Burren History

History of the Burren

burren The Burren is sometimes referred to as the ‘Fertile Rock’. Its name comes from the Irish word Boireann, meaning ‘rocky place’. The Burren covers 1% of the land surface of Ireland and is approximately 250 square kilometers in size.

People are believed to have lived in the Burren for over 7,000 years. The dolmens of the Burren, the most famous of which is Poulnabrone, are thought to be burial places of the chieftains of the local tribes. There are also hundreds of ringforts ranging from the Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages to be found in the area.

In The Annals of the Four Masters, there are frequent mentions of raids by outside forces to steal livestock. On the 15th August 1317, during the Anglo-Norman wars, the Battle of Lough Raska, or Battle of Corcomroe, took place in the Burren. The battle was between the army of Muireactach Ó Briain, against the forces of Donnchadh Ó Briain and Richard de Clare, with both sides commanding armed forces of over 8,000 men. There is a local legend that a witch had met Donnchadh Ó Briain on the morning of the battle to warn him of the danger ahead.

sheep-gap In 1651 a officer named Ludlow, fighting for Oliver Cromwell, was recorded as sayings, ‘of this barony it is said that it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury them. This last is so scarce that the inhabitants steal it from one another and yet their cattle are very fat. The grass grows in tufts of earth of two or three foot square which lies between the limestone rocks and is very sweet and nourishing.’

The distinctive landscape, geology, flora and fauna, and panoramic views of the Burren have both inspired and terrified observers throughout its history, and its otherworldliness has long been celebrated by both writers and artists. The Burren is world with its own unique characteristics.