Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
I hope that you had a chance to tune in to my QVC live stream from Bunratty folk park yesterday. As the day was promised to be lovely I headed for County Clare a few hours before the event so that I could bring you to visit the Burren .
A visit to the Burren is like stepping out of reality, this is the most amazing landscape that I have ever seen, its almost like being on the moon as it’s harsh and inhospitable – yet it yields some amazing plant life, animal habitats , archaeology and history .
The Burren is located about 40 drive minutes north of Bunratty , so let’s jump in the car and head out there and as we go along let me tell you a little about this place .
The Burren is generally applied to the limestone uplands of north western Clare, an area of around 250 square kilometres . It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Galway Bay on the other. The whole area has an unusually temperate climate for western Ireland and has one of the longest growing seasons in Ireland and supports diverse and rich plant growth.
Let’s chat about the geology. The area is formed mainly from limestones which are up to 800 metres thick. However, it was largely stripped away by glaciers and an amazing landscape emerged with deep crevices and extensive caves below the surface . In fact, there are the famous Alwee caves in the region and they are well worth a visit when you are next down here .
As for wildlife The Burren is renowned for its remarkable range of plants and animals and over 70% of Ireland’s species of flowers are found there. There are more than 20 species of butterflies and moths found here as well as pine martins, badgers, foxes and stoats. The hillsides of the Burren also host herds of feral goats. Also, a wide range of bird species are found in the Burren, including crows , falcons, kestrels and a whole host of smaller birds.
As we drive along the narrow roads we can see the barren landscape all around us. We can park for a moment and get out to see this jaw dropping scenery and take a closer look at the little stone walls that are built all around us . At least there is no shortage of stones !!!
A few miles further down the road is the most photographed dolmen in Ireland – the famous Poulnabrone Dolmen. There is a handy car park nearby so we can walk out onto the Burren itself to get a closer look.
Now the Poulnabrone dolmen is an unusually large portal tomb. It’s situated on one of the most desolate and highest points of the region and comprises of three standing portal stones supporting a heavy horizontal capstone. It dates to the Neolithic period , probably between 4200 BC and 2900 BC.
The dolmen was built by Neolithic farmers who chose the location either for ritual, as a territorial marker, or as a collective burial site. What remains today is only the “stone skeleton” of the original monument, originally it would have been covered with soil and its flagstone capped by a cairn.
When the site was excavated in 1986 and again in 1988, around 33 human remains, including those of adults, children were found buried underneath it along with various stone and bone objects. Both the human remains and the burial objects date to between 3800 BC and 3200 BC.
As we walk around the dolmen let’s take our eyes off the monument and look downwards into the crevices in the stone and see the plant life that survives virtually out of sight .. quite amazing !! Take a look at the way that the stone has been eroded into these amazing patterns – we could spend the whole day here !
Time is against us so best we jump back in the car. I have one more place to show you before we head home.
Situated a few miles further along and just on the edge of the Burren near the town of Kilfenora is Leamaneh Castle. It’s located just beside the road and is not open to the public but well worth a stop to have a look !
It consists of a ruined 15th-century Tower house and a 17th-century mansion. The castle was originally built around 1480 for the O’ Brien family , one of the last of the High Kings of Ireland. It passed through various generations until the 1600’s when it was owned by Maire Ni Mahon who became one of the most famous women in Irish folklore who, due to her flaming red hair, and was commonly known as Máire Rúa (“Red Mary”). She is said to have had at least three husbands and had a foul temper. There are countless stories of her fierce manner and her exploits and nowadays it is said that her ghost still wanders around the ruins of the castle . Sounds like she was quite a character !!
Time to head back to Bunratty. I do hope that you enjoyed coming to the Burren with me today. We are busy bees in our workshop preparing orders for St Patrick’s Day and have some unbeatable offers over on our site at www.connemaramarble.com