The Burren

About

It’s brimming with life, but the word Burren actually comes from the Irish word ‘Boireann’, meaning ‘a place of stone’. And, it may be Ireland’s smallest national park, but the distinctive limestone pavements, majestic mountains and peaceful verdant valleys make it one of the most intriguing: both CS Lewis and Tolkien took inspiration from this magical place. The Burren’s ancient monuments including well-preserved ring forts, dramatic wedge tombs and caves, entice those with their hearts in the life of yesteryear. Its abundant wildlife attracts those celebrating the life of today. There aren’t many places in the world where you can spot an otter in an outdoor museum…but you can in the Burren.

For further information on the Burren, the Burrenbeo and Burren Eco Tourism Network websites are excellent.

History

Visiting the Burren is like taking a beautiful journey through time. Sculpted in the last glacial period, it’s one of the finest examples of a glaciokarst landscapes in the world. It also tells many a tale of our own – human history is central to its story too. Of the 6,000 or so national monuments in County Clare, the majority are found here. From well-preserved ring forts such as Caherconnell, to megalithic wedge tombs like Poulnabrone (which is reported to be over 6,000 years old, making it more ancient than the pyramids!), the Burren can teach and inspire us about life as it was and as it is.

The Burren and Cliffs of Moher region has been a UNESCO Geopark since 2011. UNESCO Global Geoparks are internationally recognised places with unique geology, landscapes, history and culture. Geoparks are managed with a focus on education, conservation, sustainable tourism and community engagement. Not only does the region have the geological and cultural importance that is required for UNESCO Global Geopark status, it also has the all-important network of organisations that oversee the tourism as well as the education and conservation efforts. The Mission Statement shows the type of work it engages in: The Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark supports people and organisations to work together to ensure a cared-for landscape, a better understood heritage, more sustainable tourism, a vibrant community and strengthened livelihoods.

Wildlife

The criss-crossing cracks (grikes) and rocks (clints) on the Burren’s limestone terraces and pavements are a perfect habitat for plants and wildlife. Known as ‘the fertile rock’ the Burren is home to three quarters of Ireland’s native plant species. Soft rain and relatively warm temperatures from the Gulf Stream, along with carboniferous bedding, create ideal conditions for a stunning array of plants to live, even rare ones like orchids. And of course life breeds life: with the flora comes the fauna. 89 species of bird can be found in the Burren, including mute swans and birds of prey such as peregrine falcons, ravens, kestrels and merlin. And there are plenty of mammals like stoats, mink, badgers, otters and the tiny pipistrelle bat too.
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