The Slieve League Cliffs of Donegal Ireland stand at nearly three times the height of the Cliffs of Moher. But despite their size, these cliffs are lesser known and much less crowded than their more popular relative.
While many other Irish natural landmarks see a flurry of tour buses visiting them each day from Dublin or Belfast, Slieve League has managed to stay off the mainstream radar.
The lack of commercialization here means a much quieter experience than what you'll get at the Cliffs of Moher, but that also means you'll need to do a bit more planning to get there yourself.
The Cliffs of Slieve League were the last stop during my 10 day road trip across Ireland which made for the perfect finish to an amazing adventure. From the viewing platform you'll be able to look out for miles upon the vast Atlantic Ocean.
This place really gives you the feeling that you've reached the edge of the world and in this post I'm going to cover everything you should know when planning a visit to the Slieve League Cliffs of Donegal Ireland. I'll cover tons of useful tips and tricks including how to reach the upper viewing platform without having to hike!
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Where are the Slieve League Cliffs located?
The Slieve League Cliffs are located on the northwest coast of County Donegal in Ireland. They are situated near the small village of Teelin and approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Donegal Town which is where I stayed for my visit.
I stayed at The Gateway Lodge Hotel which was affordable and had a really good onsite restaurant. I was able to check in, grab a meal and then continue west towards the Assaranca Waterfall and Slieve League to round out my evening.
If you're still searching for where to stay, I'd suggest booking accommodations in Donegal town but there are other smaller towns in this area that could work as well.
The cliffs are considered part of the dramatic Wild Atlantic Way, a scenic coastal route that stretches along the western regions of Ireland. The Slieve League Cliffs are easily accessible by car, with a well-maintained road leading to a car park at the base of the cliffs.
When trying to plug this area into your GPS, I'd suggest searching for the 'Slieve League Viewing Platform' otherwise you might get incorrect directions that try taking you to the mountain peak itself.
You're going to need a car to get the most out of your trip to Ireland. Don't wait until the last minute to reserve your vehicle and be sure to use a tool that can compare prices across rental car operators.
What are the Slieve League Cliffs named after?
The Slieve League Cliffs are also referred to as Sliabh Liag by the Irish. The word Slieve or Sliabh translates to mountain while Liag translates into stone. Collectively I have seen translations of the name that mean mountain of stone pillars or the cliffs be referred to as the 'Grey Mountain'.
What to expect when visiting the Slieve League Cliffs?
When visiting the Slieve League Cliffs, you can expect breathtaking views, dramatic landscapes, and a sense of awe at the sheer scale of the cliffs. The cliffs are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe, reaching a height of 601 meters (1,972 feet) at their tallest point. For these reasons Slieve League easily made my list of the most beautiful Ireland landscapes.
Most visitors who come to Slieve League will park in the lower car park and then walk along the paved road to the upper car park and viewing platform. While this path is fairly steep, it's a paved road and extremely safe to trek along if you aren't comfortable with heights or drops. The path will take you about 45 minutes and is about 2 km in length (just over 1 mile).
There are a number of hiking trails that cross through this area as well. Many of these are along narrow paths that are exposed to extreme drops. These trails are on the more dangerous side and should really only be attempted by experienced hikers. Strong wind gusts, fog and rain can make these trails even more precarious.
For anyone interested in learning more about these hikes, AllTrails is a great starting point.
If you're someone with a handicap or mobility issue, you can approach the gate at the lower car park and you'll be allowed to drive the road to the upper car park and viewing platform which means you won't have to do any hiking or walking to reach the Slieve League viewing platform.
When I arrived around 8:30pm in the evening, the gate that blocks vehicles from driving to the upper car park was no longer staffed which also means if you arrive after normal operating hours you can open the gate yourself and proceed to the top. Arriving late in the evening also means you'll avoid paying the parking fee!
Just be sure to close the gate behind you if you choose to drive to the upper car park. The purpose of the gate is to keep grazing sheep in, as opposed to vehicles out. And there are a LOT of sheep hanging out through here.
Since Slieve League faces to the west it makes for an incredible sunset activity. During my evening visit at the start of June I had perfect weather and hardly any other visitors to contend with. For all of these reasons I'd highly recommend timing your visit to Slieve League to align with sunset.
If you visit earlier in the day parking and crowds can be more of an issue and access to the (limited) parking at the upper car park will be restricted to guests with mobility issues.
The views leading up to the Slieve League viewing platform are incredible and continue to get better as you work up to the top. The actual cliffs will be obscured from view until the very end but once you come upon them be prepared for your jaw to drop!
The cliffs are massive and photos understate their true scale. On a clear day you can also feel the magnitude of the Atlantic Ocean, which feels like it goes off in every direction to infinity.
Even on a calmer day like when I visited it's still going to be fairly windy near the viewing platform as the ocean breeze is amplified by the towering cliff walls. All of this works together to create an experience that is a hundred times better than anything you'll see in a photograph!
As a pro tip, once you've reached the large wooden viewing platform, you'll see a hiking trail that starts working up the hillside. This trail starts off pretty easy and isn't exposed to any drops (although it is fairly steep).
If you follow it up for 10 minutes or so it will lead you to a slightly better view point for enjoying the Slieve League cliff wall. There will also be fewer guests up here so you'll have some additional solitude!
What are some interesting facts about the Slieve League Cliffs?
The Slieve League Cliffs are said to be the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe, reaching a height of 601 meters (1,972 feet) at their tallest point. While the (less accessible) Croaghaun Cliffs located on Achill Island are the highest sea cliffs in Ireland.
The area is home to a Napoleonic era signal tower at Carrigan Head that was built around 1805 to alert the Irish of potential invaders. You should be able to spot the tower facing the coast as you travel along the paved road towards the viewing platform.
The Slieve League Cliffs are less crowded and more remote than the more popular Cliffs of Moher, despite the fact that they are nearly three times taller. If you can swing it, both sets of Irish cliff faces should be on your itinerary. You can book Cliffs of Moher tours and more at GetYourGuide if you still need to fill out parts of your trip.
Is there cell phone service at the Slieve League Cliffs?
Due to the remote nature of the cliffs and the surrounding landscape, it is best to assume that you will not have reliable cell phone reception during your visit.
Cell phone service at the Slieve League Cliffs can be limited or intermittent. I did have some service during my visit but your service provider and weather conditions could affect what limited coverage is available.
Be sure to download any trail maps (if you're hiking) before arriving and have an idea of how to get back out of the area in case your GPS map isn't cooperating when you leave.
Is Slieve League hard to climb?
The difficulty of hiking from the lower car park to the Slieve League viewing platform is on the easier side. Budget 45 minutes each way to cover the 2 km (about 1 mile) of paved path that leads to the upper car park and viewing platform. While the path is easy to navigate, it is steep in some areas.
There are more challenging hiking routes in this area such as Pilgrim's Path (moderate difficulty) and the challenging One Man's Path. These trails (especially the latter) are more difficult and involve hiking along portions of trail that are exposed to steep drops.
Don't attempt these hikes unless you're properly prepared, experienced and have favorable weather conditions. If you're planning on attempting some of the hikes in this area be sure to read my hiking checklist to ensure you don't forget any essential items.
If you're looking for hiking inspiration to include on your Ireland itinerary, be sure to check out my post about climbing Croagh Patrick near Westport. It's a moderate difficulty hike that takes you to the top of Ireland's holiest mountain!
How much do the Slieve League Cliffs cost?
The car parks require visitors to pay a nominal fee to access the area during normal hours of operation. During my visit I arrived around 8:30pm and there was no attendant monitoring the lower car park or gate leading to the upper car park.
This meant I had free parking and easy access to the upper car park! Even though the hike up is incredibly scenic, I was glad to shave off 90 minutes of roundtrip hiking late in the evening.
How long does it take to visit the Slieve League Cliffs?
Visitors who park at the lower lot should budget at least 90 minutes of hiking time plus however long you'd like to hang out at the viewing platform. During my visit I spent about an hour taking in the views and enjoying some incredible photography opportunities around the viewing area.
Are dogs allowed at the Slieve League Cliffs?
Dogs are allowed at the Slieve League Cliffs as long as they are kept on a leash and under control at all times. Keep in mind there are a large number of sheep that graze freely in the area.
Are there bathrooms at the Slieve League Cliffs?
There are bathroom facilities available at the Slieve League lower car park. I'd suggest using these facilities before starting your hike, as there are no other public restrooms available along the trails or at the viewing platform.
Is there food at the Slieve League Cliffs?
You won't find any food available at Slieve League. You'll need to head back down the hill into the town of Teelin if you're hungry. Alternatively, you can bring your own food and enjoy a picnic near the viewing platform. Be sure to carry out any trash and leave the area clean for other visitors to enjoy.
What is the best time of year to visit the Slieve League Cliffs?
The best time of year to visit the Slieve League Cliffs is during the late spring and summer months, typically from May to September.
During this time, the weather in Ireland tends to be milder and drier, making for more enjoyable hiking and viewing conditions. Specifically, the driest months in Ireland are from April to July.
Visiting during the summer also means late sunsets and more daylight hours which is ideal for exploring the beautiful Irish coastlines here and in areas such as the Dingle Peninsula in southwestern Ireland or the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede in Northern Ireland.
During my trip to Ireland in late May through early June, the sunset time was approaching 10pm in parts of the country! I was also extremely lucky, during my 10 day trip we didn't encounter a single drop of rain either.
For help on planning your trip to Ireland I'd recommend reading my guide on how to plan a trip abroad and cheap airfare hacks post. These will help you save money and avoid common travel planning pitfalls!
What is the best time of day to visit the Slieve League Cliffs?
The best time of day to visit the Slieve League Cliffs is during sunset. Since the cliffs face the west you'll have an opportunity to watch the sun dip below the Atlantic Ocean while casting beautiful soft light on the cliff faces from the viewing platform.
Visiting in the evening around sunset also means you'll avoid peak activity and crowds that you might encounter during a midday visit.
However, more importantly you'll want to time your visit with good weather conditions so be sure to check the forecast and factor that into your ultimate decision. Clear and dry days will provide the best viewing experience!
Do I need a reservation to visit the Slieve League Cliffs?
No, you do not need a reservation to visit the Slieve League Cliffs. The cliffs and the surrounding hiking trails are open to the public and can be accessed at any time.
Are the Slieve League Cliffs dangerous?
The path leading up to the viewing platform and the general viewing area are quite safe and secure despite how high up you'll be. Most of the drop-offs are blocked by fences and handrails.
However, if you decide to venture out on some of the nearby hiking trails you'll encounter exposed drops that will require additional caution. This coastal area can be extremely windy and fog can obscure visibility so you'll need to be cognizant of how weather conditions are affecting the trail.
If you're looking for another under the radar mountain face to visit during your Ireland travels, consider reading my post on the prominent Benbulben located in County Sligo.
Is visiting the Slieve League Cliffs worth it?
Yes, visiting the Slieve League Cliffs is absolutely worth it for those who appreciate natural beauty, dramatic landscapes, and the opportunity to experience the rugged wilderness of Ireland's west coast.
During my 10 day road trip across Ireland this was one of my favorite activities and I'd be sure to visit the area again on a future trip to Ireland. If I find myself back in the area I'd probably arrive earlier in the day and leave myself time to explore some of the hiking trails as well.
In comparison to the more famous Cliffs of Moher, the Slieve League Cliffs are less crowded and more remote, providing a more relaxing and tranquil experience.
If you're looking for other activities and organized tours in the Donegal area TripAdvisor is a great resource to explore. A couple of ideas to consider when planning your Ireland vacation would be soaking up the sun at Dogs Bay Beach, checking out a Game of Thrones filming location, or taking a boat on an adventure to Skellig Michael Island. These were a couple of my favorite spots we hit during my trip!
Thanks for reading and I hope this post covering the Slieve League Cliffs of Donegal Ireland proves useful to you during your trip planning!