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 cliffs, now the site of Moher Tower. The writer Thomas Johnson Westropp referred to it in 1905 as Moher Uí Ruis or Moher Uí Ruidhin. 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 are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland and topped the list of attractions in 2006 by drawing almost one million visitors. Since 2011, they have formed a part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, one of a family of geotourism destinations throughout Europe that are members of the European Geoparks Network.
In the 1990s, Clare County Council initiated development plans to enable visitors to experience the cliffs without significant intrusive man-made amenities. In keeping with this approach, the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience was built into a hillside approaching the cliffs. The centre is also intended to be environmentally sensitive in its use of renewable energy systems including geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and grey water recycling.
The €32 million facility was planned and built over a 17-year period and officially opened in February 2007. Facility exhibits include interactive media displays covering the geology, history, flora and fauna of the cliffs. A large multimedia screen displays a bird's-eye view from the cliffs, as well as video from the underwater caves below the cliffs.
The visitor's centre charges €6 per adult, with children under 16 admitted free. This covers parking, access to the visitor centre and Atlantic Edge exhibition, and a contribution towards conservation and safety at the cliffs.
The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience won an award in the Interpret Britain & Ireland Awards 2007 awarded by the Association of Heritage Interpretation (AHI). Although the award was specifically for the Atlantic Edge exhibition, the AHI assessed the entire visitor centre and site. The citation stated that the entire visitor centre was "one of the best facilities that the judges had ever seen."
In July 2016 the so-called Cliff Walk, outside the official Cliffs of Moher amenities, was temporarily closed because of the risk of rock falls. People were warned to stay on the official path further of the cliff edge instead of the unofficial seaside trail.
Separate ferry trips also allow tourists to view the cliffs from sea level.
The cliffs consist mainly of beds of Namurian shale and sandstone, with the oldest rocks being found at the bottom of the cliffs. It is possible to see 300-million-year-old river channels cutting through, forming unconformities at the base of the cliffs.
There are an estimated 30,000 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.
The Cliffs of Moher have appeared in numerous media. In cinema, the cliffs have appeared in several films, including The Princess Bride (1987) (as the filming location for "The Cliffs of Insanity"), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), and Leap Year (2010). The cliffs are mentioned in the Martin Scorsese film Bringing Out the Dead (1999) and are noted in the 2008 documentary Waveriders as the location of a large surfing wave known as "Aileens".
In music, the cliffs have appeared in music videos, including Maroon 5's "Runaway" video, Westlife's "My Love", and Rich Mullins' "The Color Green". Most of singer Dusty Springfield's ashes were scattered at the cliffs by her brother, Tom.
Bus Éireann route 350 links the Cliffs of Moher to several locations: Ennis, Ennistymon, Doolin, Lisdoonvarna, Kinvara and Galway. This service includes a number of journeys each way daily. There is also a privately operated shuttle bus that serves the site from Doolin.