Visiting The Burren
From the word Boirinn meaning ‘great rock’, The Burren in Co. Clare is a vast, otherworldly landscape of limestone wilderness and a truly stunning place to get away from it all. Six square miles are set aside as Burren National Park, but there is so much more to the area that will amaze the entire family.
The Burren is roughly 96 square miles of rolling limestone hills, crisscrossed with cracks full of flora including artic, Mediterranean and alpine varieties living side by side. This curious arrangement allowed the early inhabitants to live well, as there was always plenty to feed their cattle.
Enclosed by the picturesque villages of Ballyvaughan, Kinara, Tubber, Corofin, Kilfenora and Lisdoonvarna, and shored by the Atlantic and Galway Bay, this rugged, untamed part of Ireland is just bristling with things to do.
Where to stay
Unsurprisingly, the villages ringing The Burren offer some of the finest hotels, bed & breakfasts and guest houses in the area. Sheedy’s Country House in Lisdoonvarna won the Traveller’s Choice 2014 award for the best small hotel. Gregans Castle Hotel in Ballyvaughan offers delightful surroundings and an eight-course dinner! The Ballinalacken Castle Country House in Doolin, right in the middle of The Burren, is reported to have the best view in Ireland, with the Cliffs of Moher on one side and the Aran Islands on the other. Of course, everything comes down to price and personal taste, but there is certainly no shortage of choice.
What to see:
Aillwee - Affording a spectacular view of Galway bay from the entrance, Aillwee Cave is one of the oldest in Ireland. Featuring a tour of astonishing rock formations and over bridged chasms, a frozen waterfall and a livelier one. There are also shopping, eating and drinking facilities.
The Aran Islands - The Islands of Saints and Scholars is accessible by fast ferry and has more things to explore than there is time in a day. The entire Islands are one large outdoor museum, with beautiful natural formations, like the Dun Aonghasa and the Cliffs of Aran, a colony of seals, scattered Celtic churches and much more. Accommodation and all facilities can be found in the small villages.
The Burren National Park - A government-owned nature reserve containing examples of 90% of plant life in Ireland, and all the major habitats found in The Burren, including Limestone pavement, grasslands, scrubs, woodlands, lakes, petrifying springs and cliffs.
The Cliffs Of Moher - Standing 702 feet at the highest point, and stretching out for five miles along the Atlantic coast, the world famous Cliffs of Moher offer views like nowhere else on earth. There are also bird watching opportunities, especially when the Puffins are in, an underground exhibition centre, and O’Brien’s Tower standing lonely on the headlands.
Father Ted's House - The house on ‘Craggy Island’ from the famous sitcom is actually a private residence. The family now open it to the public for afternoon tea, complete with stories of Father Ted and history of the house and its surroundings
Poulnabrone Megalithic tomb - One of the most famous and photographed sights in Ireland, the Portal tomb is a mass burial site dating back to the Neolithic period, between 4200 BC and 2900 BC.
These listed are just a handful of examples that bring visitors back year after year. There are Stone Forts, Cathedrals, endless walks, cycling, sea kayaking and so much more in The Burren.