The Burren Monuments
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The Burren in County Clare has been aptly described as one 'vast memorial to bygone cultures', and must surely count as one of the best-preserved and broadly representative archaeological landscapes in Europe.
More than a match for the region's ecological and geological wealth, the Burren's built heritage features monuments characteristic of every period from the Neolithic onward, allowing us to trace the evolution of agricultural society from its 'hunter-gatherer' origins over six millennia ago to the present day.
For instance, some 75 Neolithic wedge tombs, 500 stone forts, hundreds of Bronze age fulacht fiadh (ancient cooking sites) and cist graves, early Christian church sites and Medieval Tower houses are found scattered throughout the hills. The magnificent portal tomb at Poulnabrone, the grand triumvallate (three walled) Cahercummaun, and the distinctive Leamanagh castle are among the most easily recognised monuments in Ireland, but represent only a small piece of an extraordinary wealth if heritage to be found in the Burren.
Less obvious and ancient than these well know monument types however are the traditional goat cros, turf thuiles, buaile (booley) huts, stone walls and pathways that often merge seamlessly into the rocky landscape, belying the critical function that they performed in the farm economies of long forgotten generations. Often resembling little more than a casual rearrangement of the stones in a particular spot, these abundant features in their entirety represent an evocative testament to the harsh existence of these generations of farmers.
That these assorted layers of built heritage have remained relatively profuse and intact in the Burren uplands is attributable to the easy availability of building stone, the relative durability of stone structures and the traditional, low impact farming practices of the region. There is no other part of Ireland that can compete with this priceless heritage.
Visitors should respect this remarkable heritage and not damage any sites, however run down they may appear to be, and enjoy their visit.