The Burren - a rich and rare limestone landscape

A lifetime would be too short to fully explore the Burren, never mind a short holiday or day trip. For a start you will probably never find it? Although 'it' covers some 360 sq kms ie nearly all of County Clare, most people end up getting lost and constantly asking for directions when in fact they are often already 'there'. What people seem to envisage is an actual, neat, little place as in ‘The Burren’ somewhere, complete with limestone pavements, wild flowers etc. It does exist, it is just that it's huge and everywhere!

Look over any stone wall in the springtime and you will see the famous Burren orchids,blue gentians and a whole host of other wild alpine wildflowers you wouldn’t expect to find growing there, like Edelweiss and Mountain Avens. Marvel as you walk across the bare limestone pavements that were once the ocean beds of warm tropical seas millions of years ago. Or go underground into one of the many caves to truly understand how erosion has moulded this magnificent landscape and is continuing to do so at the rate of the thickness of a sheet of paper each year, so there's no hurry it will be here for a while yet ....

10 Other things to See and Do in the Burren....

1 The Cliffs of Moher, stunning views out over Ireland's own lost city of Atlantis with an excellent state of the art, all-weather visitor centre, restaurant, shop and facilities.

2 Drive out to Blackhead, for more views, park the car at the lighthouse and climb up the mountain to the stonefort of Cathair Dhuin Irghuis.

3 Ailwee Caves & Birds of Prey Centre, guided tour of underground caves discovered by a man out walking his dog? Fly falcons or try out award winning cheeses in the farm shop.

4 Ballyvaughan village and harbour, pretty thatched cottages, nice crafts shops and restaurants, farmers market in the summer. The Burren in Bloom festival takes place on the first weekend in May and celebrates the wild flowers.

5 Bishopsquarter beach, named after the Bishops who had the rights to 'the finest oysters in Dooneen Bay' some 600 years ago. A great place to have a picnic, take a walk, picnic, or fly a kite with safe swimming and powdery sand dunes to play in.

6 Burren House Restaurant and Craft centre, have a nice lunch here with one of the best views out over Galway Bay, browse around their well stocked souvenir & clothes shop afterwards.

7 The Flaggy Shore, described by our own celebrated poet Seamus Heaney as capable of ‘blowing the heart wide open’ is a tarred road used as a walk, encircling the coast at New Quay.

8 Corcomroe Abbey, Bellharbour. Ruined 600 year old Cistercian abbey and graveyard, site of the wonderful Easter dawn masses of yesteryear. A revered and holy place, the road up to it cuts through a ringfort.

9 The Burren Perfumery,Carron Irelands only perfumery with an award winning herb garden, shop and organic tearooms, free admission.

10 Kinvara, another nice harbour village. Home to the Cuckoo Fleadh & Crinniu na mBad festival. Medieval banquets held in Dunguaire Castle.

For more information about Ireland visit http://www.irelands-hidden-gems.com/index.html

Susan Byron

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