Ireland’s most famous cliffs are without a doubt the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare – the famous vista is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland and has a number of accolades to its name, including being voted the best cliff view in the world.
But Ireland is an island, meaning there are many other cliff faces to be explored, and if there’s another view you can’t miss, it’s the view from the Slieve League cliffs in Co. Donegal.
The Slieve League Cliffs (or Sliabh Liag in Irish) are located on the southwest coast of Donegal, where Slieve League mountain meets the water. They are the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe - almost twice as high as the Eiffel Tower and nearly three times as high as the Cliffs of Moher, rising 1,972 feet from the Atlantic. Visitors have described the experience as feeling like they’re standing on the edge of the world.
As Belfast naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger wrote in 1939:
“A tall mountain of nearly 2000 feet, precipitous on its northern side, has been devoured by the sea till the southern face forms a precipice likewise, descending on this side right into the Atlantic from the long knife-edge which forms the summit. The traverse of this ridge, the "One Man's Path", is one of the most remarkable walks to be found in Ireland - not actually dangerous, but needing a good head and careful progress on a stormy day....The northern precipice, which drops 1500 feet into the coomb surrounding the Little Lough Agh, harbours the majority of the alpine plants of Slieve League, the most varied group of alpines to be found anywhere in Donegal.”
The town of Teelin will be the starting point for most ventures to Slieve League. To properly take in the majesty of the cliffs, guides recommend leaving your car at the car park, where the Slieve League Cliffs Center is located, and walking the few miles to the cliffs. Tours and guided hikes are also available.
Experienced walkers only should venture beyond the viewing point onto One Man's Pass which loops around onto the Pilgrim's Path. There are terrific views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo Mountains and Donegal Bay as you walk towards the terrifyingly high top of Slieve League, where the cliff face of Bunglas rises nearly 2,000 feet above the raging waters.
In addition to offering spectacular views, Slieve League is also steeped in history. It was a sacred spot before Christianity came to Ireland, and then served as a site of Christian pilgrimage for over 1,000 years.
A Napoleonic signal tower built in the 1800s to help keep watch for invading French ships still stands.
There’s also a stone Éire marker – a relic from the days of WWII, or “The Emergency,” as it was called in Ireland – which indicated to planes flying overhead that they were above Ireland, which remained neutral throughout the war.
If you want a different view of the cliffs entirely, boat tours of the waters below Slieve League are also available, offering the chance to see seals, whales, dolphins, basking sharks and sea birds, as well as the option of a swim in the coves at the base of the cliffs.
For more information or to plan your visit, check out the Slieve League Cliffs website.
What do you think is Ireland's best kept travel secret? Send in your tips to [email protected]