The Burren

The Burren, Co. Clare

The Burren is one of Ireland’s six National Parks. It is a very unique landscape, consisting of bare limestone karst, dense hazel scrubland, turlough (seasonal disappearing lakes) and shallow grasslands. The shape of the current landscape was caused by many ice-ages scraping away layers of shale rock to expose the limestone to the elements. This was further added to by stone-age farmers, 5,000 years ago, who felled the trees which led to the erosion of the thin layer of soil.

The name ‘Burren’ derives from the Irish word for a ‘stoney place’. Limestone is a porous rock that easily dissolves in acid. As rain falls from the clouds, it picks up minute amounts of carbon dioxide from the air, forming a very dilute carbonic acid. This acid dissolves the limestone, giving us the eroded limestone pavement that we see today in the Burren.

This habitat is now home to a unique and very rare collection of wild flowers and other fauna, many not found anywhere else in Ireland or the British Isles. Here in the Burren, you can see Mediterranean and Alpine flowers growing side by side. Some of the iconic flower of the Burren include the Spring Gentian, the Hoary Rock Rose, Mountain Aven and the Barnet Rose.

As well as it’s unique flora, the Burren has been an area of intensive habitation and cultivation since the stone age. There is a rich treasure of monuments and artefact left on the landscape. Interpreting and reading this landscape allows us to follow this pattern of human activity and to glean insights into the beliefs of the people that lived here.

From Neolithic and Bronze Age worship to early Christian monasteries, each have left their mark. This religious practice continues through Norman and medieval time right through to today.

Our Burren Walks are designed to explore this fascinating landscape. We will view the landscape and look at the human habitation. We will identify the unique plants of the Burren, which will vary according to the time of the year. Our Burren walks are also planned to take in the best views, particularly over Galway Bay and the Burren itself.

For more information on the Burren, visit Burren Beo (The Living Burren)