The Burren or Great Rock, is one of the largest karst regions in Europe at 250 square kilometres.
Karst landforms have many different attributes and The Burren is very unique.
It consists of rolling hills of limestone with cracks or grikes that break up the pavement into remote rocks called clints.
The uniqueness of the environment supports flora from arctic, alpine and Mediterranean regions – an interesting combination.
The limestone pavement was originally sediment from a tropical sea about 350 million years ago.
There are fossils of sea urchins, corals, ammonites and crinoids in this fascinating place.
Tectonic movement raised the ancient seabed to become this stunning plateau.
It may, just after the Ice Age, have been covered with trees, but the early settlers cut down the forests and the soil eroded away. This is common to other karst areas in the world.
What remains are the fissured limestone pavements, terraced mountains, disappearing lakes and underground cave systems – a fascinating land for visitors to explore…
Exploring The Burren
There is a vast network of underground caves and rivers that may be explored by experts. They flood quickly when it rains and are not for tourists or amateurs.
But Aillwee cave, which is near Ballyvaghan, are an easy alternative that visitors are welcome to explore and enjoy.
Aillwee cave is one of the oldest caves in Ireland, featuring underground rivers, waterfalls, remains of bears, and some stalagmites and stalactites.
Another cave, the Pol an Ionain cave, which is nearby, is a bit difficult to explore because it has a place where people need to crawl in water through a stone hole.
But the vast chamber at the end of the crawl makes any discomfort totally worth it. It contains a huge stalactite that is 6.7 metres long and quite possibly the largest stalactite in the world..!
Serene Nature & Historical Forts
The Burren National Park is Ireland’s smallest national park. A barren and majestic place, it has been called “Fertile Rock” because of the abundance of herbs and flowers that grow in the giant cracks.
The national park is in the south eastern corner of The Burren and contains all the habitats including lakes, petrifying springs, limestone pavement, hazel scrub, calcareous grassland, ash and hazel woodland, cliffs, turloughs and fens.
The fascinating natural environment is not all The Burren has to offer.
Humans have lived in this harsh environment since the Stone Age and there is evidence to prove it.
There are cahers (stone ringforts) where the farmers of long ago lived, wedge tombs and huge dolmens still to be seen.
There are also medieval churches, monasteries and castles in the area, indicating later periods of settlements.
Villages, Views & Cliffs of Moher
Water used on The Burren comes from springs and wells.
The Killeany spring which is near Lisdoonvarna supplies water for a large area. The town of Ballyvaghan, where tourists visit, gets its water from mountain springs and a bore well.
Corofin is a village on the edge of The Burren and the national park. It is a good place from which to begin a visit to The Burren.
It gets its water from Lough Inchiquin, a lake that is fed by the springs.
On the south western edge of The Burren are the Cliffs of Moher. They face the Atlantic Ocean at 214 metres at the highest place.
They are A UNESCO Geo Park and offer spectacular views of the Loop Head in the southern area, the Aran Islands, the Twelve Pins, Galway Bay and the Maum Turk Mountains.
Thousands of sea birds nest on the cliffs and the area is a Special Protection Area as well as 200 metres of open water for the bird’s feeding area.
The Burren and Cliffs of Moher offer spectacular natural scenery as well as fascinating geology and archaeology for thousands of visitors from around the world.
Visitors participate in Ecotourism and responsible travel to enjoy and appreciate the natural environment and leave no trace that they were there.