Ireland

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In Ireland

After seeing the Cliffs of Moher, we headed east to check out the Burren, a unique natural landscape in western Ireland made of layers of limestone rock. At almost 100 square miles in size, the Burren is enormous, especially considering Ireland isn’t that big of an island. Without the assistance of our B&B host who had given us a map with all of the best spots for scenic drives and hiking marked, we’d have been completely lost. Don’t get me wrong, we still got lost, but our map helped us get lost less. And so we spent the rest of our first day in Ireland roadtripping through the Burren, checking out the sights and meeting friendly folks along the way.

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Cliffs of Moher to Lisdoonvarna

We started off from the cliffs heading towards Lisdoonvarna. This portion of the Burren isn’t nearly as rocky as areas we’d see later, but it’s unique in that instead of fences, farmers use pieces of limestone rock to enclose their properties. The walls made completely of rock look surprisingly sturdy.

These pictures will always make me laugh – not because of our goofy photo hanging out of the car windows, but because there’s something you can’t see in these shots. For at least half an hour we were driving down this little gravel country road. We didn’t pass a single car coming from the opposite direction, but there was something following close behind us – a tractor. And anyone who has ever lived in the country knows you do not want to get stuck behind a tractor on a road not quite wide enough for passing. So to avoid driving the rest of the way through the Burren at a snail’s pace, we had to stay in front of him –  a usually easy task unless you’re constantly seeing things you want to stop and take photos of. So this entire stretch of the Burren, Cory would slow down to let me out, I’d take the shot, and then jump back in the car Little Miss Sunshine-style. (Climbing in while the car is still moving, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie.) Half of my shots didn’t even turn out because I was either running while taking the photo or laughing so hard I couldn’t maintain focus. Good memories.

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Caherconnell Stone Fort & Poulnabrone Dolmen

Our first official stop where I didn’t have to exit the car at a run was Caherconnell Stone Fort, but there are no pictures of it because we didn’t see it. Er, what? Well, see, we didn’t realize until we got there that you actually have to pay to see it, and us being all, “We’re in a national park. Let’s just see the free stuff!”, we decided to skip it. But I still took a picture of the stone walls leading to it, so just imagine that, but bigger, and that’s the fort. Kidding. Sort of.

So then we drove another kilometer and stopped to see the Poulnabrone Dolmen. This portal tomb, where archaeologists have found the remains of at least thirty people, is more than 5,000 years old. Now that we were deeper into the Burren, I was noticing way more limestone ground cover. It was pretty neat, but we did have to watch our step because of the grikes, the gaps between the rocks. Lexie took off hopping and running across them and I was sure she was going to twist an ankle.

Anyway, when we reached the dolmen, I realized it was simply a large slab of limestone propped up by a few other slabs. Well, that’s not very interesting. Not to us, I should say. There was another lady there who kept jumping from spot to spot, taking no less than fifty pictures. Maybe it’s just me, but how many pictures do you really need of a slanting stone table? (Maybe her ancestors are buried in there?)

We stayed about five minutes and then realized it was 2:30pm and we hadn’t had lunch yet, so we made our way to The Perfumery in the heart of the Burren. The Perfumery is a little oasis with free gardens, a shop, and an organic tea room. Why they chose such an unusual location, I don’t know, but we were awfully grateful – their Carrot & Coriander Soup really hit the spot!

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Mullaghmore

After lunch we got back on the road with Mullaghmore as our intended destination. What should have taken us ten minutes to reach, took over an hour because we got lost, just as Sean warned us we might. But he also said not to worry because people who lived in those parts were friendly and more than happy to help, and he was certainly right about that! After getting directions from multiple people, including a man standing in the middle of the road with a horse dressed like a Spanish matador (just to be clear – the man was dressed like a matador, not the horse), we met this lovely lady who went out of her way to help us out and actually got in her car and had us follow her to Mullaghmore. I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have found it without her. And as you can see from the photos, it was totally worth all the detours!

Mullaghmore is in the national park portion of the Burren and consists of hills made of tiers of limestone. You can hike up them, but what we wanted to see were the lakes at their base. After we arrived, I understood why so many people looked as us questioningly when we told them this was where we wanted to go. Mullaghmore is not your typical tourist spot. There wasn’t a single other person there with us – it was like having our own private lakeside retreat.

The waters at Mullaghmore were crystal clear. The limestone that covered the ground we were walking on carried on beneath the lake and we could make out its weaving patterns like the water wasn’t even there. We stayed here taking photos, skipping rocks, and relaxing until the sun began to set.

I didn’t want to leave – this had been my favorite part of the day which is saying something since we’d also seen the Cliffs of Moher that morning. I think that, generally, Ireland is a pretty peaceful place to visit and live, but nowhere else did we find such quiet seclusion as this, and with phenomenal scenery to boot! I’m actually glad it’s a bit difficult to find – maybe that’ll keep it unspoiled a little longer.

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

The Coast in Doolin

Back in the car, we headed west to see where the Burren stops on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Doolin. I already spoke a little about this part of the Burren in my post about Doolin. It’s beautiful here – there are lots of places to sit and watch the waves crash against the black limestone. A few boats come and go in the harbor, but otherwise it’s a pretty quiet spot.

It was a very full day seeing the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren National Park in the same day, but I didn’t mind a bit. Being busy in Ireland feels different than being busy in a city – definitely less stressful. However, if we’d had more than three days to spend here, I’d definitely have dedicated a whole day to the Burren. There were so many spots that Sean had marked on the map for us that we didn’t even get to because we didn’t want to feel rushed. I really would have loved to hike up one of those terraced hills at Mullaghmore, too. Ideas for next time, I guess!

If you visit the Burren National Park, there is a free parking lot at the beginning of the hiking trails, but don’t forget to venture outside of the park, too. The national park is only a small portion of the much wider Burren region which offers a wide variety of things to see and great places to hike!

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Where To Stop On A Road Trip Through The Burren In County Clare, Ireland

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Katrin
    May 7, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Haha, I love the tractor story, that is so funny! Each of your Ireland posts makes me fall in love with the country even more. Your pictures are so fantastic. I am glad you had a great time and I hope you can go back there soon!

  • Reply
    Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    May 7, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    I’m picturing running to the car as a tractor is following you. Too funny! Don’t you just love Ireland!! Such an amazing, incredible place!

  • Reply
    Sammy @ Days Like This
    May 7, 2014 at 6:03 PM

    Haha, the tractor story is so funny. I can just imagine what it would have looked like!

  • Reply
    Quyen Nguyen
    May 7, 2014 at 6:14 PM

    Road trips in Ireland are a must because the countryside is lovely. I love your photos of the Burren!

  • Reply
    Stacie Stamper
    May 7, 2014 at 7:19 PM

    All of the blues are so blue and the greens so green, it really is amazing scenery to take in.

  • Reply
    Emmymom
    May 8, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    That is so funny about the tractor, and I love the hanging out of the car shot. That clear water is just so beautiful. The whole area is.

  • Reply
    Mandy Southgate
    May 9, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    Gosh, it is so incredibly beautiful there and your photos are exquisite. I loved Ireland but was last there in 1996 and 1998 – my memory is hazy but I can see why I fell in love. The bit about the matador horse made me laugh out loud, in the office.

  • Reply
    Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    May 9, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    I’ve never heard of the Burren national park, but now I really really want to go. It looks amazing.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      May 11, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      You guys would love it since you like taking walks through pretty scenery. There’s a lot of great hiking spots there. Another great place for hikers is Connemara National Park – we didn’t make it that far on this trip, but I’d love to visit there someday!

      • Reply
        Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
        May 14, 2014 at 9:20 AM

        I’ve made note of both of them, we don’t have plans for august so maybe I can talk the other half into an Ireland trip :)

  • Reply
    Ashley | Domestic Fashionista
    May 13, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    What fun! I am excited to read all your Ireland posts. It is on my extended list of places to visit…you know, after my top must see list. I say probably 10+ years until I make it there. But wow, so pretty! Takes me back to one of my favorite chick flicks, Leap Year! Your tractor story is straight out of a movie…except I think they are usually a herd of sheep!

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