Burren (from the Irish ‘an bhoireann’ meaning ‘rocky place’) National Park lies in south-west Ireland in county Clare. Mullaghmore mountain lies at the center of the park. The park’s 6.5 square miles are part of the 50 square mile ‘The Burren’ limestone plateau. At first sight the terraced area appears to be bare of any growth. But it happens to be a unique eco-system supporting arctic, alpine and mediterranean plantlife.
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Its secret is the underlying limestone rock of the hills and terraces that encourages the prolific growth of plants that favour this type of soil. The area was under the ocean at one time, and coral, shells and mud created the limestone. As rain hit the soft rock, potholes, clefts and crevices were formed, providing a place for algae to flourish.
Along with animal leavings, they created a soil with just the right acidity for 22 species of orchids, saxifrages, gentians, hoary rockrose, burnet rose, vernal sandwort, madenhair fern, and bearberry, to name just a few among many types of plants. Visit in late May and early June to see many in bloom. In the park is the buren green moth, unique to Great Britain.
As in most limestone land, tunnels, gorges and caves are part of the landscape. Streams and lakes disappear from the surface in dry weather. Four miles north-east of the town of Lisdoonvarna is a large cave system known as Polnagollum (variously spelled Pollinagollum and Poulnagollum). Although only seven miles of caverns have been explored, many underground streams and a 25-foot high waterfall were discovered.
The Burren is replete with prehistoric remains—more than 2000 dolmens, cairns, ring-forts and graves. Only a few scattered houses and grey stone walls break the silent emptiness of the plateau today.
Burren National Park is south of Galway Bay. Open year round.
Lisdoonvarna is on the N67.
No visitor facilities in the park.
A Burren archaeological centre is in the town of Kilfenora, on the R476, and contains exhibits on the archaeological and natural history of the area.
Photos Courtesy Shannon Tourism