The Burren is a region in County Clare, Ireland. It is dominated by karst landscape and measures, depending on the definition, at least 250 square kilometres. The name The Burren is most often applied to the area within the circle made by the villages of Ballyvaughan, Kinvara, Tubber, Corofin, Kilfenora and Lisdoonvarna.
The Burren National Park is one of six National Parks in Ireland and the smallest in size (15 km2). The Burren's many limestone cliffs, particularly the sea-cliffs at Ailladie, are popular with rock-climbers. For cavers, there are a number of charted caves in the area, notably Pollnagollum. Doolin is a popular "base camp" for cavers, and is home to one of the two main cave-rescue stores of the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation.
Image: The Burren
Geography & Geology
The exact extent of the area referred to as The Burren is not clearly defined. The name is generally applied to the limestone uplands of north western Clare, but the borders vary. In the north and northwest it is bounded by Galway Bay and the Atlantic. Although mostly considered to lie in County Clare, geologically the area does extend into County Galway. The Aran Islands are also a geological extension of the limestone hills that make up most of The Burren. The rolling hills of The Burren are composed of limestone pavements with criss-crossing cracks known as "grikes", leaving isolated rocks called "clints".
Flora and fauna
The region supports arctic, Mediterranean and alpine plants side-by-side, due to the unusual environment
The Burren is renowned for its remarkable assemblage of plants and animals. The region supports many rare Irish species, some of which are only found in this area. Others occur in similar karst areas in western Ireland.
Three quarters of Ireland's species of flowers are found in The Burren. The grikes (crevices) provide moist shelter, supporting a wide range of plants including dwarf shrubs. Where the surface of the pavement is shattered into gravel, many of the hardier Arctic or alpine plants can be found, when the limestone pavement is covered by a thin layer of soil, patches of grass are seen, interspersed with herbaceous plants. Among the flowers recorded from The Burren is the spring gentian, an alpine plant with bright blue flowers that are used as a symbol for the area by the tourist board.
Of the more than 30 species of butterflies and moths found in Ireland only two are not present in The Burren. The Burren is one of the main breeding areas in Ireland of the European pine marten. Also present are badgers, foxes and stoats. All seven species of bats present in Ireland can be found in The Burren. Otters live along the coast. Porpoise and dolphins can be spotted off Black Head. The hillsides of The Burren also host herds of feral goats
The Burren National Park is one of six National Parks in the country and is located in the southeastern corner of the region. It is about 1,500 hectares in size and is made up of land purchased by the Irish government to be set aside for conservation purposes.