The Burren: Ireland’s most remarkable landscape

The Burren
The Burren, Co. Clare

Austere and otherworldly yet outstandingly beautiful, the Burren is famous as one of the most unique landscapes on the island of Ireland.

Named from the Irish ‘Boireann’ meaning ‘place of stone’, the Burren has been shaped by geological forces over hundreds of millions of years.

So unique is the resulting lunar-like landscape that it been designated a UNESCO Global Geopark, stretching over some 72,000 hectares that include the majestic Cliffs of Moher on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. 

At first sight the craggy limestone terrain may seem barren, but in fact it’s a haven for 70% of Ireland’s native plant species such as the early purple orchid, the white and golden Irish eyebright, Artic-Alpine mountain avens, and the metallic blue flowers of Burren grass.

A walk along one of the heritage trails through the Geopark will reveal brightly coloured flowers nestled in fissures creating a mosaic of tiny gardens.

Here and there the echoes of settlers who made this area their home over thousands of years can be seen in ancient monuments dating from the Mesolithic era through to the Iron Age. Among these is the must-see Poulnabrone Dolmen, situated on a high plateau where it has guarded its secrets for over 5,000 years.

Undoubtedly the best known and most visited area of the Geopark is the Cliffs of Moher. Rising to 214m at their highest point and ranging for 8km along the western coast of County Clare, the majestic cliffs offer spectacular views over the ocean and are particularly atmospheric when viewed at twilight when the setting sun casts shadows and imbues the rock with pink and orange hues.

The underground landscape of the Burren is equally fascinating, boasting the longest cave in Ireland and two show caves, Doolin and Ailwee. The Doolin cave is home to the Great Stalactite – at 7.3m, the longest in the northern hemisphere.

A thriving eco-friendly destination, the Burren is also renowned for its artisan produce. One of the best ways to discover the tastes of the region is on the award-winning Burren Food Trail, which features visits to growers, restaurants, cafés, pubs, farmers’ markets, cheese makers, bakers, ice-cream makers and the famous Burren Smokehouse.

A stop here is the chance to sample the silky, smoky texture of Burren Smoked Irish Organic Salmon and discover how this premium smoked salmon is handcrafted. 

The Burren’s remarkable landscape has made it a magnet for geologists, botanists, archaelogists, walkers, artists, mystics and those seeking a temporary retreat from the busyness of life – it’s a world apart, and an experience never to be forgotten.