Luxury Guided Tour of Ireland's Hidden Gems with Irish expert Susan Byron - New Tour Dates announced for 2018

The Burren, bare limestone, wildflowers...

A lifetime would be too short to fully explore the Burren, never mind a short holiday or a single day trip. For a start, you will probably never find 'it'... Because, although 'it' covers some 360 sq kms ie nearly all of County Clare, most people end up getting lost and constantly asking for directions, when in fact they are often in 'it' or there already! What people seem to envisage is an actual, nice, neat little place as in ‘the Burren’ somewhere, complete with limestone pavements, wild flowers etc. And yes, it certainly does exist, only it is huge, everywhere and all around you in County Clare! Look over any stone wall in the Springtime and you will see a carpet of wild flowers, laid out at your feet, including purple and white Orchids, electric blue Gentians and a whole host of other high, alpine wild flowers you wouldn’t expect to find growing at almost sea level, like Edelweiss and Mountain Avens.....

White Orchid in the Burren in County ClareWhite Orchid in the Burren in County Clare

You can marvel at the fact, as you walk across the bare limestone pavements, that these were once the ocean beds of warm tropical seas, millions of years ago. If you look carefully you can clearly make out the fossilised remnants of sea urchins, corals, anemones and various other plant-life and animals. These limestone pavements got carved into the stepped shapes that we see today by the retreating glaciers that movedSsouth over Galway Bay from Mayo at the end of the last ice age. Leaving 'erratics' i.e. solitary boulders of granite and even marble, marooned on this bare landscape. Further evidence of the forces of nature having sculpted this unique Karst limestone landscape can be seen in the folding of  Mullaghmore mountain which is part of the Burren National Park. Or you can go underground into one of the many caves in the area at Ailwee or Doolin to truly understand how erosion has moulded this magnificent landscape and is continuing to do so at the rate of the thickness of a sheet of paper each year. So there's no hurry it will be there waiting for you for another while yet....

The unique Karst limestone area of the Burren in County Clare.The unique Karst limestone area of the Burren in County Clare.

10 Other things to do and see in the Burren....

1 Cliffs of Moher scary cliffs, stunning views and an excellent state of the art, all-weather visitor centre, restaurant and shop with toilet facilities.

2 Drive out to Blackhead, for more views, park the car at the lighthouse and climb up the mountain to the stonefort of Cathair Dhuin Irghuis.

3 Ailwee Caves & Birds of Prey Centre, guided tour of underground caves discovered by a man out walking his dog? Fly falcons or try out award winning cheeses in the farm shop.

4 Ballyvaughan village pretty thatched cottages, nice crafts shops and restaurants, farmers market on saturdays and a craft fair on sundays, throughout the summer with the Burren in Bloom festival each May.

5 Bishopsquarter beach, names after the bishops who had the rights to 'the finest oysters in Dooneen Bay' some 600 years ago. A great place for a walk, picnic, or kiteflying with safe swimming and powdery sand dunes to play in.

6 Ballyalban Fairy Fort on the road up to Poulnabrone just opposite the left hand turn into the Ailwee Caves. Access is restricted now but you can still see the outline of the fort and the trees if you park up (safely) across the road.

7 The Flaggyshore, described by our own celebrated poet Seamus Heaney as capable of ‘blowing the heart wide open’ is a tarred road used as a walk, encircling the coast at New Quay.

8 Corcomroe Abbey, Bellharbour, a ruined 600 year old Cistercian abbey and graveyard, site of the wonderful Easter dawn masses of yester-year. A revered and holy place, watch out while travelling the road up to it which cuts through a ringfort, a big no, no in this part of the world.

9 Linanne's Lobster Bar in New Quay, a nice pub on the harbour with a great view of Galway Bay, good pints and reasonable seafood. 

10 Kinvara another nice harbour village and home to the Cuckoo Fleadh (May) & Crinniú na mBád festival (Aug) with medieval banquets available in Dunguaire Castle.

To see another spectacular landscape in the Burren click here.



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Irelands Hidden Gems