The Burren, County Clare and Inis Meain

Abbey Hill, the Burren © P. King
Transparent Burnet Moth on Self Heal

The Burren in County Clare has long held an attraction for me. I adore this place - it is full of surprises: brilliant minute flowers hiding in the limestone, incredible stone latticed walls, everywhere signs of ancient civilisation along with heart stopping views across the Atlantic. It is pure magic. Be warned - it will captivate you!

The Burren - anglicised from ‘an Boireann' meaning ‘a stony place' - is magical, a precious and delicate limestone terrain stretching across Northern Clare to Kinvara in Co. Galway.

The Burren region covers 350 square kilometres and is of major international significance for geological, botanical and archaeological reasons. This is a landscape of great contrasts and surprises. Its limestone terrain supports 700 different plant species. Arctic, Alpine and Mediterranean plants such as the blue gentian, the creamy white burnet rose, and fly-spotted orchid co-exist in the warm well-drained cracks in the limestone. Our guide for the Burren informs me that in June we should see at least 20 plants in flower.

The Burren is a vast memorial to bygone cultures. Stone Age dolmens and portal tombs, Bronze age tombs and Iron age ring forts, medieval abbeys and tower houses as well as more recent castles are all here, not to mention the 1000's of kilometres of dry stone field walls which are wonderful creations in themselves.

This was a fairly densely populated area up to the 1840's and was hard hit in famine times. In fact we will be walking on some of the old ‘green roads' - the old highways of the land, many of which were built during the Great Irish Famine.

The Irish culture is alive and well in these parts. Beautiful traditional villages are to be explored here and some must-visit pubs with the very best Guinness in the world along with plentiful local, fresh shellfish.

This is a fascinating and captivating place. Walk the West travellers will stay for 2-3 nights right on the edge of the Burren. Weather permitting we will cross over to Inis Meain - the middle Aran Island - an extension of the Burren, for a day's walking.