The Burren – wild flowers and ancient sites
This delightful area of western Ireland is famous for its wild flowers, limestone landscape and fascinating history.
The Burren is known for its unusual collection of plants, ranging from those of the western lowlands of the British Isles to arctic, alpine and mediterranean species. In amongst the limestone pavement grows a fascinating flora including colourful flowers, ferns, miniature trees, and several orchids including local specialities. The limestone ’pavement’ reaches the sea forming an attractive coastline and, to the north, lie the wildlife-rich shores of Galway Bay.
Based in a friendly guesthouse in Lisdoonvarna, we explore both coastal and inland habitats. We will visit the eastern turlough lakes, plant-rich marshes, remote slopes clothed in hazel woodlands, the unique landscape of Mullach Mor mountain and the infamous shores of Galway Bay.
The holiday starts and finishes at our accommodation in Lisdoonvarna so that you can choose to fly or travel by train and ferry from the UK. We can advise on travel and arrange local transfers and flights as needed. You can extend the trip to see more of this lovely part of western Ireland, particularly if you would like to take a day boat trip to the fascinating Aran Islands where Gaelic is still spoken by the inhabitants, or to have a day in Galway.
Amongst the many plants to be found are the ‘Burren’ Rose Rosa pimpinellifolia, Mountain Avens Dryas octopetala, the ‘Burren’ Rockrose Helianthemum canum, Bloody Cranesbill Geranium sanguineum, and numerous orchids. We may be able to catch the last of the season’s Spring Gentian Gentiana verna. As well as the limestone pavement, we will explore bogs and marshes, sand dunes, rocky shores and hazel woodland where ancient history mixes with natural history in a unique way. The holiday is ideal for anyone with a general interest in wildlife as well as the keen botanist. The local hospitality and good local fare are a bonus. We will discover how man has influenced the natural history, and visit sites including megalithic tombs, Iron Age forts and more recent monuments showing their ‘Celtic’ origins.
Download trip report
Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
To be confirmed
To be confirmed
To be confirmed
Seven nights’ accommodation (bed and breakfast), seven evening meals. Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary.
Travel to Lisdoonvarna. Lunches. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Boat trip to Aran Isles and transport to port (c 25-35 euros to nearest island, Inisheer, including transfers to and from port). Gratuities. Travel insurance.
There is plenty of wildlife interest beyond the wild flowers, including butterflies and moths, dragonflies, Irish hare and even pine marten.
Day 1 – We meet at our accommodation in Lisdoonvarna, a small spa town on the edge of the limestone. Our evening meal will be at one of the pleasant local restaurants nearby.
Day 2 – We explore the beautiful area around Poll Salach where limestone pavement stretches out into the sea. In the cracks of the rocks grow many plants including ferns, orchids, Mountain Avens and many dwarfed shrubs and ‘trees’. We hope to find Frog Orchid amongst the many interesting plants growing in the short turf. On Galway Bay we will see shoreland plants and hopefully have views of the seals that breed in the bay.
Day 3 – We drive into the magical and remote area around of Keelhilla on Slieve Carran where we walk across the limestone to a lovely hazel woodland and the remains of a sacred well where St. Colman MacDuagh set up a hermitage in the 7th century. After a late lunch we visit the ruins of Corcomroe Abbey, with ferns and other plants growing on its ancient walls.
Day 4 – We travel east to the saucer-shaped mountain of Mullach Mor and the turloughs of the eastern Burren. The area is famous for several plants including Shrubby Cinquefoil, Potentilla fruticosa, and the Turlough Violet, Viola persicifolia, as well as a myriad of orchids including Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera and Flecked Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza cruenta. On our way back we will stop at the ruins of the ancient cathedral and Celtic crosses at Kilfenora.
Day 5 – Today we visit the Cliffs of Moher, the second tallest sea cliffs in Europe, famous for spectacular views, clifftop flowers and thousands of nesting seabirds. After lunch we visit the enigmatic Poulnabrone Portal Tomb, an area also good for plants, and explore a ‘bog’ to see some of the characteristic plants such as sundews and Marsh Cinquefoil.
Day 6 – Free day. You can take a boat trip to the Aran Isles – it is a half hour sea crossing (c 20-30 euros) to the Isle of Inisheer where a leisurely walk takes you around ancient, walled fields. You can extend the boat trip (or take an separate trip) to visit the seabird colonies of the Cliffs of Moher. A local walk near Lisdoonvarna, a trip to the coast, or a day in Galway (easily accessible by local bus) are also possible.
Day 7 We visit the local ‘bog’ where numerous acid-loving plants grow in the old peat workings. We then explore Fanore Sands where the dunes and seashore have interesting fossils as well as plants. Finally, we travel around Black Head to take in its lovely views of Galway Bay before a slow walk up the lower slopes of Cappanawalla to see large-flowered butterwort, Pinguicula grandiflora.
Day 8 Our holiday finishes after breakfast. Transfers to Shannon airport, Ennis or Galway can be arranged if needed.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
Our accommodation, as usual, will be at Caherleigh House guesthouse in Lisdoonvarna. Our host makes us very welcome and cups of tea are plentiful. Each of the 13 pleasant rooms has an ensuite bathroom (bath or shower).
The cooked breakfasts are delicious. Evening meals are taken in nearby restaurants within a short walking distance, except for one evening when we dine at Ballinalacken Castle, a wonderful Country House Hotel not far from Lisdoonvarna, with views over the coast (transport included). Lunches are not included, allowing choices at local pubs/cafes. Picnic items can be bought locally if wished.
Transport will be by small coach.
The holiday has been designed to allow for different ways of travelling to Lisdoonvarna. You can fly to Ireland or get the train/ferry. Flying to Shannon is one option and we can include a flight if you wish or you can book your own. We can arrange local transfers (shared with others if practical).
Flight options include – Aer Lingus from Heathrow or Edinburgh, Ryan Air from Gatwick, Stansted or Manchester. There are more options if you fly to Dublin and you can then get take the pleasant train journey across Ireland to Ennis or Galway and we can arrange for a transfer from either of these (or you can take the local bus).
You can get the train and ferry to Dublin (via Holyhead) from your local station and combined train/ferry tickets can be purchased at reasonable prices. A good guest house in Dublin can be recommended if needed. Please discuss the travel options with us.
You must have a valid passport for this trip. If travelling by ferry, other identification might be sufficient – please check. Visas are not required by holders of UK/EU passports.
The weather should be warm and mostly sunny, although the UK is always unpredictable and rain possible. We will adapt our itinerary as needed.
Coach journeys are of between 20 to approx 60 minutes. Walks are of varying lengths but not more than about a couple of miles and we walk at a leisurely pace with plenty of time for photography. At some places much can be seen on short, half hour walks but at some sites we will walk for a couple of hours or so. Some of the walking is on limestone pavement and (lightweight) walking boots are essential. There is an optional walk gradually taking us uphill (and down) on one day (about half an hour gently uphill). You need to have a reasonable level of fitness but none of the walking is strenuous.