The Burren National Park is one of the most popular places to visit in Clare, and for good reason!
The Burren National Park is an amazing place to visit, and offers some of the most unique, and majestic landscapes in all of Ireland.
Home to a wealth of incredible attractions, from Poulnabrone Dolmen to the Aran Islands (yes, they’re in Galway, but they’re part of the Burren), there’s endless things to see here.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from facts about the Burren National Park to places to visit. We’ve also popped in a map of the Burren with the attractions plotted!
Some quick need-to-knows about the Burren National Park
Although a visit to the Burren National Park is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
You’ll find the Burren in County Clare in south-west Ireland, where it’s home to several little towns and villages and hundreds of things to see and do.
The Burren is a vast area of more than 250 sq km that stretches out as far as the Aran Islands. The Burren National Park covers a smaller area of around 1,500 hectares.
The Burren itself is free to visit, however, there are a number of fee-paying attractions (e.g. the Aillwee Caves) where you’ll have to pay to enter.
Things to do in the Burren National Park
The Burren National Park is full of amazing things to see and do. It really is worth spending a good amount of time in the area to fit in as much as possible.
Below, you’ll find some of our favourite things to do in the Burren, from hikes and walks to scenic drives and much more.
1. The Burren scenic drive
Following a figure of 8, the Burren scenic drive is a fantastic way to see the area if you only have a day to explore.
Covering 100-miles, the route takes you into the heart of the Burren National Park, with endless opportunities to stop off along the way to enjoy the views and visit the attractions.
Starting and ending in the beautiful fishing town of Ballyvaughan, you can complete the drive at your own pace. Some split it between several days, stopping off in various villages along the way to take on a hike.
Alternatively, cover the distance in a long day of non-stop spectacular scenery that ranges from cliff top views out to the Ocean, to mountain passes amid the mysterious limestone pavements. Here’s a a route to follow on Google Maps.
2. Fanore Beach
The village of Fanore is a popular stop off point in the Burren, and Fanore Beach is arguably among its biggest draws.
A long, sandy, life-guarded beach that is safe for swimming, what could be better? It’s also a popular spot for surfing and other water sports, while anglers can enjoy casting off and reeling in something exciting.
Fanore village is home to a lively pub and restaurant, so after a hard day of relaxing on the beach, you’ll also have a superb place to sink a pint or two over a good meal.
3. Poulnabrone Dolmen
The Poulnabrone Dolmen is a fascinating site and one of the best preserved and largest examples of a portal tomb in the world.
Featuring three immense standing stones, covered by an even larger capstone, it’s believed to date back to the neolithic period.
Excavations carried out in the 1980s revealed 33 human skeletons, including male and female adults and children. Most of the remains date back to between 3,800 and 3,200 BC, and were discovered with various items and objects.
It’s an amazing sight, set amid the moody limestone karst of the Burren — you can find out more about it at the Clare Museum in Ennis.
4. Aillwee Caves
The Aillwee Caves are a must-visit if you’re in the Burren. Close to the town of Ballyvaughan, they’re easy to walk or drive to. The caves are believed to be more than a million years old, and feature stalactites, stalagmites, an underground waterfall, and the bones of perhaps the last Irish brown bears.
It’s possible to visit a section of the caves yourself — an amazing experience! It’s cramped and craggy, but also really interesting! In fact, you might recognize it — the famous ‘Very Dark Caves’ from the famous Father Ted episode was filmed here. As well as the caves, there’s a lovely little cafe, and also a bird of prey centre.
5. The Burren Way
The Burren Way is a linear, 5-day walk that takes you across vast swathes of the iconic Burren landscape. It takes in a wealth of attractions, including the Cliffs of Moher, ancient ring forts and tombs, castles, ruins, and much more. Along the way, the scenery varies from cliff top paths and farmlands, to ancient woods and rocky mountain sides.
The walk starts on the Atlantic coast in the village of Lahinch and ends in the inland village of Corofin. You can complete the walk as a guided tour or on your own terms, and there’s no need to do it all in one bash. In fact, it’s a great walk for breaking up into smaller chunks, giving yourself more time in the magical villages and towns you’ll stay in along the way.
6. Doolin Cave
Doolin Cave is another must-visit, just a few kilometres from the Cliffs of Moher. Delving more than 200 feet underground, you’ll wander through narrow passages before emerging in a huge cavern. Here hangs the ‘Great Stalactite’, the largest in Europe at a whopping 7.3 metres long and an estimated 10-tonnes.
Hanging like a huge, naturally-formed chandelier, it’s an immense sight to behold, and knowledgeable guides will discuss how it came to be over the course of millions of years. A fascinating and educational attraction, there’s also a visitor centre, as well as a farmyard nature trail.
7. Father Ted’s House
Anyone who has seen the show will surely love to visit the famous Parochial house, once home to Ted, Dougal, and Jack. If you’re not a fan of the show, watch it, and you soon will be!
The good news is that you don’t have to set sail for Craggy Island to get there either. In fact, you’ll find Father Ted’s House right here in the Burren.
It can be difficult to find, but check out our handy guide to find the way! It’s a private house, but it is possible to book afternoon tea, and even a tour.
8. The Burren Smokehouse
Smoked salmon is a delicious treat, and if you’re a fan, a visit to the Burren Smokehouse will be right up your street. This is where some of the tastiest smoked salmon in Ireland (probably the world!) is produced. Inside you’ll learn all about how it’s done and see the tools that are used. But best of all, you’ll get to smell the process in action.
As you go through the door, oak smoke fills your nostrils, while artisans work to create sublime flavours. There’s a tasting room too, so you’ll get to try it for yourself — absolutely stunning! The family-run smokehouse also has an on-site shop, so you can take some home with you at the end.
9. The Burren Perfumery
The Burren is awash with artisans, keeping the old traditions and techniques alive and producing amazing, hand-crafted products.
Taking inspiration from the surroundings, the team at the Burren Perfumery create a wide array of top quality cosmetics and perfumes. Everything is made on-site, by the hands of their small team of local staff.
It’s an amazing place to visit, and even if you’re not much into perfume, you’ll be fascinated at how the team works. You’ll be given a free guided tour, taking a sneak peek at the goings-on behind the scenes. Afterwards, head to the tearoom for a freshly baked pastry and a cup of organic tea.
10. Caherconnell Stone Fort and Sheepdog Demonstrations
This medieval stone ring-fort still stands tall and has been amazingly well-preserved, despite the rough conditions of the area.
Dry stone walls 3-metres thick and 3-metres tall still stand strong, outlining the original structure and creating an impressive sight. With the surrounding limestone slabs and fields of hardy wildflowers, it’s almost magical.
Besides the main fort, the ruins of several smaller structures can be found inside and out, making this a fantastic place to explore. Unusually, it’s also the premier location for sheepdog demonstrations and trails, with regular events.
11. Cliffs of Moher
One of the most popular attractions in the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher stretch for around 8 km, towering up to 200 metres above the wild Atlantic Ocean. Safe, paved cliff top paths allow you to walk along them, with incredible views out to sea and across to the Aran Islands. But the rocks and cliffs themselves take centre stage here.
Immense and rugged, they’ve inspired generations of artists, attracting tourists since before tourism was a thing. In more recent times, they’ve featured in numerous movies and TV-shows. The new visitor centre boasts an array of exhibits and displays, shining a light on the mysteries of the majestic landscape.
12. Doonagore Castle
Like something out of a fairy tale, Doonagore Castle stands tall and proud amid the mighty Burren landscape. Not far from Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher, it’s worth stopping by for a peek at the beautifully restored tower. Jutting out atop a hill, it’s hard to miss, and the surrounding countryside takes in rolling hills and the Atlantic Ocean.
The castle is privately owned, so you can’t visit it or take a tour. However, it makes for a great photo-op and well worth checking out if you’re passing by.
13. The Aran Islands
The incredible Aran Islands are arguably one of the most overlooked places to visit in the Burren, but they’re well worth a visit.
You can stay on each of the islands and they’re easily reached from Doolin, Rossaveal and, as of 2021, Galway City.
A map of the Burren with attractions
Above, you’ll find a Burren map with each of the attractions we mentioned earlier plotted out (just click a blue dot to see what it is).
The map includes everything from the Aran Islands and the National Park to Father Ted’s house and much, much more.
Burren National Park facts
The Burren National Park is a fascinating area, steeped in history and with an almost magical atmosphere.
Moody and mysterious, the rugged landscape seems out of this world at times, but there are a fair few things we do know about it. Here are some curious facts:
Fact 1: Size
At 15 sq km, the Burren is the smallest of Ireland’s 6 national parks. Having said that, the actual area referred to as the Burren covers a far vaster region. While the boundaries aren’t really known, estimates put the area at anywhere between 250 and 560 square kilometres.
Fact 2: Meaning of the name
The word Burren comes from the Irish word ‘Boireann’, which roughly translates to ‘rocky place’ or ‘the great rock’.
Fact 3: Famous for
While the area is famed for its rocks, there’s an abundance of vegetation that manages to survive in the area, including wildflowers, herbs, grasses, and more. In fact, cattle and livestock have managed to survive, and indeed thrive on the nutritious grasses grown in the Burren for centuries.
Fact 4: Highest point
At 207 metres high, Knocknanes Hill is the highest point in the Burren National Park.
Fact 5: Grikes
The Burren is famous for its huge slabs of limestone pavements. These are crisscrossed with fissures known as grikes, brought about during a long, slow period of glacial activity. Within the grikes, a huge array of plants can be found, native to areas as varied as the Arctic, the Mediterranean, and the alpine regions of Central Europe.
Fact 6: Beneath the Burren
There’s plenty to see below the Burren, with numerous cave systems tunneling deep underground.
Fact 7: Wildlife
The wildlife of the Burren is amazingly diverse, with everything from badgers, minks, otters, and stoats, to lizards, eels, salmon, and owls, to name a few. There are also many rare species of butterflies, beetles, moths, and other insects that call the Burren home.
FAQs about visiting the Burren in Ireland
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from if you can drive through the Burren National Park to what there is to see.
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.
1. What is the Burren famous for?
Famed for its craggy landscape made up of huge slabs of limestone known as Karst, the Burren is a wonder to behold. The Burren actually translates to ‘a rocky place’, and the limestone pavements are a testament to this. However, the park is home to diverse scenery, taking in woodlands, farms, lakes, turloughs, cliffs, and meadows.
2. What can you do at the Burren?
The Burren is a fantastic area to explore on foot, and there are countless marked paths and trails to choose from. However, there are plenty of sites to visit, including the Cliffs of Moher, numerous castles, holy springs, ancient ruins and caves. And, don’t forget the amazing towns and villages dotted throughout the area!
3. Can you drive through the Burren?
The Burren is crisscrossed with rural roads that anyone can drive along. Indeed, there’s a 100-mile scenic loop drive that takes you through the epic landscape, taking in all the major attractions.
4. Is the Burren free to visit?
It’s free to visit the Burren National Park, and it’s open all-year-round. It’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll need to pay to enter some of the attractions, but there are plenty more that are free.
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.