Hiking Up the Most Magnificent Cliff in Europe

The Most Magnificent Cliff in Europe: Sliabh Liag

Sliabh Liag, the Gaelic name for Slieve League, is one of the most remarkable destinations in the world. It lies on the Northwestern coast of Ireland and stands at 1,972 feet tall, making it over 1,000 feet taller than the famous Cliffs of Moher. The cliff formations are stunning and date back to the Ice Age.

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To reach Slieve League, you either have to fly into Donegal airport (which was rated one of the most scenic landing strips in the world) or traverse the country roads coming from Dublin. We took the latter route. One important thing to note: the roads are incredibly narrow in this part of Ireland. Drive carefully!

You may park at a sizable lot (known as car parks in Ireland) about a mile (1.5 km) from the top. You can also drive directly to the area pictured above, but then it wouldn’t be a hike at all! That’s one of the great things about Slieve League, it can be as easy or difficult as you make it.

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A Staple of Donegal County

Being part Irish myself, Slieve League has a special significance to my family. My great-uncle used to climb down the cliffs almost every day to pick seaweed from the bay. He would bring it back to the villages for a modest payment. This sort of hike would certainly lie on the more grueling side of the difficulty spectrum.

On a greater cultural scale, Slieve League is the site of incredible ancient wonders. It is home to ancient Neolithic tombs dating back to 4,000 BC. It holds monastic sites that are almost as old as Christianity itself (constructed circa 500 AD). There is also a lookout that was built by the Brits to guard the area during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).

Sliabh Liag is dubbed “Ireland’s Ultimate Sea Cliff Experience.” With its incredible natural beauty, rich history, and mystical atmosphere, I would say it certainly earns this title.

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What to Bring

We ventured to the clifftop in August, where it was a chilly 60°F (16°C). The wind was relentless, as is expected to be on one of the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe. Gusts get up to 60 mph. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as 30°F (-1°C), which feels much colder than it seems up there.

The point I’m getting at: bring a windbreaker. Here’s one we suggest by North Face (click on the picture for more info):

The only other item we’d suggest (besides a sh*t ton of chapstick) is a DSLR camera. With views like this, you won’t want to rely on your cell phone:

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Most photos in this article (including the cover photo) were photographed with my Nikon D7100, which is a great instrument for an amateur like myself. For more serious photographers, you may want to consider a Nikon D750 (check out photos from our previous article, Nine Stunning #NaturePorn Photos). Set the ISO for around 200.

Note: This article does use affiliate links. All commissions are used to support the site.

The Hike

If hiking past the main lookout point (“Eagle’s Nest“), you will come upon One Man’s Pass. The name is more daring than it sounds. One Man’s Pass is over a meter wide and pretty safe. It ventures out to the cliffside where you can see over the two sides. The complete hike from the parking lot may take approximately 2.5 hours.

You will have many views of Sligo Mountain, the Napoleonic lookout mentioned previously, wisps of mist that look like smoke, and scenes reminiscent of Game of Thrones. Every turn and angle is spectacular. You’ll want to grab Life by her delicate wrists and take her up on an eternal dance.

Looking down, take note of this rock formation:

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On the lower left is the chair and desk of an ancient giant. It is said that he would spend his days writing and working, watching the wave crests and keeping his feet bathed.

A Final Caution

Beware of this:

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This raven will not hesitate to pluck your eyes out. Also, we were fairly convinced that it has the ability to cast some gnarly Celtic curse upon your soul. If you see these things, stay away. Or feed it an ice cream cone. Because you can get ice cream up on Slieve League.

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