Famous across the world for its karst landscape, the Burren in County Clare is one of the most spectacular natural beauties in all of Ireland. Here is everything you need to know about the Burren.
Stretching across North Clare, the Burren region has been shaped by numerous geological forces that have taken place over hundreds of millions of years.
The Burren is renowned across the world for its beautiful limestone landscapes, rich archaeological history, and immense wealth of flora.
The rocks that make up the Burren were formed between 359 and 299 million years ago.
Amazingly, the limestone that makes up the Burren was formed in a warm tropical sea near the equator. The limestone is made up of many pieces of broken fossils from corals and other sea creatures.
It is thought that after these rocks were formed, the entire continent collided with what is now Europe. This collision caused the rocks in the Burren to become gently folded or tilted slightly to the south. This collision is responsible for the many cracks that run through the limestone.
The Burren is scattered with large rocks that are not common to the region, such as granite and red sandstone.
This occurred about two million years ago, thanks to the Ice Age. As the ice started to melt, large rocks and clay were deposited in the Burren region which is still visible to this day.
When to visit – open all year round
The Burren region is open 365 days a year. It can be explored no matter the weather once you are dressed appropriately.
Some of the attractions that can be found in the Burren are most popular during the summer months as this is the peak of the tourism season.
However, if you would like to see some of the beautiful wildflowers that call the Burren home, we suggest visiting here during May.
This is the best time of year as it isn’t incredibly busy, the weather is relatively mild, and the Burren is alive with beautiful colours.
What to see – history and natural wonders
Home to countless megalithic tombs, the Burren is a historian’s delight. There are over eighty wedge tombs in the Burren region, which were built over 4,000 years ago.
They are small structures that are made with upright stones and a flat stone for the roof. Today these ancient burial grounds are visible as low grass-covered mounds.
Poulnabrone Dolmen is one of the most visited megalithic tombs in the Burren region. This portal tomb dates back to around 3,800 BC and is one of Ireland’s most iconic images. This dolmen would have marked the burial place of a significant person.
Address: Poulnabrone, Co. Clare
It is believed that the Burren was once a concentrated area of habitation as there are over 1,500 stone forts in the region.
is one of the most famous of these stone forts, as it served as a law school. This fort was used to teach the old Irish Brehon Laws to students.
Address: Cahermacnaghten, Co. Clare
The Ailwee Caves is a magnificent caving system that allows you to explore the dramatic underworld beneath the magnificent Burren region.
Admire beautiful caverns, stalactites, stalagmites, underground waterfalls, and the bones of extinct brown bears. This 35-minute tour allows you to see the region from another perspective.
Address: Ballycahill, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare
The Burren is home to a collection of beautiful and unique flora and fauna. Keep your eyes peeled for feral goats, foxes, hares, and even lizards! There are also 28 species of butterfly that call the Burren home.
There are about 1,100 plant species which thrive on its fertile landscape. The Burren is interesting regarding flora as it is unique for its cohabitation of many different plants. Plants can be spotted growing from the cracks in the limestone all year round.
Things to know – useful information
The Burren covers 1% of the land surface of Ireland and is an impressive 360km2 (139miles2). As such, the Burren is best explored over several days.
The Burren is exposed to the elements due to its close proximity to the wild Atlantic Ocean.
When visiting and exploring the Burren, it is always important to be prepared for all types of weather. Some of the area can be quite boggy, so it is important to wear waterproof footwear.
There is also a visitor centre called the Burren Centre. This gives an introduction to this world-famous UNESCO Geopark, through providing an in-depth look at the history, geology, archaeology, and wildlife.
Address: Main St, Maryville, Kilfenora, Co. Clare