The Burren’s name derives from the Irish word boireann, meaning “stony place” – an apt description for this massive, desolate plateau that occupies most of the county’s northwest. Its northern and western reaches almost clutch the sea while, to the south and east, the rocks gently slope towards lush green fields. Formed mainly of fissured limestone pavement, pitted by occasional valleys hidden beneath ominous-looking cliffs, The Burren is a thoroughly unworldly place with barely a sign of life. The starkness of the landscape, crisp white in sunlight, deep grey-brown in rainfall, has a primeval allure and remains utterly fascinating. Few now live within its bounds, but many endured this harsh environment in the distant past, leaving relics of their inhabitation. Ancient burial practices are reflected in the abundance of Stone Age monuments, while later residents built ring forts, circular stone dwellings, during the Iron Age, many of which remain in a fine state of preservation. Most of the subsequent medieval Christian remains are scattered around the area’s more fertile fringes.
The area’s coastal outskirts include attractive resorts such as lively Ballyvaughan and tiny Fanore, while inland are the spa town of Lisdoonvarna, famous for its matchmaking festival, and the renowned traditional music village Kilfenora; all make fine bases for investigating The Burren.