And Now For Something Completely Different

On this Bank Holiday Monday, some photographs of one of Ireland’s great natural wonders: the Burren, County Clare. For those unfamiliar with the place, it covers some 200 square miles in the north-west of the county and is notable for being covered by sedimentary rock, primarily limestone, giving the Burren the appearance at times of a lunar landscape. 

Much of the Burren is uninhabited, and uninhabitable, given the scarcity of vegetation or large areas of soil on which crops might be grown. At the same time, this part of the country has clearly supported human activity for millennia, as is testified by the many miles of stone walls that can be seen wending their way across the successive vistas. On the other hand, the Burren has long provided grazing for livestock, notably cattle and goats. What sets the region apart, especially at this time of year, is its extraordinary variety of flora, with more than 70 per cent of Ireland’s flower species found there, and many other plants found nowhere else in the country. These can often be discovered growing in the grikes, or fissures, of the limestone where moisture is also found. 

Scattered around the Burren are the remains of a number of mediaeval monastic settlements and tower houses, indicating that despite the relative poverty of the region it still sustained settlements across the centuries. Today, tourism is probably the most important source of income for anyone living in the area, but much of that activity tends to be confined to a handful of towns and sites such as the Cliffs of Moher and it is easy to leave these behind and explore the greater part of the Burren without seeing anyone else. It is at such times that the strange, sculptural beauty of the place can best be appreciated.