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Geology Rocks!

Deep in the heart of the Burren, decorated by colorful Flora and visited by different Fauna lies Aillwee Mountain. The Burren landscape is unique to Ireland and famous for its rocky landscape and thousands of archaeological sites. The most well-known of these sites hidden under Aillwee Mountain is Aillwee Cave.  

Located in the West of Ireland, the Burren spans over 250 square kilometers in County Clare. The Burren is a place where history, nature and geology intertwine to create a unique and captivating environment. This landscape is mainly limestone, a sedimentary rock formed about 340 million years ago during the Carboniferous period.  

Over 300 million years ago, Ireland lay underwater south of the equator near Brazil. The water pressure above compressed marine organisms, sand, silt, shells and debris to form the limestone rock. The fossils of these sea creatures can be seen throughout the stone in the Burren, with numerous examples inside Aillwee Cave.  

As the sea levels receded, Ireland moved out of the water and into the place it lies today. The limestone beds were exposed to the elements and over time the combination of glacial activity during the Ice Ages and subsequent erosion sculpted the Burren’s current form.  

 

The uniqueness of the Burren is due to its extensive karst topography, which includes features like underground rivers, caves, sinkholes, and extensive limestone pavements. Aillwee Cave began to form over 2 million years ago when melted water from the ice age began to flow through the cracks and crevices in the rock. The Cave is a water-based cave and has been shaped by an underground river flowing through and enlarging these cracks over thousands of years. Further climatic changes resulted in the river drying up circa. 10 to 12 thousand years ago and the caves’ streamways, passageways and chambers remain to this day.

Despite its barren appearance, the Burren is teeming with life. In spring and early summer, the Burren’s limestone pavements burst into color with many wildflowers, including orchids, gentians, and primroses. The intrigue of the flora within the Burren is the co-habitation of certain plants and the locations they choose. The unique circumstances prevailing in the Burren are most strikingly demonstrated by the simultaneous occurrence of the Mediterranean orchid Neotinea maculata (the Dense-flowered Orchid) and the artic alpine species Dryas octopetala (Mountain Avens). While visiting Aillwee Burren Experience, stroll through our 8 acres of Hazel woodland and experience all the biodiversity the Burren has to offer. Read the helpful and informative signs to learn all about the species that thrive within this region. 

  

The Fauna get less attention in the Burren as most wild animals are shy and difficult to see. Goats, foxes and hares are the most common mammals encountered in the Burren landscape. If you’re lucky though, you might spot on of our three elusive native Red Squirrels around Aillwee Burren Experience.  

Another animal found in this region is the pine marten. They are adept tree climbers and excellent hunters of small mammals, birds and frogs but will also eat fruit and berries. Seven of the nine bat species in Ireland have been found in the Burren. 28 of Irelands 30 butterfly species are found here, with two more or less only found in this area.   

The Lesser Horseshoe Bat are found within the Burren. They are a rare and protected species, that can only be found in the West of Ireland and UK. They are protected and are the only bat that is unable to crawl. They are very small creatures, and they hibernate within the Aillwee Cave. Even though they are rare, many live within the Cave, the roost normally counting to around 110 bats.

 

The Lesser horse shoe bat, hanging upside down in the Burren.A Fox sitting on grass, easily spotted in the Burren.

The Burren is steeped in history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the Neolithic period. The landscape is dotted with ancient monuments, including dolmens, ring forts, and early Christian sites. One of the most iconic landmarks is the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a portal tomb that stands as a silent witness to the region’s ancient past. 

 

The unique characteristics of the Burren have led to its designation as a UNESCO Global Geopark, which ensures its protection and sustainable development. Conservation efforts focus on preserving the delicate balance between the natural environment and human activities, promoting eco-friendly sustainable tourism, and maintaining the region’s biodiversity. Aillwee Burren Experience are proud members of The Burren Ecotourism Network and continue, over the last twelve years, to uphold the criteria which awards Aillwee the highest Emerald status of achievement of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark Code of Practice in Sustainable Tourism.   

 

The Burren is one of Ireland’s most treasured natural wonders. On your trip through the Burren, wonder at its beauty and stop in at Aillwee Burren Experience. Learn all about the geology and history of the Burren on a 45-minute interactive guided tour. Having strolled the Biodiversity Woodland Walk, visit our Birds of Prey Centre and finish your day by calling in to the Farm shop. You can watch our award-winning Burren Gold cheese being made and sample some of our produce.  

 

The Burren is a wonderful place to visit and learn all about nature. Make sure it and Aillwee are on your bucket list this summer. 

Book your tickets now! https://aillweeburrenexperience.ie/book-tickets/