Places to visit in Europe

The burren

The Burren The Boireann, or rock land, is a national park, covering 500-square kms of bare limestone slabs, known as pavements, in the north of County Clare.

Here, terraced hills appear like a giant helter-skelter coming over the horizon. Acre after acre of horizontal and fluted stone slabs with vertical fissures unfold, creating an almost lunar landscape. Successive generations over thousands of years have left indelible traces of their existence here. Fine examples of megalithic tombs and ring forts, churches, crosses, and castles are to be found in great profusion in this once-populated area. The botanical features of the area are extremely interesting, with acid and alkaline-loving plants growing side by side. Arctic and Alpine species flourish alongside plants usually more at home on the shores of the Mediterranean. These contrasts are never more apparent than in late Spring or early Summer when both the Spring Gentian (Gentiana verna) and the Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala) bloom in profusion right down to the rugged Atlantic shore.

The Burren's fauna is less in evidence. You are more likely to see herds of wild goats than the elusive pine marten. Bird life includes redshanks, common sandpipers and mallard which can be found breeding around the dry lakes or turloughs, whilst the dramatically situated Cliffs of Moher on the Burren's south-west edge are noted for puffins and fulmars. Drainage in the Burren is mostly underground, and some fifty kilometres of charted cave systems are the delight of experienced potholers. But there are active river systems in the area which are extremely dangerous, and Aillwee Cave is the only cave in the Burren which may be visited safely by tourists. The Burren Way is a sign-posted walk over the western terrain of the Burren which takes you through many thousands of years of Irish history, highlighting some aspects, and allowing you to discover others for yourself.

The Burren Display Centre is the ideal place to start your trip. It offers both an audio visual, and a display panel presentation of the Burren. The Burren offers an insight into almost every aspect of natural history - geology, botany, ornithology, speleology, mycology, lepidoptery, etc. and is home to examples of almost every field monument found in Ireland. Culturally, Kilfenora and Doolin are international centres for traditional music and the area has inspired very many Irish writers, including W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory. Other places of interest in the Burren are the Dysert O'Dea Archaeology Centre which offers archaeological walks, Corofin Heritage Centre, a major genealogical research centre for County Clare, the Moher Cliffs, and O'Brien's Tower, a visitor’s centre on the highest cliffs of Europe (213 metres), Newtown Castle and Nature Trail, Dunguaire Castle, a restored Medieval tower-house, and Aillwee Cave.

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