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 Dense-flowered Orchid, Narrow-leaved Marsh Orchid and the snowy-white O’Kelly’s Orchid. The limestone ’pavement’ reaches the sea forming an attractive coastline and, to the north, lie the wildliferich shores of Galway Bay.
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. Nearby are the stunning Cliffs of Moher, the second tallest sea cliffs in Europe and home to Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemot and Black Guillemot. As well as botanical treasures, there are often good numbers of butterflies and dragonflies to be seen. The Burren also boasts an historical heritage dating from the Neolithic and we will visit historic sites, such as Poulnabrone Dolmen Tomb and Corcomroe Abbey.
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. On the free day, you can take a day’s boat trip to visit the Aran Isles where Gaelic is still spoken by the inhabitants. On the return, the boat trip can be extended to see the nesting seabirds at the Cliffs of Moher.
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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.
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 walk up the slopes of Cappanawalla to see Large-flowered Butterwort Pinguicula grandiflora and enjoy views over Galway Bay. In the afternoon, we will visit Fanore Sands to explore the dunes and seashore with its interesting fossils.
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.
We will be staying at the comfortable Caherleigh Guest House in Lisdoonvarna. Our host makes us very welcome, with cups of tea and afternoon scones often to be seen. Each of the 13 pleasant rooms has an en suite bathroom (shower, some baths).
Breakfasts will be taken at the guest house (the cooked breakfasts are delicious!), with evening meals in nearby restaurants/pubs, including an evening at Ballinalacken Castle, a wonderful Country House Hotel not far from Lisdoonvarna with views to the coast. Lunches are not included, to allow for a variety of choices at local pubs or cafes. Picnic items can be bought locally if preferred.
Transport will be by small coach.
The holiday has been designed to allow for different ways of travelling to Lisdoonvarna. You can fly to Shannon (or Dublin with train/bus) or get the ferry/train from the UK. Please see the Travel Information sheet for this holiday. Flights to Shannon and transfers to the accommodation can be included if you wish.
The weather should be warm and mostly sunny, although the weather in the British Isles is always unpredictable and rain is possible. We will adapt our itinerary to the weather.
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.