Explore & Discover in the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Global Geopark
Stand on 330 million year old limestone pavements of fossils, clints and grykes, filled with flowers from the Artic, Alps and Mediterranean growing side by side. Listen to the Atlantic waves crash into a vast network of unseen caves beneath your feet. Feel the awesome power of the Cliffs of Moher as they rise majestically from an ocean teeming with life. Imagine the lives of the people of bygone cultures who built the ancient tombs, forts, churches and walls all around you. Immerse yourself in the wonderful energy of traditional Irish music. Taste the delicious food produced from this ‘fertile rock’, and you will realise why this extraordinary place has been awarded the prestigious UNESCO Global Geopark Status.
UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. UNESCO was created after World War II. The idea was to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture. Its aim is to build dialogue and mutual understanding between countries. Allow access to quality education for everyone. Cultural heritage and the equal dignity of all cultures. Scientific programs and policies as platforms for development and cooperation. A laboratory of ideas, international standards and the free flow and sharing of knowledge.
Celebrating Earth Heritage & Sustaining Local Communities
UNESCO Global Geoparks are internationally recognised places with unique geology, landscapes, history and culture. Geoparks are managed with a focus on education, conservation, sustainable tourism and community engagement. UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education, and sustainable development. Their bottom-up approach of combining conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities has become increasingly popular. At present, there are 127 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 35 countries.
The Burren and Cliffs of Moher is Ireland’s newest UNESCO Geopark since 2011.
It has a strong network of eco-businesses living within its iconic landscape of karst limestone, caves, and cliffs. Local folklore and food are promoted through Farm Heritage Tours and the Burren Food Trail. The Geopark promotes its geology and sensitive hydrogeological system (underground waterways) through educational and outreach activities whilst pursuing strong practices in sustainable tourism.
The Burren Ecotourism Network (BEN) was established in 2011 and currently has 50 members in the region. The Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience is a BEN member. They work together to promote ‘The Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark’ as a leading sustainable visitor destination. This is celebrated for high standards in visitor experience, conservation, and learning.
Over 530 square kilometres the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark offers a diversity that is second to none. Natural beauty surrounds you from 214-metre-high Cliffs with 8 kilometres of rugged coastline, to the vast array of flora, including Arctic and Alpine flowers that surprisingly grow alongside Mediterranean species all in the heart of the Burren.
There is also the staggering amount of history in the Burren region with over 2,700 recorded monuments, some dating back over 6,000 years, which makes them older than the pyramids at Giza.
This has led to the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Global Geopark being described as “unique – like no other place in Ireland”.
Within the Geopark there are nine Geosites such as Poulnabrone Dolmen, Doolin Cave, and the Cliffs of Moher.
A geosite is an area from a few square meters to a few square kilometers in size which has a geological and scientific importance and whose geological character (mineral, structural, geomorphological, physiographic) meets one or more exceptional criteria.
The Cliffs of Moher is one of the most well-known Geosites. The 5km of cliffs display a spectacular example of an ancient infilling marine sedimentary basin.
While the Burren area is renowned for its remarkable assemblage of plants and animals it is equally unique below ground. Many caverns and caves exist throughout the Geopark. One of the many features of these cavers or caves are Stalagmites and Stalagtites.
Caverns are formed by underground streams which act upon fissures, thereby enlarging them. Eventually huge underground passageways form. Some caverns may even be as big as cathedrals. It is from this that some caverns get their name.
Stalagmites and stalagtites are formed by carbonation (the process by which limestone erodes). Deposits of calcium carbonate on the roof and floors of these caverns results in stalagmites (develop on floors of caverns) and stalagtites (develop on roof of a cavern).
The Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark adhere to the UNESCO criteria to celebrate heritage while conserving cultural, biological and geological diversity, and promoting sustainable economic development.
We do this in the following ways:
- Our landscape tells a fascinating geological story that spans over 330 million years.
- Only here can you find an extraordinary botanical combination of Artic, Alpine and Mediterranean flowers growing side by side.
- We have over 3,000 archaeological monuments that record 6,000 years of history.
- We have farming and musical cultural traditions that are thriving and celebrated.
- Local communities feel a deep connection to their landscape, history and culture and have a strong desire to manage this in a sustainable way for the benefit of all.
- The Geopark manages a Code of Practice for Sustainable Tourism Business, which the Burren Ecotourism Network commits to using.
- The Geopark is managed by Clare County Council in partnership with local communities, tourism businesses and organisations and government agencies.
More information is available about the Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark at www.burrengeopark.ie
A very important aspect of UNESCO Global Geoparks programmes is sustainable tourism development. The Burren and Cliffs of Moher already has a very well-developed tourism offering, with the Cliffs of Moher attracting over one million visitors per year and the adjacent Burren having a National Park, visitor centres, managed archaeological sites, numerous walking and cycling trails, top quality food and accommodation and of course, the hugely successful Wild Atlantic Way.
The approach of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark is to work with the tourism sector to develop an ethos and practice of sustainability. With the Burren Ecotourism Network, the Geopark is raising the standard of sustainable practices among tourism businesses across the entire destination of the Geopark and across all types of businesses. To achieve this, we have developed the Geopark Code of Practice for Sustainable Tourism.
The Code of Practice for Sustainable Tourism and its supporting training and mentoring programme is essentially a framework that will allow businesses in a destination to come together to build a sustainable tourism offering, the framework also allows each business that engages in the code to develop an environmental action plan.