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The Burren

Tourist Guide > Places of Interest > The Burren

The Burren in its sparce and lonely beauty.



Example of the Burrens's Plants
 

In northern County Clare, the Burren region is an extraordinary place. Miles of polished limestone karst stretch in every direction, and settlements along the coast are few; they include the popular Irish music centre of Doolin and the attractive coastal village of Ballyvaughan. Underground caverns, cracks, springs and chasms are the major features of the Burren, which is ringed by caves. Flora includes a bizarre mix of Mediterranean, Arctic and Alpine plants, and the region is the last bastion of the rare pine marten. In Stone Age times, the Burren was covered in soil and trees and supported quite large numbers of people.
 
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At least 65 megalithic tombs remain from this time; however, the vegetation was destroyed in this early version of land clearing, resulting in today's eroded limestone mass. Iron Age stone forts (known as ring forts) dot the Burren in prodigious numbers, and castle ruins add a touch of medieval mystery. Unpaved, green roads crisscross the region, reaching the most remote places; they date back many thousands of years.

 

 

Ailwee Mountain
Caves Entrance

The Aillwee Caves

Nestling unobtrusively within the Burren, and just 4 miles from Ballyvaughan, is the Aillwee Caves. These were discovered in the 1940's by a local farmer while out flocking sheep.. Remains of brown bears and indentations of the bear pits were discovered not far from the entrance. Bears have been extinct in Ireland for thousands of years so this find caused some excitement. The caves were eventually taken over by a business consortium and excavated extensively to allow safe passageway through them. They now extend into the mountain for over one third of a mile and the journey shows some magnificent stalagmite and stalagtite formations, one of which is an impression of 'the praying hands'. Waterfalls appear along the route and the temperature remains a constant 40F. all year round.

 

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