In the Burren

“No water to drown, no tree to hang, no earth to bury.”

one of Oliver Cromwells military commanders

Oliver Cromwell’s characterization of the Burren is clearly military. The exclusive view of the possibilities of killing obscures – as always – the view of life, which the supposed wasteland of the karst landscape offers in astonishing diversity.

330 million years ago, when the hard coal of the Ruhr area still existed in the form of tropical forests, the area of today’s Burren in the west of Ireland was a shallow, warm sea in which forests of crinoids grew and where brachiopods (relatives of the mussels) and snails lived on coral reefs, which remained on the shallow sea floor after their death and were covered by further sediments. The sediments were sunk and deformed in the course of geological time; limestone was formed, which was finally lifted above the earth’s surface again – the former living creatures are still visible today in the form of fossils in the rock.

Crinoids in limestone

Limestone erodes quickly, water dissolves it, creating channels, caves and underground drains. Brooks and rivers that form on the surface seep away quickly, and lakes fill up only briefly after heavy and prolonged rainfall and then dry up again. Thus, only a few plants are able to survive in the karst. These attract some insect species, which in turn are followed by birds such as wagtails, wheatears and lark. Also wild goats live in the Burren.

We want to get to know this landscape so untypical for the “Green Island”. From the Burren National Park Information Point in Corofin a free shuttle bus starts to the heart of the Burren, where we start on a well marked path into the pale landscape. Limestone plateaus increasingly dominate ferns, yews and hazelnut bushes. We walk through walls built of limestone by whomever at narrow passages and are surprised that the quite narrow walls do not simply fall down in the ever stronger wind. Probably it is because of the fact that the narrow sides of the stones point outward and leave again and again place for the wind whistling through. We pass a lake whose colour changes from a pale green at the soon to be slandered edge to a dark blue at its deepest point where it slowly but surely seeps into the ground.

Karst plateau in the Burren
The paths are well marked

The higher we get, the more stormy it gets. I have long since pulled the hood of my jacket over my cap, which would otherwise have lifted off by now. If I turn against the wind, I feel like Kate Winslet on the Titanic (only that she has the better figure). Finally we arrived at the highest point of our tour, the Mullagh More, from where we soon turn east, away from the wind, which has long since assumed storm strength. Below a heel we take a sheltered rest with a view of the freely eroded stratification of the next karst peak.

In the meantime the clouds have condensed, the descent brings storm, rain and that from the front. But what the hell. In Ireland after rain soon no rain comes again. And the still strong wind soon dries everything that got wet before.

Total distance: 7.8 km
Max elevation: 175 m
Min elevation: 29 m
Total climbing: 179 m
Total descent: -178 m
Download file: Burren.gpx

Translated with

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.