The Burren covers a 360 square kilometre area in north Clare and south-east Galway on the west coast of Ireland. While the specific boundaries of The Burren may be vague the most accepted definition of the Burren today is that of the map maker and writer Tim Robinson
” The Burren is bounded to the north by Galway Bay and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Its southern confines stretch eastwards from Doolin to Corofin. The eastern boundary of the region runs from Corofin north to Gort. The region is less than 1% of the surface of the Republic of Ireland.”
The Burren’s name finds it’s origin in the Gaelic place name An Bhoireann which appropriately means ” a place of rock “. The Burren is home to a rare and precious landform called karst. Karst is a landscape where the rock (usually though not always limestone) has been exposed to the atmosphere and is being chemically dissolved by rainwater. The Burren is home to 18,000 hectares (45,000 acres) of limestone pavement – one of Europe’s most distinctive landscapes. The region is of real international significance for its geology. The botany of The Burren is also notable for it’s stunning abundance of flowers and the unique combination of plants from different habitats and climate zones co-mingling together. The peak blooming season in May and June draws a significant number of visitors who come to appreciate the Arctic / Alpine / Mediterranean floral medley that is a unique facet of The Burren.
The Burren is also an exceedingly rich cultural landscape. There are approximately 2,000 recorded archaeological monuments in the region thus making the Burren one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the north-west of Europe. The renowned Connemara-based cartographer and essayist Tim Robinson has described the region as being “a vast memorial to bygone cultures”. The oldest evidence of mankind is artefacts dating from the Mesolithic period (7000-4000 B.C.) – the hunter/gatherer period which preceded farming.
Whilst the geology, botany and archaeology have been celebrated for decades, it is only in very recent times that the region’s unusual agricultural practice has been recognised. The Burren is the only region in the cool temperate world where livestock are transferred to altitude in winter (“reverse transhumance”). The cool, temperate world is defined as north of the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees N) and south of the Arctic Circle (66 degrees N).
Science has now concluded that this low-intensity farming regime has an intrinsic link to the region’s wealth of heritage. The cattle manage the montane landscape perfectly by eating ultra-competitive grasses. Moreover, they naturally fertilise the soil with their droppings and lastly they also slow down the advance of scrub. Scrub (primarily hazel) is the ecological succession in the limestone pavement areas when under grazing sets in. Whilst the hazel is native, it covers the pavement, out shades the wild plants and occludes the monuments.
30 of Ireland’s 32 butterfly species. 70 of Ireland’s 72 land snail species. 700 of Ireland’s 1,000 wild flowers. 75 of the Ireland’s 512 Stone Age wedge tombs. 18,000 hectares of a rare global landform. Rich and varied wild life and…. one of the scarcest creatures in the world that we know of – a black water beetle Octhebius Nilssonii with white spots…and on it goes…
Tar chugainn go bhfeice sibh! Come and see!
The Burren Life Programme is a model for sustainable agriculture in the Burren in order to conserve the remarkable biodiversity of the region whilst ensuring farming remains profitable. The principal threat to the region is scrub invasion caused by under grazing (decline of the transhumance tradition).
The Programme was joint winner of a very prestigious European Union Green Award in the nature and biodiversity category in 2017 – institutional recognition of the fact that the Burren Programme is one of the very best of the 4,300 projects which the Union has supported over the last 25 years.