The Burren

Poulnabrone Tomb at the Burren. Image by Adrian Brady.

Poulnabrone Tomb at the Burren. Image by Adrian Brady.

This other-worldly landscape was created in the ice age by karstic limestone rock. An area of about 100 square miles, The Burren is located in the north-west corner of county Clare.

  • Bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, with Galway Bay to the northwest, the Burren gets its name from the Gaelic word Boireann, meaning rocky place.
  • Created by glacial action, this wilderness of sparse soil is at times flat and sloping, at others broken by hillsides of limestone.
  • These are in turn separated by imposing cliffs, containing tranquil valleys, peacefully meandering streams, and beautiful beaches.

Natural Features

With a bleak but beautiful appearance often described as lunar, the Burren holds many delightful secrets – such as

  • underground rivers and lakes
  • caverns and chambers, created over the centuries by rainwater which permeated

One such chamber, open to the public, is called Aillwee cave.

Megalithic Sites

The ancient Irish were just as fond of the Burren as are its modern day visitors, as evidenced in its many archaeological sites, including some of Europe’s finest examples of megalithic tombs.

Other monuments, dolmens and burial chambers date back almost 6000 years — older than the Egyptian pyramids.

The most famous is the portal dolmen at Poulnabrone, an area that contains more than 60 wedge tombs. There are also numerous examples of raths (earthen ring forts) and stone cashels (castle ruins).

The area is also rich in ancient monasteries, churches and other ecclesiastical sites, as the Irish have long associated the Burren with spiritual peace

Flora and Fauna

  • The Burren also boasts an extraordinary array of flora and wildlife
  • The unique environment provides home for plants and flowers not normally found together, as well as many unusual and rare species.
  • Among these are the Alpine Gentian, Bloody Cranesbill, Mountain Avens
  • Strangely, some of the plants growing in the area are traditionally considered lime-hating
  • For these and other reasons, the Burren is a botanist’s and ecologist’s paradise
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About Michael Heraghty

Michael Heraghty is a user experience designer who grew up in the beautiful county of Sligo in the West of Ireland. He now lives in Dublin, with his wife and three daughters.