The Burren takes its name from the Irish word 'bhoireann' meaning, 'a stony place' or 'a rocky place', which is a good description for this 350 sq kilometres limestone plateau in North Clare. The rough, intriguing and attractive landscape was formed 320 million years ago under a tropical sea. Later it was shaped by ice, hard weather and, of course, man and his beasts.
The many wedge tombs and megalithic tombs prove that people have been living in the Burren for more than 5000 years. One of the more famous megalithic tombs, the portal dolmen at Poulnabrone, dates back to around 2,500 BC. 'Dolmen' is Breton for 'table', which is what a dolmen looks like - a large capstone on two or three standing stones. The findings at Poulnabrone showed a hard physical life with a coarse diet for people at that time. Among the 20 to 30 people buried there, only one lived to be 40.
The population density has varied a lot over the centuries and is presently one of the lowest in Ireland. The people in the area were hard hit in the mid 17th century by the Cromwellian army and catholic landowners were evicted from their land in favour of protestant holders.
One of Cromwell's generals, Ludlow, put in words what they thought of the Burren area: 'it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, or earth enough to bury him'.
The Burren may seem lifeless and barren, but that's not the case at all. Here, especially in early spring, you will find a unique mixture of alpine, arctic and Mediterranean plants, growing side by side. There are lots of small rivers and streams, even lakes, feeding the multitude of rare plants and the strong grass for the cattle and sheep to eat all year round. The wildlife is rich, mostly smaller animals, but if you are lucky you may spot one of the big herds of feral goats, or even a pine marten. The character and the colour of the Burren changes with the light, weather and the season - the rocks look steel grey sometimes, other times have a purple hue. Artists always found their way to north Clare and the Burren, many ending up staying.
Everybody that loves the outdoors, botanists, archaeologists, spelaeologists, will find it easy to spend whole days exploring the area and still wanting to come back for the very special experience that the Burren is.