Visit The Burren In Western Ireland
Ireland is known as the emerald island due to its lush green landscape. However, there is one exception to this rule and that is an area called “The Burren”. The Burren is a vast karst topography that is located in western Ireland. After I saw the sights in Dublin I drove across the island to spend a few weeks at a seaside villa located in County Clare. My villa was located in a small town called Liscannor. As a result, I was planning to take full advantage of Liscannor’s ideal location.
Liscannor – The Burren Map
The Burren Ireland Facts
In general, karst formations are a common rock landscape found around the world. Their most notable characteristic is the malleability of the rock which leads to very interesting features. The limestone formations that make up The Burren landscape were born in a tropical sea over 300 million years ago. Remnants of sea life such as corals and molluscs built up over millions of years. As a result, what remains today is a vast limestone formation which is over 800 meters thick and 250 sq kilometers in area.
In this area a primary geological factor that sculpted the landscape was glaciation. Beginning about a million years ago there was a succession of ice ages which caused glaciers to advance and retreat across the landscape of western Ireland. As a result, there is a vast sweeping landscape that is easily accessible from the coastal road in NW County Clare. The hiking opportunities here are tremendous, you simply park your car on the side of the road and head out. See the photos below to get a better idea.
My HD video below gives you first hand experience what it was like as I reached the top of the hill to see the karst topography unfold before my eyes.
The Stone Walls, Cairns and Ringforts of the Burren Landscape
Evidence of human civilization dates back at least 6,000 years in this area. Therefore, the remains of ancient stone houses still dot the landscape. The houses are in the form of “ringforts”. Basically, they are stone fences which surround the house. However, the remnants that can still be observed are mainly the stone fences and enclosures. This is because the houses were likely constructed of material which was more easily eroded. However, it makes for some interesting hiking and it is easy to fill in the blanks.
Remains of Ancient Ringfort
Additionally, there are rock monuments called cairns which are artificially constructed mounds of rock. The purpose of the cairns is usually to mark an ancient grave site. Unfortunately, there was no tombstone and I did not have a guide with me. Therefore, I don’t know much about this particular cairn. However, this would be an ideal place to be laid to rest.
Last but not least there were the endless lines of fences segregating the landscape. These stone fences are seen throughout County Clare dividing up the land. Basically, the stone fences were built as a matter or practicality. The stones were abundant and they made farming very difficult. Therefore, they made ideal fences and at the same time you could clear some of the stones off the land and hopefully make more room for grazing or perhaps agriculture. However, this particular area of The Burren was pretty bleak and I image it would have been extremely difficult to grow anything here.
The formation of this rock fence suggests that it may have been used as a livestock corral.
The Burren Caves
Karst topographies are also well noted for their astounding underground formations. The calcium carbonate that is contained in limestone is susceptible to erosion from water and also fluids that are mildly acidic. As a result, vast underground caverns can be formed due to underground water flows. Additionally, massive stalactites and stalagmites are found inside the caverns.
There is a natural cave formation called the Doolin Caves which is located in The Burren. It is definitely worth the effort to go and find it. There are guided tours to take you down into the caves.
A most astounding feature of the Doolin caves is the great stalactite which hangs a full 7.3 meters from the ceiling. As a result it is the longest free hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere. Stalactites take 1,000 years to grow 10 centimeters! Therefore, since there is 730 centimeters in 7.3 meters this stalactite took 730,000 years to form!! Tours run from 10AM to 5PM during the season and they are easy to hook up with.
Other Attractions in County Clare Ireland
County Clare Ireland has many unique attractions and features. One prolific example is the Cliffs of Moher which I will cover more extensively in a separate post. Additionally, western Ireland has exposure to world class Atlantic ocean swells. As a result, there is world class surfing if you are so inclined which is located right in Lahinch. However, it is freezing cold in the water and surfers must be well adapted to cold water surfing to survive here.
For the warm blooded land lubbers there is world class golf which is also located in Lahinch. Last but not least, if you are a yoga & meditation enthusiast then you are in luck. Nearby in County Galway you will find The Burren Yoga retreat which offers a unique combination of yoga and interaction with the fantastic natural landscape.