Seven sites around Ireland , including the Burren and Tara, have been submitted for consideration by the UN as potential nominees to the World Heritage List.
The list has been submitted to UNESCO for presentation to the World Heritage Committee meeting taking place from 25 July-3 August in Brazil, and if successful will see the number of World Heritage Sites in Ireland jump to 10.
The existing sites are the prehistoric Brú na Bóinne complex of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth in Co Meath, the seventh century monastic complex of Skellig Michael, 12km off the Co Kerry coast, and the Giants Causeway in Co. Antrim, a collection of over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns which developed as a result of an ancient volcanic eruption.
The seven sites are the Burren, Céide Fields and Mayo Boglands, the monastic city of Clonmacnoise, Georgian Dublin and its Literary Tradition, early medieval monastic sites like Durrow, Glendalough, Kells and Monasterboice, royal sites like Cashel and Tara and the Western Stone Forts (see below for details).
The Burren is located along the west coast of Ireland, encompassing the North of County Clare and the south east of County Galway. The Burren - from the Gaelic Boireann meaning "place of stone" - is defined by the presence of exposed limestone which extends over an area of approx. 72,000ha.
The Burren is an excellent example of a glaciated karst landscape displaying all the classic karst features such as bare pavements, cave systems, turloughs, dry valleys, sinkholes, dolines, poljes and micro-solutional features such as karren. The Burren is also thought to have the most extensive cave systems in Europe, with over 90km of navigable caves.
Ecologically it is very rich, containing over 70% of Ireland's native flora, including unusual combinations of Arctic, Alpine and Mediterranean species.
The Burren contains over 2,700 recorded monuments and has been described as "one vast memorial to bygone cultures". It also supports a very rich living tradition of music and folklore.
The submission highlights that the karst topography elicited a distinctive cultural response from its people, as seen in the extensive winter-based pastoral systems that prevail to this day and which contribute directly to the rich natural and cultural heritage of the region making it an excellent example of the ongoing creative utilization of natural resources by an agricultural society over six thousand years, and reflects the combined works of nature and of man.
Céide Fields and North West Mayo Boglands
The Céide Fields and North West Mayo Boglands comprises a Neolithic landscape consisting of megalithic burial monuments, dwelling houses and enclosures within an integrated system of stone walls defining fields, which are spread over 12km of north Mayo. Many of the features are preserved intact beneath blanket peat that is over 4m deep in places. The significance of the site lies in the fact that it is the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world and the oldest enclosed landscape in Europe.
The Céide Fields were constructed around 5,700 years ago by Neolithic farmers and The blanket bog landscape is of immense importance for its natural habitat value as well as for its illustration of environmental and climate history. This post-glacial landscape was dominated by woodlands, grasslands and heaths in a climate that was relatively warm and dry. The significance of the Céide Fields lies in the fact that along with their associated megalithic monuments and dwelling structures they provide a unique farmed landscape from Neolithic times.
The Monastic City of Clonmacnoise and its Cultural Landscape
The Monastic City of Clonmacnoise and its Cultural Landscape is located in Counties Offaly, Roscommon and Westmeath in the centre of Ireland. It is an outstanding example of a relict early medieval Insular monastic city unobscured by modern building development. It is set within a superlative semi-natural landscape that deepens it spiritual qualities, adding greatly to its authenticity and integrity.
The architectural ensemble at Clonmacnoise represents an outstanding example of an early medieval Insular monastic city and represents a significant stage in the development of early medieval Christianity in the North Atlantic Region.
Archaeological excavation coupled with exceptional documentary sources has demonstrated that Clonmacnoise was a civitas in reality as well as in name, unlike many other Irish sites, and, moreover, its dates are relatively early in the chronology of urban development outside the boundaries of the old Roman Empire.
The Historic City of Dublin
Following the Restoration (1660) Dublin became the second city, after London, of the British Empire, with major development and expansion in the Georgian period (1714-1830) - providing the institutional buildings and infrastructure, and setting out the city plan substantially as it survives today.