The Burren - Cliffs of Moher Tourist Attraction in Ireland, Things to Do in Ireland | Ireland’s most visited natural attraction

The Burren has been welcoming visitors since the early 1850’s, when the first hotels were built around the Lisdoonvarna spa wells.   Today, it is an internationally recognised sustainable tourism destination.  The Burren Ecotourism Network celebrated 10 years of working together in March 2021 and are winners of the 2021 Lonely Planet “Best in Travel” award for Community Tourism. The Burren Ecotourism Network represents a wide range of tourism enterprises who have adopted the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark Code of Practice in Sustainable Tourism. Our internationally renowned caves, award-winning Burren Food Trail, Island Ferries and Cliff Cruises, Interpretative Centres and excellent accommodation work together and with the UNESCO Global Geopark to ensure the sustainable development of our communities, environment, and heritage.  Find out more about where to stay, where to dine, what to do and our commitment to sustainability on www.burren.ie.   Visit the Burren, stay another night!

What is the Burren?

  • The Burren is a region in the North of County Clare and East of County Galway and is approximately 360 square kilometres in size.
  • The word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place.
  • The Burren is internationally famous for its rocky landscape, unusual combination of flora, thousands of archaeological sites and unique farming traditions.
  • Because of these unusual features, most of the Burren is designated by the European Union as a Special Area of Conservation.
  • The Burren National Park is in the South-eastern corner of the Burren and is approximately 15 square kilometres in size. The land was bought by the Irish Government for nature conservation and public access.
  • The Burren in Co. Clare is also designated a UNESCO Global Geopark.

Top Geology Facts

  • The rocks of the Burren were formed in a shallow tropical sea near the equator around 330 million years ago.
  • The layers of rock that make the Cliffs of Moher were formed by rivers flowing into a sea, creating a huge delta like the Mississippi delta.
  • The cracks in the limestone and the curves of the layers on Mullaghmore Mountaun in the Burren National Park were formed by a plate tectonic collision almost 300 million years ago.
  • During the last Ice Age 200m thick flowing ice sheets shaped the valleys and hills of the Burren.
  • The Burren is called a Karst landscape. Karst is created where limestone is dissolved by acidic rain and groundwater. This wears away the rock and forms caves, so most of the water is underground.

 

Top Flora & Fauna Facts

  • The Burren has over 70% of Ireland’s native flowers and is the only place in the world where arctic plants and alpine plants grow beside Mediterranean plants.
  • The Burren has 23 of Ireland’s 27 native orchid species.
  • There are several thousand feral goats in the Burren, both modern breeds of goat and some rare breeds of Old Irish goat.
  • The Burren has over 70 species of land snail because of the shell-building calcium carbonate in the limestone rock.
  • 28 of Ireland’s 30 native butterfly species are found in the Burren, with two species (the pearl bordered fritillary and the brown hairstreak) special to this area.

 

Top Historical Facts

O'Brien's Tower 2019

  • The first inhabitants of the Burren arrived sometime before 6,000 years ago.
  • Around 5,500 years ago settlers in the Burren started building large stone megalithic (‘giant stone’) tombs. The oldest megalithic tomb is Poulnabrone portal tomb.
  • The Burren has the densest concentration of Christian religious sites and stone forts built by farmers in Ireland which were built between 400 AD to 1200 AD.
  • Over 20 tower houses or castles are found in the Burren, built between 1200 to 1600 AD. These were the homesteads of the most powerful families in the region.
  • During the famine in the 1840’s, several ‘famine roads’ were built under relief works schemes. Most of the wonderful stone walls were built in the early 20th century.

 

BURREN ECOTOURISM NETWORK

The Network aims to be a recognisable network of enterprises in the Burren, who have achieved independent accreditation, demonstrate ecotourism ‘best practice’, positively discriminate in each other’s favour, provide ‘one voice’ representation on issues impacting the Burren (where appropriate), and inspire conservation activism.

Both organisations are committed to the promotion of responsible tourism that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.

The Burren Ecotourism Network work together to promote ‘The Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark’ as a leading sustainable visitor destination, celebrated for high standards in visitor experience, conservation, and learning.

When planning your visit to the Burren check out burren.ie for all the information you need to experience all the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark has to offer. You won’t be disappointed!!

Sustainable Tourism and the Geopark Code of Practice

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.

 

One of Ireland’s most famous sights, the Cliffs of Moher are entirely vertical and the cliff edge is abrupt. On a clear day the views are tremendous, with the Aran Islands etched on the waters of Galway Bay. From the cliff edge you can just hear the booming far below as the waves crash and gnaw at the soft shale and sandstone.

With a due-west exposure, sunset is the best time to visit.

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