The Burren (meaning “great rock”) in North West Clare, is one of the largest karst landscapes in Europe (approximately 250 square kilometres). Karst is a type of landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks like limestone. Limestone is somewhat soluble in water so corrosive drainage along joints cause fissures called grykes. These are evident throughout The Burren.
It has been said of The Burren that “there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury them”.
Most of the Burren is designated a Special Area of Conservation where the unusual flora and fauna are protected. Uniquely, the area is home to Arctic, Mediterranean and Alpine plants in the same environment and supports many rare Irish species, many of which are not found elsewhere in the country. Some of the unusual species found here include the butterflies Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Brown Hairstreak, Marsh Fritillary and the Wood White, the moths, the Burren Green Calamia tridens, Irish Annulet Odontognophos dumetata and Transparent Burnet the hoverfly Doros profuges and the rare water-beetle Ochthebius nilssoni.
Dwarf shrubs, arctic and alpine plants can be found growing in the grykes. Spring Gentian and a variety of wild orchids are common.
The European Pine Marten is one of the more common mammals.
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The area is studded with ancient monuments and sites from dating back to the Megalithic and Neolithic eras. Possibly the best known is the Poulnabrone dolmen which is a Neolithic portal tomb 5 miles south of Ballyvaughan dating from between 4200 BC and 2900 BC. Also in the area are standing stones, stone forts, ring forts, celtic crosses, old churches and abbeys.
The Burren has long been an area which attracted archaeologists, botanists and geologists and has become a more popular destination in recent years for those seeking to explore the wild landscape of Ireland and to understand the culture, history and traditions of the Irish people.