The Cliffs of Moher:
On the very edge of The Burren, under constant bombardment from the wild Atlantic seas, the mighty Cliffs of Moher stand firm. Ranging from 390 feet at Hag's Head, right up to 702 feet at the tallest point, just north of O'Brien's Tower. From the Tower, built in 1835, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of Galway Bay, the Aran Islands, the Maumturks mountain range and the Twelve Pins. Clare County Council take the unspoilt nature of the cliffs seriously, to the point where the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre has been designed to be entirely run with renewable energy and is built into the hillside to be as unobtrusive as possible.
The Burren is a 155 square mile area of unique landscape, where the rolling hills are made up of limestone pavements separated by cracks, called grikes, that are able to support incredibly varied types of plant life. In fact, 70 per cent of all Ireland's plant types can be found in The Burren. There are also many rare kinds of animals, such as the Brown Hairstreak, Marsh Fritillary and the Wood White. Across the Burren are more than ninety archaeological sites, including megalithic tombs, portal dolmens, ring forts, a Celtic High Cross in Kilfenora, and Corcomroe Abbey.
The Burren's most well-known portal tomb, Poulnabrone Dolmen – meaning 'hole of the quern stones' – dates back to somewhere between 4200 and 2900 BC. The lid is a twelve-foot slab of limestone balanced on two slim, upright, six-foot stones to cover a thirty-foot deep cairn. Excavations have discovered around twenty adults and six children buried under the tomb, and the treasures they were buried with are on exhibit at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. It is thought that Poulnabrone Dolmen may have been a major ceremonial site and burial place for the most important tribal members.
Caherconnell Stone Fort:
A 140-foot wide circular drystone fort, with walls ten-foot thick and ten-foot high, makes a formidable battlement even today, yet dating processes put Caherconnell Stone Fort as being built as early as nine hundred AD. Metal-working materials have been found that suggest the fort was still in frequent use after the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, possibly as a Gaelic stronghold away from the enemy. The Visitor Centre on site gives a comprehensive lesson about the fort, as well as the other surrounding sights to be found on The Burren.
Knappogue Castle and Garden:
A couple of miles outside of the village of Quin, seven miles east of Ennis, is Knappogue Castle and walled gardens. Built by the MacNamara Clan in 1467, while they lorded over much of Co. Clare from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries, and was one of the 42 castles the clan constructed during their reign. After it was occupied by Oliver Cromwell in 1649, the Restoration returned the Castle to its original owners in 1660 who spent the next few hundred years building more features for comfort, including the extensive walled gardens that provide relaxing strolls for visitors in the summer months.