View lookin north over Galway Bay from near Ballyvaughan. We can see Irish history that stretches back over 800 years. In the foreground is the ruin of Corcomroe Abbey, which dates from the early 13th Century. In the middle distance is Shanmuckinish Castle built c1450 and in the distance you can just see the Martello tower at Finvarra built in 1810.
As anyone knows who follows my blog I love the Burren. I have posted on it many times and, honestly, I thought if I posted anymore I’d just be repeating myself. But the more I discover it the more the exact opposite has happened. It truly entangles you, drawing you in as if under a spell and you just want to to dig deeper. A bit like fiddle playing really. The more you play the more you want to play. You never get sick of it.
The Burren seems larger than it really is. Indeed at 250 square km it occupies less than 10% of Clare and is smaller than the area of the City of Dublin. But when you are there its scale is deceptive. It has a majesty that affects everyone and has been inspiring its inhabitants for millenia. Within this area is a natural endowment and cultural endowment as rich as any place on the planet.
Underneath it all is a simple but unique geology. Just one rock – limestone, laid down in tropical seas in the Carboniferous Period about 240 million years ago. Limestone is rich in calcium carbonate. This simple fact combined with an extensive period of glaciation, then the etching of the land by rain water has resulted in special landscape and one of the best examples of karst topography in the world. And a superb place to view the effects of glaciation to boot.
This one of a kind combination and its location on the Gulf Stream has moulded its people and the land ever since. There are so many surprising paradoxes here that are a product of an environment that is both harsh and welcoming to those who can adapt. This is seen in every facet of the Burren world.
Recently I have visited the Burren again and again. In this upcoming series of blogs I will tell some of the stories of this personal journey. I will look closer at its rocky heart and what this geology means, I will look at the world below ground and on its rocky surface. I will look at the arrival of man and the incredibly rich built heritage that spans at least five millenia, I will look at the trove of different ecosystems that has resuted in the richest and most diverse plant assemblages in Ireland and I will look at the human struggle and man’s ongoing battle with the land.
As a geologist I bring my own perspective but I am by no means an expert in any of the things I will talk about here. This as a personal account of what I have found and I will let my camera tell most of the story. They will be essentially photo essays. If you want to dig deeper there are plenty of great books and websites that can fill in the gaps.
Most of these ‘Stories’ have already been posted on my Facebook page but I wanted to bring them together here. Here goes.
Proceed to Burren Story #1