The Burren Region -page

The Burren History & Underworld Explained


The Burren in Ireland is a unique landscape known for a series of vast limestone pavements, deep fissures, ancient ruins, and a network of underground caves. The area is steeped in history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the Stone Age or almost 6000 years. In this blog post, we will go back to basics and explore the fascinating history of underground caves and people’s history in The Burren. 

The Burren is an area of mainly limestone karst landscape that covers approximately 250 square kilometres in North County Clare and South County Galway. The geology of the Burren results from the area’s 350-million-year-old limestone bedrock, which has been exposed to tens of centuries of weathering and erosion. 

The Burren is home to over 160 Kms of mapped underground caves and passageways, which have been explored and studied for decades. More are being discovered by experienced cavers and potholers all the time. One of the most famous caves in the area is our own, Aillwee Cave which was discovered in 1940 by a local farmer, Jacko McGann. Our show cave extends for just under 1,000 meters and features stunning formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, curtains, flowstone and underground waterfalls. The cave was also the resting place of the European Brown Bear (now extinct in Ireland for over 3000 years) Doolin Cave (Poll an Ionain) is another show cave open to visitors in the locality and is home to Europe’s Largest Free Hanging Stalactite, measuring 7.3 metres long. 

Another well-known, wild cave is Pollnagollum, which is located in the Burren National Park. The cave features a subterranean river, which flows through a series of underground chambers and caverns. The cave is said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s depiction of Gollum’s cave in The Lord of the Rings. It is only accessible led by experienced cavers and potholers. 

The history of The Burren and its underground caves dates back thousands of years. The area has been inhabited since the Stone Age, with evidence of human activity dating back to 3,500 BC. The Burren is home to several ancient ruins, including megalithic tombs, stone forts, and early Christian monastic settlements. 

One of the most significant ancient sites in the Burren is the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a megalithic tomb dating back to the Neolithic period. The tomb consists of a large flat stone, supported by two standing stones, and is believed to have been used for burial ceremonies. 

The Burren also has a rich history of early Christian settlements. There are several monastic sites in the area, including Kilfenora Cathedral, which dates to the 12th century. The cathedral is believed to have been built on the site of an earlier monastery, and its ruins feature stunning carvings and artwork. 




There is no doubt that The Burren in County Clare is a unique and fascinating area with a rich history of underground caves and ancient overground ruins. The area’s limestone bedrock has been shaped and moulded by continuous weathering and erosion, creating a stunning landscape of deep fissures, underground rivers, and intricate caves. The Burren’s human history is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of its people, and its ancient ruins serve as a reminder of the area’s rich cultural heritage. It is clear there are many things to see and do in County Clare. Start with booking your visit to Aillwee Burren Experience today.