends entirely on the weather. On a clear day, you will be able to spot the nearby Aran Islands out to the west, or look out north to see the Twelve Bens in Connemara National Park – which are not quite the highest mountains in Ireland but are celebrated for their wild natural setting.

As if the landscape was not awe-inspiring enough, you can also keep an eye out for whales and dolphins as you stand on the viewing platform upstairs. And if the waves are especially good, you might spot a few fearless surfers trying to catch a towering swell. 

Location and How to Visit

O'Brien’s Tower is a part of the visitor’s experience at the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare, Ireland. After passing the center, you can reach the tower by turning right and walking a short way towards the edge of the cliffs.

Tickets to visit the natural space, center, and the tower cost €8 on the spot. If you book online at least one day in advance, you can reserve tickets for as low as €4 per adult.

You can reach the Cliffs of Moher and O'Brien's Tower lookout point by car, bus, bike, or on foot. To walk here, start at Fisher Street in Doolin and follow the path for about two and a half hours (about 6 miles). Buses leave regularly from both Galway and Ennis. Those who drive can park in the free lot across the street from the visitor’s center.

Please note: O’brien’s Tower will undergo a brief restoration between February and May 2019 to replace the stairwell and repair the interior stonework. This construction may interrupt visits inside the tower.

What Else to Do Nearby

The village of Doolin is technically within walking distance of the Cliffs of Moher and O'Brien’s Tower, but there is no shame in driving there either. The seaside village is known for its traditional music and is the jumping off point for reaching the Aran Islands.

While a bit farther away, the charming city of Galway is also nearby and full of historic sights, lively pubs, and local foods including Galway Bay oysters.

Finally, the Burren is a part of the same UNESCO Global Geopark as the Cliffs of Moher. The bleak limestone landscapes seem more at home on the surface of the moon than in the west of Ireland. The natural wonders are well worth exploring after taking in the sea views at O'Brien’s Tower.

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