The Burren in County Clare is a region that encompasses 360km2 of gently inclined plateau with a further 200km2 of lowland to the east of the plateau.
The limestone also has a landscape in miniature etched into exposed slabs of rock. The bare surfaces are fretted with hollows and channels where acidic rainwater has selectively dissolved the rock. An extreme example of these micro landforms occurs on the coast.
Often described as a natural landscape, the Burren has been profoundly influenced by human activities. Early removal of the natural woodland induced soil erosion, enlarging the exposure of the underlying limestone. Ecological diversity is one of the great attractions of the Burren, a remarkable profusion that is now under intense pressure.
More than 700 different flowering plants and ferns have been recorded in the Burren. Thus, although the Burren represents only 1% of the land-mass of Ireland, 75% of the Irish native species are contained in the area.
The Burren is a region of outstanding significance in an international context in terms of its geology, geomorphology, natural history and archaeology. Most of the area has been designated as a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive.
The people of the Burren welcome visitors to Ireland''s most extraordinary landscape. The Burren may look rugged, but it is also a fragile place and is always under threat from increased human activity. The limestone pavement, flora and built heritage are the resources on which tourism in The Burren thrives. Respecting and conserving this resource is extremely important.
There is a Burren Code, and by following it, visitors can help protect the limestone pavement, plants and built heritage of this irreplaceable ‘fertile rock’.