Covering an area of more than 115 square miles (300 square kilometers), the Burren is a vast, otherworldly expanse of scarred and fissured limestone rock, naturally sculpted through acidic erosion. Though it may look barren from afar, this rocky plateau is anything but lifeless. In spring and summer, wildflowers and rare plants thrive here.
One of the best ways to get an overview of the Burren is to drive along the R480 road, which links the town of Ballyvaughan in the north to Leamaneh in the south and cuts through the heart of the unusual karst landscape. Of course, to truly appreciate the Burren, and to see some of the tiny plants that sprout between the rocks, you’ll need to get out of the car and walk. Numerous signposted trails weave through the UNESCO-listed Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark.
Because of its proximity to the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren is often included as a stop-off on Cliffs of Moher day trips from Dublin and Galway, along with 16th-century Dunguaire Castle and the charming village of Doolin, a hub for traditional Irish music. Some tours also include visits to the Aillwee Cave, a series of underground caverns that features a waterfall, bear bones, and unusual rock formations.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Burren is a must for anyone with an interest in geology and the natural world.
- Wear sturdy shoes; you’ll need them to negotiate the Burren’s rocky terrain.
- Some of the species that grow in the Burren are very rare. Don’t pick plants and try not to stand on them.
- Stop by the Burren National Park Information Point in Corofin, County Clare, to find out more.
How to Get There
The Burren is located in northwest County Clare, near Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, and is about an hour’s drive from Galway city. Bus Éireann route 350 travels from Galway city to the town of Lisdoonvarna in the Burren. To explore the heart of the Burren, it’s best to drive or go as part of an organized tour.
When to Get There
The Burren is breathtaking year-round, though perhaps the best time to visit is from mid-May to mid-June, when the blossoming wildflowers inject some color into the landscape. Get there early in the morning to soak up its bleak beauty in solitude.
Wildlife-Viewing in the Burren
In addition to exotic orchids, ferns, and wildflowers, the Burren also sustains an unusual assortment of wildlife. Pine martens, lizards, stoats, frogs, and badgers all live here, while an array of feathered fliers, including sparrow hawks and kestrels, can be seen in the skies above.