The Burren

Black Head, The Burren, County Clare

Ireland is so much more than 40 shades of green – and nowhere are its many hues more celebrated than in County Clare’s limestone paradise on the Wild Atlantic Way

What first hits you is the silence. It’s a silence as layered as the undulating landscape itself, filled with the riches of Irish history; of aeons of stories, told and untold. All around you is pale grey stone ribboned with crags and crevices; miniature cliffs spread like mosaics as far as the horizon; and a microcosm of Ireland’s wildlife thrives.

The Burren flowers, County Clare

The flora

Look closer and the true magic of the Burren reveals itself: peeking out from between rocks are the delicate leaves of the early purple orchid; the white and golden Irish eyebright; the metallic blue flowers of Burren grass.

“Wildflowers in spring give the Burren brilliant, if ephemeral, colour amid its stark beauty.”

Lonely Planet

A wildly diverse ecosystem awaits any visitor to this corner of County Clare, dedicated a Special Area of Conservation by the EU. Of Ireland’s 900 native plants species, the Burren is home to 70% – including the mountain avens, an Arctic-Alpine plant brought here by glaciers in the last Ice Age.

The Burren, County Clare

The landscape

They say the moon is made of cheese – but we think it could be limestone! The craggy terrain of the Burren is famously lunar in its appearance, its cracked grey stone peaking and troughing for acres upon acres.

“A rugged beauty of its own, it begs to be explored and studied.”

Linda L, TripAdvisor

Formed millions of years ago beneath long-forgotten tropical seas, the unique landscape means that farming here is hardy and unique. Although the rock may appear bare and barren, the agricultural tradition is strong, dating back almost 6,000 years. Countless livestock graze the hills in winter, clearing the ground of tough grasses and making way for the delicate plant life to flourish in spring.

The Burren, County Clare

The history

Unsurprisingly, the Burren has been the source and site of symbolism and settlement since time immemorial. Perhaps most famous is Poulnabrone, a gravity-defying portal dolmen that’s perched here for over 5,800 years, guarding the remains of 22 people buried over the course of six centuries.

“Don't just drive through it – get out and take a hike and take it in.”

TWS-804, TripAdvisor

Like a huge outdoor museum, there are over 80 tombs are scattered across this sparse terrain, dating from the Mesolithic era right through the Iron Age. Once Christianity began to make its mark on Ireland, the Burren was no different; visit Corcomroe Abbey to see a particularly awe-inspiring example of a 13th-century Cistercian monastery. The Burren Centre will walk you through what’s probably the largest limestone pavement anywhere in the world.  

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