On the surface the Burren might seem like a pretty empty – albeit beautiful - stretch of rocky landscape, but it’s oh so much more.
Of course, if you choose to spend the day there you can simply wander through the rich abundance of nature and heritage; soaking in the history and environment that has shaped the Burren over millions of years. Believe me - it’s a truly humbling experience, and a rewarding use of your time.
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However, if you’ve got some easily bored kids in tow or are looking for a more focused way to discover the area, your biggest problem is going to be picking just one thing to do. There is absolutely something for everyone – each experience offering up its own unique perception of this gem of the Emerald Isle.
Here is a list of my favourite ways to explore the fascinating setting of the Burren, which I write secure in the knowledge that there are so many things that I myself have yet to discover!
A Taste of the Burren
First things first – you can’t very well be setting out to discover the wonders of The Burren on an empty stomach, now can you?
Foodies rejoice - because this little corner of County Clare is a culinary paradise. There are a plethora of platters to choose from on the Burren Food Trail – a collection of exciting eateries which are committed to building a sustaining future for the region (in the most delicious ways!). Taste buds tingled? Good. We’ll be delving into this in a later Burren blog…
Picture Credit - burren.ie
Round about this time of year there is a normally even a week-long feast-a-thon known as the Burren Slow Food Festival which gathers together all the local tastes and gastronomic talent of the area. The event is packed full of unique dining experiences, tasty talks and demonstrations - with a generous dash of Michelin Star chefs.
This year they made a meal of it all online, with a virtual celebration of Co. Clare cuisine - all foraged from the appetizing theme of “The Fertile Rock.”
The Burren Perfumery
Apart from the delectable aromas drifting from the Burren’s many kitchens – there are plenty more olfactory pleasures to be enjoyed in the area – namely at The Burren Perfumery.
Picture Credit - BurrenPerfumery.com
This family run business has bottled up the very best of its surroundings, allowing you to awaken the aura of the Burren wherever you go. From perfumes, to balms, to candles – recall the delicate notes of the flora, the ancient reliability of the limestone, or the powerful influence of the Atlantic just by breathing in.
It’s not just the products that make this such a special spot; there are always learning experiences to be had – staff talks, an audio-visual introduction to the area’s florae & fauna, and even a picturesque tea-room in which to indulge in locally sourced delights.
Geopark Heritage Trails
Of course, you can always head straight to the great outdoors to experience the sublime scents of your surroundings in their rawest forms.
The Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark features an impressive selection of Heritage Trails, which are the perfect way to experience the fascinating blend of nature and history that has made the Burren its home.
Before embarking upon your chosen route, you can head to any local tourist office which will provide a helpful map detailing any points of interest along the way, as well as stimulating snippets of information about the area.
Picture Credit - Andreas F. Borchert
However, there are nine to choose from – so deciding which road to take might be the first hill you have to climb on this particular adventure…
Take a Guided Tour
If you’d like a more in-depth knowledge of your surroundings, you can always opt to view the Burren through the eyes of an experienced guide.
There’s so much to know about the karst landscape and its varied inhabitants throughout the ages that you can’t possibly take it all in on one day – but with a local guide by your side you’re sure to cram in a fair wealth of information.
You can opt for a more general tour that delves into a little bit of everything, or focus on the area of the Burren that really fascinates you with a specialised expert. For example, who better to teach you about the structural significance of the ancient stone tombs that dot the landscape than Shane from Burren Hill Walks; a born and raised Burren local with a diploma in archaeology.
Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
If you want a more adventurous way to experience the wonders of the Burren, you’re spoiled for choice with the adrenaline fuelled activities on offer.
Get up close to the ancient rocks that shape the landscape with an afternoon of climbing, or take a step back into the ocean to appreciate the bigger picture with a surfing or kayaking class. Discover the hidden beauties of the landscape through food foraging, oil painting, or anything else that you’ve always wanted to try. Afterall, where better to chase new experiences than when surrounded by some of the most captivating scenery that the world has to offer?
Each activity offers its own unique take on life in the Burren, whether you want to get the blood pumping with a daring abseil, or slow that heart rate right down with a peaceful yoga class – there’s a pursuit for every lifestyle.
Picture Credit - burrengeopark.ie
Discover the Caves
Interested in taking your exploration to the next level? It’s time to head underground…
The fascinating structure and shaping of the landscape over millions of years has resulted in around 200 caves being formed under the surface of the Burren – and they are simply remarkable to behold.
Picture Credit - doolincave.ie
Doolin Cave in particular is home to the longest stalactite in the northern hemisphere and came into being hundreds of thousands of years ago – thanks to slightly acidic water dissolving through the limestone valley overhead.
Aillwee is perhaps the most famous of the Burren’s grottos and, in striking contrast to the desert-like land which stretches overhead, conceals a spectacular waterfall. It is thought to have been around for more than 1.5 million years – making it one of the oldest caves in Ireland.
If you’d like to traverse the underground less travelled then you can also sign up for a caving expedition, which will kit you out with the equipment and local knowledge to delve a bit deeper into your adventure…
You Won’t Believe It!
If you’re a Father Ted fan then you’ll have encountered Aillwee Cave before, however you will perhaps know it as “The Very Dark Caves” – the cavern in which Ted finds himself trapped on an ill-fated day trip. That certainly won’t happen if you stop by today, but you CAN relive your favourite episodes not too far away…
Glanquin Farmhouse is the home of the McCormack family, although it is perhaps better recognised as the clergy house inhabited by Fathers Ted, Dougal and Jack. The writers felt that the sparse, water bordered mainland of the Burren was the perfect filming location for the isolated isle of Craggy Island, and they weren’t wrong!
Due to the series popularity the organic farm has found itself to be quite the local hotspot, and the friendly family do offer an afternoon tea for visitors. You should be sure to book well in advance though, the charming experience is by appointment only - and you wouldn’t want to be missing out on an authentic Craggy Island cuppa!
Picture Credit - irishmirror.ie
As you can see there’s plenty to be discovered in all the nooks and crannies of the Burren – enough to occupy you for a lifetime never mind a daytrip! However, if you just had one day to visit this incredible piece of Ireland, how would you spend it? Let us know in the comments below!