The Burren

The Burren is a karst landscape in the northwest of Co. Clare, in the west of Ireland. It is internationally recognised as a place of special geological, botanical and archaeological interest. It was officially recognised as such by UNESCO, as part of the Global Geopark initiative (see more here) and National Geographic, as part of their destination awards. As such, it has been the subject of a great deal of scientific inquiry over the years. 


What is there to do on weekends in the Burren?

The Burren has plenty to do on weekends. The world famous Cliffs of Moher are in the geopark and the region is a mecca for surfers, kayakers, cavers, hikers and all other outdoor enthusiasts.

If you are looking for nightlife, the pubs in the Burren, especially Doolin and Lahinch are very lively on the weekends.Galway, Ennis and Limerick are all also only a short bus ride away.

Archaeology in the Burren

In archaeological terms, the Burren's importance was first recognised by antiquarians, most notably Thomas J. Westropp. His compilation of articles from the late 1800s and early 1900s are now available in a book format. Also of interest to those who wish to look at early records are the ordinance survey letters, from 1839.

The first scientific investigations of archaeological remains on the Burren were carried out by the Harvard mission to Ireland, led by Dr Hugh O'Neill Hencken. Hencken excavated two sites on the Burren, Cahercommaun (a very large cliff-edge early medieval cashel) and Poulawack (a Neolithic Linkardstown-type cist with later Bronze Age burials). His work at Poulawack is of particular relevance to our investigations of the Neolithic-Bronze Age transition.    

In the late 1980s Dr Anne Lynch excavated the iconic Poulnabrone portal tomb at the centre of the Burren. The final excavation results were recently published in a wonderfully detailed book and are available through Wordwell publications.

In the 1990s our academic director, Dr Carleton Jones - originally from California, started research on Roughan Hill and the Burren. He has published a book on the archaeology of the Burren and numerous articles, some of which are available through his academia page.

While we are focused on the prehistory of the Burren, our colleagues from NUI Galway, Dr Michelle Comber and Dr Noel McCarthy, are focused on the early medieval period. They also run an international fieldschool, based at Caherconnell

Until recently the remains found at Poulnabrone were the earliest dated archaeological remains from the Burren, however, investigations by Michael and Clodagh Lynch at middens in Fanore (on the northwest coast of the Burren) have confirmed the presence of Mesolithic activity. Michael and Clodagh have also been investigating the Neolithic 'axe factory' at the shore in Doolin.

Dr Stefan Bergh, also of NUI Galway and originally from Sweden, has been investigating upland prehistoric settlements in Ireland for many years. As part of this work he has conducted intensive ground and aerial survey on Turlough Hill, an enigmatic prehistoric site on the northeast edge of the Burren uplands. This year our field director, Dr Ros Ó Maoldúin, and Dr Noel McCarthy, successfully won Royal Irish Academy funding to archaeologicallyinvestigate some of the remains that Dr Bergh identified. The results are currently being collated....