8 Burren Walks Worth Conquering (A Guide To Our Favourite Burren Walking Trails)

burren walks guide
Photo left: gabriel12. Photo right: MNStudio (Shutterstock)

The various Burren walks are some of my favourite things to do in Clare.

If you’re not familiar with it, the Burren is one of Ireland’s most naturally beautiful, and unique regions.

It truly feels out of this world at times, with incredible scenery and an almost mystical atmosphere, no doubt linked to its ancient history.

For me, one of the best ways to really experience the Burren is to explore it on foot and, in the guide below, you’ll find my favourite Burren walks. 

Some quick need-to-knows about the various Burren walks

the burren
Photo by Pavel_Voitukovic (Shutterstock)

Before we look at the various Burren walking trails, there are a few, quick, need-to-knows to be aware of. Pay particular attention to the safety notice.

1. Location

Each of the following walks will take you across the Burren, a vast area of unique natural beauty in northwest County Clare.

2. Safety

The Burren covers a vast area of ever-changing scenery. With proximity to both mountains and ocean, the weather is extremely changeable. What starts as a sunny day in the Burren can soon turn into a storm, so be sure to plan ahead and do your research before attempting any of the Burren walks below.

3. An area of immense natural beauty

Covering an area of around 130 sq kilometres, the Burren is home to a vast and varied landscape, characterized by huge slabs of rock known as Karst. The following Burren walking trails take in Atlantic coastlines, moody mountains, ancient forests, bogs, and huge swathes of grassland. 

Our favourite Burren walks

the best Burren walking trails
Photo by DorSteffen (Shutterstock)

The first section of this guide tackles our favourite Burren walks, such as the Black Head Loop and the brilliant Ballyvaughan Wood Loop.

The Burren walking trails below vary in length, terrain and difficulty. I’ll stop yammering on – dive on in!

1. The Black Head Loop

black head loop
Photo by MNStudio (Shutterstock)
  • Where it starts: Fanore Beach
  • Where it finishes: Fanore Beach
  • Length: 26 km (480 m ascent)
  • Difficulty level: Moderate/strenuous
  • Walk type: Loop (7 hours)
  • Map of the walk: See it here

This is one of the tougher Burren walking trails, but a rewarding one, and it’s really well-signed. Covering 26 km of rocky terrain, with several peaks to mount, it requires a decent level of fitness. But the incredible views and fields of wildflowers along the way are well worth the effort. 

Starting along the coast path, you can enjoy gazing out over Galway Bay and the Aran Islands. Next you come across Gleninagh mountain. Following the green lane ways can be tricky at times, as the path narrows and is slightly overgrown. 

The rocky terrain can be hard-going as you climb up the mountain, but the scenery on the top is a superb reward. From there it’s into the Caher Valley, sauntering up and down rolling hills, surrounded by a stunning backdrop, before meandering back to Fanore for a well-deserved pint.

2. Ballyvaughan Wood Loop

Ballyvaughan wood walk
Photo by DorSteffen (Shutterstock)
  • Where it starts: Ballyvaughan town
  • Where it finishes: Ballyvaughan town
  • Length: 8 km
  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Walk type: Loop (2 hours)
  • Map of the walk: See it here

Ballyvaughan is a beautiful little town, famous as a fishing port, and the Victorian capital of County Clare. If you’re staying in town, this is a fantastic little walk to enjoy on a warm day, offering a peek at the mysterious landscape of the Burren.

Starting at the seafront, the trail takes you into the surrounding farmlands, where you’ll see vivid fields of green, divided up by ancient dry stone walls.

There’s also no shortage of cows and horses, so it’s ideal for animal lovers. About midway through the walk you’ll come across the epic Aillwee Caves, which is well worth checking out if you have time!

From here, the trail loops back to Ballyvaughan, taking in fields strewn with the limestone slabs that the Burren is famous for. The scenery on this section is absolutely fantastic!

If you’re in search of short Burren walking trails that pack a punch scenery wise, the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop is worth considering.

3. Caher Valley Loop

Caher Valley walk
Photo by mark_gusev (Shutterstock)
  • Where it starts: Fanore Beach
  • Where it finishes: Fanore Beach
  • Length: 14.5 km (300 m ascent)
  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Walk type: Loop (3 to 4 hours)
  • Map of the walk: See it here

This is a superb walk that takes in a lot of what the Burren has to offer, despite being relatively short. Starting at the Fanore Beach car park, the first section of the walk follows a quiet rural road towards the River Caher. The scenery around the river is absolutely beautiful, and amazingly tranquil.

From here you begin to climb up the valley, on a stunning green lane — arguably the highlight of the walk. It gets pretty steep, but once you crest the hill you’ll be glad you made the effort. The top of the hill features the famous Burren limestone paving, worn down and rugged over the centuries.

Walking on, ocean views open up before you, showcasing the Aran Islands and the glimmering Galway Bay. Before you know it, the route turns downwards, and as you head back down towards the beach on a hot day, the blue sea begins to look increasingly inviting!

4. Carron Loop Walk

Carron Loop
Photo by MNStudio (Shutterstock)
  • Where it starts: Cassidys Pub, Carron village
  • Where it finishes: Cassidys Pub, Carron village
  • Length: 9 km (100 m ascent)
  • Difficulty level: Strenuous
  • Walk type: Loop (4 hours)
  • Map of the walk: See it here

Carron, or sometimes called Carran, is a charming little village in the heart of the Burren, making it the ideal base camp for exploring the area. This looped walk can get pretty tough at times, but for the most part it’s an enjoyable stroll that takes in the amazing scenery of the Burren.

Following narrow rural roads and animal tracks, the route begins to climb up a pretty hefty hill. Vibrant green fields and farms line the first portion of the route, before the famous limestone slabs begin to poke out of the ground.

Leaving the farms behind, the scenery becomes wilder as you ascend the hill, with huge rocky sections to navigate. From the summit you’ll enjoy fantastic views over Clab Valley, before making your way down and heading back into the village for a pint and a meal at Cassidys!

More brilliant Burren walking trails

more great burren walks to try
Photo by luca_photo (Shutterstock)

As you’ve probably gathered at this stage, there are plenty of Burren walking routes that you can head off on.

Now that we have our favourites out of the way, it’s time to look at some other brilliant Burren walks that are worth doing.

1. Carron Turlough Loop

Carron turlough walk
Photo by Gabriela Insuratelu (Shutterstock)
  • Where it starts: Cassidys Pub, Carron village
  • Where it finishes: Cassidys Pub, Carron village
  • Length: 5 km 
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Walk type: Loop (1 and a half hours)
  • Map of the walk: See it here

If you’re looking for some shorter Burren walking trails, this is a good choice, and offers an entirely different experience depending on when you’re visiting.

A Turlough is a seasonal lake, meaning it typically runs dry during the summer months. The turlough on this walk is in fact the largest in Europe.

Following various rural roads, the walk takes you through the mountainous farmlands that the Burren is renowned for. Dry stone walls divide lush green fields from rocky slopes, ensuring a nice mix of scenery and plenty of photo opportunities.

When the turlough is full, it offers an amazing contrast from the green fields surrounding it, while the rocky hills provide an awesome backdrop.

As it dries out, small ‘islands’ appear, until it becomes a damp and boggy hollow in the ground. A truly wonderful walk to enjoy in every season. 

2. The Burren Way

the burren way
Photo by Pavel_Voitukovic (Shutterstock)
  • Where it starts: Lahinch town
  • Where it finishes: Corofin village
  • Length: 114 km (540 m ascent)
  • Difficulty level: Moderate 
  • Walk type: Linear (5-days)
  • Map of the walk: See it here

The Burren Way is a big one and the king of all Burren walks. The 5-day trek showcases the best of the Burren’s varied scenery. Along the way, you’ll encounter no end of amazing attractions, ancient monuments, and stunning landscapes.

The first sections stick largely to the Atlantic coast, walking along the epic Cliffs of Moher as the wild Atlantic crashes 200 metres below. Through seaside towns and fishing villages, you’ll follow a variety of tracks and paths, skirting mountains and covering swathes of rocky fields and plains.

As you head inland, you’ll discover the amazing farmlands and forests, before meandering into the heart of the Burren. Huge slabs of limestone rise from the ground, covering entire meadows, with just wildflowers poking through.

Ancient ring forts, exciting caves, and castles galore await you, along with a warm welcome in the various towns and villages you’ll stop at along the way.

3. Dromore Wood Loop

Dromore wood walk
Photo by luca_photo (Shutterstock)
  • Where it starts: Dromore Wood car park
  • Where it finishes: Dromore Wood car park
  • Length: 6 km
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Walk type: Loop (2 hours)
  • Map of the walk: See it here

This is a fantastic walk that takes in a rich variety of different landscapes along the 6 km route. From ancient woodlands to skirting the shores of Lough Dromore and Lough Garr, before the scenery opens up into pastures and meadows. It’s extremely well-marked and a great choice for all the family.

Along the way, you’ll stumble across the ruins of Dromore Castle and other ancient buildings to explore and marvel at. From the trailhead at Dromore Wood car park, there are a number of other walks to enjoy, many of which are shorter, which can be great for those with young children.

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the way, as the area is home to a diverse array of creatures and birds.

4. Fanore to Ballyvaughan Trek

Fanore to Ballyvaughan walk
Photo by MNStudio (Shutterstock)
  • Where it starts: Fanore Beach
  • Where it finishes: Ballyvaughan town
  • Length: 21 km (350 m ascent)
  • Difficulty level: Strenuous
  • Walk type: Linear (5 to 6 hours)
  • Map of the walk: See it here

This is a superb linear walk that follows a looping green lane around Black Head, before arriving in the charming fishing town of Ballyvaughan. It features a steep climb to the top of the pass at Gleninagh mountain, before leveling out and heading into ancient woodlands.

Along the way you can expect fantastic views across Galway Bay and the Aran Islands, but also get up close and personal with the famous Burren limestone slabs.

The trails are mostly off-road, allowing for a peaceful and relaxing experience. Just be aware that when the wind gets up, it can be pretty hard going up there!

This is another of the Burren walking trails that ends in Ballyvaughan, where you have plenty of options for accommodation, dinner, and a pint or 2. There’s a regular bus from Ballyvaughan to Fanore, so if you’re staying in either, it’s easy enough to do the walk and get a bus back, or vice versa.

Things to do in the Burren if you don’t fancy walking

Poulnabrone Dolmen
Photo by Remizov (shutterstock)

You don’t have to be an avid walker to enjoy all that the Burren has to offer. In fact, there’s a whole treasure trove of things to see and do, and you don’t need to do one of the Burren walking trails above to experience the area at its best.

Some of our favourites include the amazing Aillwee Caves — it’s an incredible experience to explore them, and there’s a great visitor centre and farm there too.

The Burren is awash with ancient sites as well, including numerous ring forts and tombs, including the impressive Poulnabrone Dolmen.

Of course, the Cliffs of Moher are a must, and while you’re in the area, check out Doolin Cave. There are plenty of things to do in Doolin, too, like Doonagore Castle, the brilliant Doolin Cliff walk and lots more.

FAQs about the different walks in the Burren

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from which Burren walks are the easiest to which take in the best scenery.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What are the best Burren walks?

The Black Head Loop, the Carron Loop Walk, the Caher Valley Loop and the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop are four Burren walks that are hard to beat.

What Burren walking trails are the best for a short stroll?

The Carron Turlough Loop (1.5 hours), the Ballyvaughan Wood Loop (2 hours) and the Dromore Wood Loop (2 hours) are some of the shorter Burren walks that are well worth doing.

Andy was once on a glorious worldwide trip on his equally glorious motorcycle. After 4 years, he'd still only made it as far as Eastern Europe, before falling in love with his surroundings and deciding to settle down a while. Nowadays, he spends his time writing about traveling through the places he once explored, normally while sipping a pint.

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