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The Cliffs of Moher (Aillte an Mhothair)

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The Cliffs of Moher (Aillte an Mhothair) are sea cliffs located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland. The cliff run for about 14 kilometres. At their southern end, they rise 120 metres above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag's Head, and, 8 kilometres to the north, they reach their maximum height of 214 metres just north of O'Brien's Tower, a round stone tower near the midpoint of the cliffs, built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O'Brien, then continue at lower heights.
The closest settlements are the villages of Liscannor 6 km to the south, and Doolin 7 km to the north.

From the cliffs, and from atop the tower, visitors can see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, the Maumturks and Twelve Pins mountain ranges to the north in County Galway, and Loop Head to the south. The cliffs rank among the most visited tourist sites in Ireland, with around 1.5 million visits per year.

The name Moher comes from Gaelic. It means “ruined fort” . The Cliffs of Moher actually means the cliffs of the ruined fort.

The cliffs take their name from an old promontory fort called Mothar or Moher, which once stood on Hag's Head, the southernmost point of the cliffed coast, now the site of Moher Tower. The fort still stood in 1780 and is mentioned in an account from John Lloyd's A Short Tour Of Clare (1780). It was demolished in 1808 to provide material for a lookout/telegraph tower that was intended to provide warning in case of a French invasion during the Napoleonic wars.

The cliffs consist mainly of beds of Namurian shale and sandstone, and the oldest rocks are at the bottom of the cliffs. During the time of their formation between 313 and 326 million years ago, a river dumped sand, silt and clay into an ancient marine basin. Over millions of years, the sediments collecting at the mouth of this ancient delta were compacted and lithified into the sedimentary strata preserved in the now-exposed cliffs.

The area is considered a geologic laboratory that preserves a record of deltaic deposition in deep water. Individual strata vary in thickness from just a few centimetres to several metres, each representing a specific depositional event in the history of the delta. In aggregate, up to 200 metres of sedimentary rocks are exposed in the Cliffs of Moher. Trace fossils are abundant, comprising two main types: scolicia or worming trails, which are interpreted as feeding trails left by as-yet-unidentified invertebrates, and burrow marks, which are circular features preserved as casts of burrows once occupied by as-yet-unidentified marine creatures.
Ripple marks are preserved in some stones. Today the cliffs are subject to erosion by wave action, which undermines the base of support causing the cliff to collapse under its own weight. This process creates a variety of coastal landforms characteristic of erosional coasts such as sea caves, sea stacks, and sea stumps. Branaunmore, a 67-metre high sea stack at the foot of the Cliffs of Moher below O'Brien's Tower, was once part of the cliffs, but coastal erosion gradually removed the layers of rock that joined it with the mainland. A large sea arch can also be seen at Hag's Head below the Napoleonic signal tower and many smaller sea arches can be seen from sea level. It is possible to see 300-million-year-old river channels cutting through, forming unconformities at the base of the cliffs.

At peak season, there are an estimated 30,000 pairs of birds living on the cliffs, representing more than 20 species. These include Atlantic puffins, which live in large colonies at isolated parts of the cliffs and on the small Goat Island, and razorbills. The site is an Important Bird Area. A wide range of sea life can also be seen, from grey seals through porpoises, dolphins, minke whales and basking sharks, as well as, occasionally, sunfish. On land, feral goats, foxes, badgers and the Irish hare are found, along with various breeds of farm cattle.

The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Global Geopark is a member of the UNESCO-supported Global and European Geoparks Network.

In 2011, the Geopark award was granted to the Burren and Cliffs of Moher region in recognition for the established network of specific sites of geological interest, (geosites) the existing Burren Ecotourism Network, and association of education and conservation organisations - and a very busy annual calendar of community-based events and activities. Whilst the award has been granted to the Burren region, the actual components of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark are presently confined to specific public sites of geological and cultural interest, a network of visitor and education centres, the Burren Ecotourism Network businesses, and established walking routes such as the Burren Way and Burren looped walks.

The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Global Geopark comprises an area of approximately 530km2, of which a length of over 100km is coastline.

The Cliffs of Moher make up 8km of this extensive coastline. The Geopark covers over 15% of the area of County Clare, which has a total area of approximately 3200km2 (320,000 hectares). Much of the landscape is at an elevation of 100m – 200m above sea-level, with a maximum height of 344m.

Literature and Sources (retreived 11. november 2022):

Aillte an Mhothair (http://www.logainm.ie/ga/104069) ,
The Cliffs mOf MOher (https://www.discoveringireland.com/vacations/the-cliffs-of-moher),
Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark (http://www.burrenconnect.ie/geopark/geopark.html).



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