Saturday, February 10, 2007

End Of The Cliffs Of Moher?

The creation of a "must visit" and "must pay for" destination

Irish newspapers and media have heavily reported the opening of the new "Cliffs Of Moher Experience" and you'll find most tour itineraries will list a visit to this site as "Cliffs Of Moher Experience" rather than "The Cliffs of Moher".

The Irish Times columnist, Fintan O'Toole, described this "landmark" edition to Irish tourism in words that I could echo from my own feelings almost word for word, but I will use my own words to express my own feelings along with his.

First, lets give you a factual introduction of what has happened by these cliffs.

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Ireland's leader, formally opened the new €31.5 million "Cliffs Of Moher Experience" centre in Co. Clare on February 8th 2007.

The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience includes an underground visitor centre and shopping centre close to the cliffs and Co. Clare has successfully been awarded a court order ending unlicensed busking, "street" trading and ceilis close to the Cliffs. The entire development was created through a vision of Co. Clare to make the Cliffs Of Moher a "must visit" tourist destination within Ireland.

The previous cozy tea room at the start of the mysterious natural cliff paths and the €5.00 parking fee have all gone. Cars are now charged €8.00 plus €4.00 a visitor. Other sites around Co. Clare do have admission charges, some also raising in line with Cliffs of Moher but offering discount if you visit several on one ticket. If I took my minibus there now it would cost us €60 plus €4 per person.


What's there for you now?

The "Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience" includes the underground "Atlantic Edge" exhibition, multimedia experience and shopping mall, various purpose built viewing platforms, the O'Brien's Viewing Tower, modern concourse replacing the cliff paths and frequent sitting and resting benches.

For €1 million donation you could have your name exclusively attached to a "Premium Viewing Platform", €500,000 donation buys you an exclusive naming on a secondary cliff edge viewing platform, €50,000 puts your name on a large seating area and €25,000 get your name onto the smaller concourse benches.

The last time I visited the Cliffs Of Moher it was the same adventurous and somewhat daring adventure that it has always been for 1000s of years. The sense of daring as you climbed the cliff paths near the cliff edge almost seemed to equal its unquestionable beauty as you stopped and viewed its geological, landscape and seascape wonders. You could leave the Cliffs with a sense of "I did that!" with a touch of the exhilaration of someone returning from a a South Pole expedition.

Today, it appears a visit to the Cliffs Of Moher would be entirely different, as different to a visit to Newgrange passage cairn is to visiting Loughcrew and Carrowkeel passage cairns in Ireland.


On the very virtual edge

To quote Fintan O'Toole of The Irish Times, "The Cliffs Of Moher are no more. They have been replaced by the Cliffs of Moher Experience. The elemental force has given way to entertainment value, the unknowable has been tamed by earnest education. Its centrepiece is a high tech exhibition area with interactive projections, touch screens, video games in which you can pretend to be a shark, and aerial films of Clare coastline. The climax is a multi-screen computer-generated film that, as the hand out puts it, allows visitors to stand on the very edge of the cliffs on a simulated summer day.

With the virtual reality cliffs and the simulated weather there is scarcely any need to step outside into unpredictable wind and disturbingly awesome sights. And if you dare there are customer service agents, rangers, maintenance operatives and a total of 100 staff to look after you.

Its all slick, polished, highly professional, impressively engineered ...... and utterly soulless.


The disappearing joy of vacationing on the edge

This busyness, this noise, this rich opportunity to buy stuff gives everything you could possibly want as a tourist, except what the cliffs have given people for 1000s of years ..... the feeling of confronting something beyond yourself, something that tempers your soul and helps you to feel alive.

You can be entertained, mildly educated, fed, bathroom relieved in comfort, and gently be parted from your money, but you can no longer be moved by the Cliffs like the way the Cliffs moved people before.

Maybe this is what we want now, or be told that this is what we want.


A good example ......

With the vacations, I serve through Celtic Ways, I feel that there is too much of a price to be paid, too much of a death enhancing numbing rather than healing, restoring and life refueling, by providing experiences where packaging, branding and physical security shuts out unexpected adventure and natural served mystery. I cannot see how our soul, psychic and even love and laughter needs can be fulfilled with touch screens, digital commentaries and cash machines.

This weekend I was reminded of the difference of visiting Newgrange and the unexpected rewards of visiting our own local Carrowkeel passage cairns. The day before it had been snowing, quite rare for Ireland, and the following day was of blue sky and settle snow. I had a short notice booking from folks wanting to go to Carrowkeel.

The minibus could not reach the first car park due to sliding in the snow. With no other tyre tracks present we knew we were the first people to take this adventure during this snow. We alighted from the bus and decided to walk the rest. Some of the climbing road had snow to a depth of a foot, but we kept going. The sun and its warmth were wonderful. The final climb to the passage cairns involved us ploughing through some hillside snow drifts of up to five feet. As you can imagine, the entrances to the passage cairns looked like igloo entrances, a priceless sight, and our snow foot steps were the first.

As we returned, the minibus could barely move due to snow and sliding so with shovel and a bit of hand shoveling too we slowly made our way out of the Carrowkeel canyon and headed for a country town cafe for a snack, hot beverage and bathroom relief. As we pondered over our day one traveler spoke with joyful smile and rosy cheeks "that was the best day of my vacation, of many vacations", which was echoed with an "I agree". I wonder if I would have received the same spiritually charged compliment after a visit to Newgrange or the, 31 million euros invested, Cliffs of Moher Experiences on that same day?

If you would prefer a vacation in Ireland that still sustains mystery, unexpected delights and is delivered with an edge that dares and succeeds in restoring and re-charging your life please start at our home page and read on.

If you prefer the safety and comfort of the package and branded presentations of places like Newgrange, Cliffs Of Moher, and so forth we have some great people to serve those too from here.

2 comments:

  1. My wife and I are going to be at the Cliffs as part of a 10 day trip starting next week.
    I am very disappointed that my wife will not see the same Cliffs that I saw six years ago.

    Do you mean that we can't even get close to the edge of the "real" cliffs anymore?

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  2. The experience at Cliffs of Moher is not a "daring" as it was when you last visited, but you will still have the same views, so you will see the same cliffs.

    Its just been made into a much safer place, probably a much busier place, and the visit will probably cost you much more than when you visited last.

    A mission with my Celtic Ways tours is to suggest alternatives to the "vacation brochure" sites that I feel are more interesting and provide a better experience.

    For the most wonderful cliff views in Ireland my personal recommendation is to visit the Slieve League cliffs in Co. Donegal on the south west peninsula. They are taller than Cliffs of Moher, wonderful golden colours, fascinating formations, and awesome wildness and with so much else to visit and do, such as the mysterious Glencolumcille where a good craic is assured.

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