The Burren


The Burren, Co. Clare

The Burren region is located along Ireland’s mid-western coast, lying across two counties, Clare and Galway, though it is more commonly associated with the former. It is estimated that the Burren uplands region (rising to a height of 300m) extends over 360 square kms, while the Burren lowlands to the east cover a further 200 sq. kilometres. The name Burren is taken from the Irish for boireann, meaning rocky place. The majority of the land is covered by a sheet of bare, porous carboniferous limestone. In the fissures between the rocks, an extraordinary variety of rare plants flourish and it is this combination of landscape and flora which gives the Burren its unique attraction. It is home to 70% of Ireland’s native flora, including 22 of our 27 native orchid species and the much-loved blue gentian, compressed into what is just under 0.5% of our national land mass. A Greenlander, Basque or even a North American will all find something familiar in this exotic western setting. This extraordinary flora supports an equally diverse fauna – from feral goats to pine martens, elegant butterflies to snake-like slow worms.
The Burren also has a wealth of history that dates back over 7,000 years. The first farmers are thought to have arrived in the Burren in the early Neolithic period, and have left their mark in the form of burial tombs, the first signs of human settlement in one place. Farming activity appears to have been of a small scale, transient nature characterized by sporadic clearances, followed by abandonment and subsequent regeneration of the woody vegetation. The legacy of these early settlers is best seen in early burial sites such as the famous Poulnabrone portal dolmen, built some 5,800 years ago. There are numerous examples of what are colloquially referred to as “fairy forts”, in fact over 500 of these so-called ring forts, ancient farmer’s homesteads lie in stony silence on the Burren. Associated with the otherworld they are usually located to take defensive advantage of the terrain, sometimes having two or three encircling walls. As a monument to a more recent past, Tower houses and Early Christian church sites are also very common, many in an excellent state of preservation. The preservation of much of the built heritage of the Burren can be attributed to the availability of stone building materials, and its obvious durability when compared to earth or wood structures built in the same era. Similarly, the sheer abundance of rock is a disincentive for any modern day farmer or developer to reclaim the land for purposes which nature never intended.
Many people are drawn to the Burren and held there without ever quite understanding why. This indescribable magnetism found international expression during the Mullaghmore saga when the notion of this remote hill representing 'the soul of Ireland' gained considerable empathy, in somewhat the same way that Ayers Rock in Australia is so sacred to the Aboriginal people. The mysticism of the Burren has also found expression in the books of local poet John O'Donohue, in particular the best selling Anam Cara or ‘soul mate’.



Our Take

There is something magical about the Burren and it is no wonder that even when it seemed life could not be sustained on this landscape, man still held firm. But take our word on this- to experience the Burren you must be willing to walk.

The Burren

“After two days' march we entered into the Barony of Burren, of which it is said, that it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him" Cromwell's man in Ireland, 1651.


Lisdoonvarna

Lisdoonvarna, Lisdoonvarna- the name which comes from ‘Lios Duin Bhearna’, meaning enclosure of the fort in the gap has ancient roots. However, the village grew into a town in the 19th century with the development of its legendary mineral water supply, the sulphur spring spa. And it is better known nowadays for its Singles Festival!


Poulnabrone Dolmen

An icon of Ancient Ireland, the Poulnabrone Dolmen has appeared on stamps, Guinness commercials and every guide book you could mention and is older than the Pyramids at Giza and Stonehenge.


Leamenah Castle

At the junction of the R476 and R480, the junction of the Ballyvaughan, Corofin and Kilfenora road, you will see ruins of a 17 th century mansion, incorporating an earlier tower-house structure dating from the 15th century.


Kinvara

From the Irish “Cinn Mhara”, the Head of the Sea, this pretty fishing village retains its maritime location and connections. In the past more accessible by sea than road the village grew up around the harbour as can be seen by the focus of the numerous pubs lining the bay.


History of The Burren

During the Carboniferous period 350 million years ago, the whole area was the bottom of a warm and shallow sea. The remains of coral and shells fell to the seabed, and coastal waters dumped sand and silt on top of these lime deposits.


Gleninsheen Wedge Tomb

Over 90% of the tombs in The Burren are Wedge Tombs, so named for their wedge-shaped plan. In fact of the some 400 examples in Ireland , 75 are in the Burren region.


Dunguaire Castle

Dunguaire Castle is a small 17th century castle on a rocky promontory, situated just outside the picturesque village of Kinvara on the shores of Galway Bay . This castle was built 500 years ago in an inspirational place commanding the shores of the majestic Galway Bay .


Crab Island

Crab Island is a small, rocky islet just off the pier at Doolin. It is best known these days There is a stone building of indeterminate purpose on top of Crab, which looks like it might have been a wine cellar.


Cornelius O'Brien

On the Liscannor side of the Cliffs stands a monument to the man who all but made the cliffs. The Doric, some call it Ionic, which stands beside the roadway near St. Brigid's Well, has become the butt of journalistic jibes and a source of phallic preoccupation


Corcomroe Abbey

The Abbey of Corcomroe was also known as Sancta Maria de Petra Fertilis, Saint Mary of the Fertile Rock, and as the Abbey of Burren. There are various theories as to who founded it and when...read on!


Kilfenora Cathedral

The original church founded on this site was dedicated to St. Fachtna in the 6 th century. In 1152, at the synod of Kells, the church was changed from monastic to diocesan status. Kilfenora was among the most important dioceses in Ireland at one stage


CillStiffian Legend

Irish folklore abounds with stories of submerged lands including the mythical island of Hy-Brasil and the submerged land of Everlasting Youth , Tir na Nog.


Caherconnell Ringfort

With almost 40,000 ringforts, also known as fairy forts, all over Ireland it is no surprise they are now protected in law. Long before law was enacted however fear, from retribution from the gentle folk, was enough to secure their enduring legacy.


Burren Tower Houses

The Burren is dotted with Tower Houses, in the main built by the local Irish clans, and nearly all sited at strategic points at the edge of the Burren, or the valuable lands to protect the movement of cattle.


Ailwee Caves

The Burren is rich in limestone caves but the Ailwee caves are the only commercially run caves, though speleologists may prefer to find their own holes(!). Discovered by a local farmer , Jack McGann, in 1944!


Medieval Banquet

For over 40 years the Ladies of the Castle, aided and abetted by the Earl's Butler, have welcomed guests from the four corners of the globe to join them at The Earl's Banquet.