‘The Burren’ is an anglicisation of the Gaelic term ‘An Bhoireann’ which means “a stony place”.

3 Léim an Phúca Beag and Léim an Phúca Mór. 300x225 Facts


The Burren includes most of the north of County Clare and parts of the south east of County Galway. The region covers an area of over 350 square kilometers. It is bounded in the north by Galway Bay, in the west by the Atlantic Ocean, in the south by a line across the villages of Doolin and Kilfenora, and finally in the east by the Gort lowlands.


The Burren is a heritage landscape of international significance. The region boasts an extraordinarily rich geological, botanical and archaeological heritage. The ancient farming practice of transferring cattle to the Burren uplands in winter is intrinsically linked to this wealth of heritage.

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The limestone of the Burren was formed approximately 360 million years ago. However, what is unusual is that huge amounts of the stone have been exposed to the atmosphere over time. The stripping action of the glaciers during the last Ice Age and the unsustainable use of the land by prehistoric farmers have both caused the removal of much of the top soil. The legacy is the most extensive example of exposed limestone pavement in Europe – a rare global landform and one of the most distinct landscapes in Europe. The rock is constantly being dissolved by rainwater thus creating magical features on the surface and in the underground.


The Burren is one of Europe’s most important botanical regions. The region boasts a unique Arctic/Alpine/Mediterranean mélange of wildflowers. Lime-loving plants can be seen growing within centimeters of lime-haters. Some montane flowers thrive at sea level. Native species grow in huge abundance. Renowned author/botanist Dr Charles Nelson has said that “you will not find a similar assembly of plants, representing different climatic zones and habitats growing together anywhere else in Europe”. An equally renowned botanist/author is Bob Gibbons. Gibbons’ most recent book  “The 50 Best Wildflower Sites in the World” (2011) profiles his top 50 botanical regions in the world. The Burren is one of the sites featured.

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Mankind has been impacting upon the Burren landscape ever since the Stone Age farmer arrived in the region approximately 6,000 years ago. In fact the Dingle Peninsula is the only other area in Ireland which can match the Burren for its archaeological wealth. That wealth includes great Stone Age and Bronze Age tombs, fulachta fiadh (outdoor cooking sites), Iron Age hill forts, holy wells, Early Christian ring forts and monastic sites, medieval abbeys and castles and not least the thousands of kilometers of dry stone walls which brilliantly punctuate the landscape. The noted essayist and mapmaker Tim Robinson has described the Burren as “a vast memorial to bygone cultures”.


The Burren is one of the few regions in the world where livestock are transferred to altitude in winter. This farming regime is known as reverse transhumance. Most of the Burren’s geological, botanical and archaeological importance are concentrated in the uplands. The cattle fulfil a critical cultural role in winter. By grazing the uplands they slow down the advance of vegetation and scrub which would otherwise overwhelm the limestone pavement, flowers and monuments. This low intensity farming practice is now known as High Nature Value (HNV) farming.


Rose Mary Finlay, Oranmore County Galway Ireland on 30th of March 2015 at 11:12 pm

Thanks for opening my eyes & ears to the amazing natural beauty & heritage of the Burren. Not only did you make the Burren guided walk interesting but also fun. We hung on your every word. I would not have missed this experience for the world. Keep up the passion for what you do, Tony. It is infectious.

Many thanks – we all thoroughly enjoyed the guided Burren walk and your insightful, highly informative tour. It was most interesting.

Maeve Watson, Bath U.K. on 20th of August 2015 at 11:43 am

Tony Kirby has a lively and creative appreciation for the written and spoken word. He’ll give you gifts of the mind, he’ll give you the secret signs… known to the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone. Of words and tint he will not stint. he’ll give you poems to say… a mighty Burren hike with Tony should be capped with a well earned coffee.

John Shiel, Wonder Lake Illinois U.S.A. on 28th of January 2016 at 1:24 pm

Really enjoyed the Burren walk – it was very informative. I think our trip to the Burren without your company would have been pretty lame to say the least.

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