There’s nothing like driving through the Burren from Doolin on your way to Galway. The Burren consists of a glaciated karst region in southwestern Ireland that stretches through County Clare and County Galway. The Burren measures between 250 and 560 square kilometers. One of the coolest landscapes is seeing the rock formations dip right into the Atlantic Ocean, then into Galway Bay.
Traveling in June was most ideal because the weather couldn’t have been more amazing, around 75 degrees (Fahrenheit), sunny, warm, flowers in bloom. We started out in Doolin, which is a beautiful and quaint town on its own. Before we set off on our journey, we walked down by the harbor in Doolin and saw the rock formations from The Burren sinking into the sea at the water’s edge.
I guess we didn’t realize how far the formations expanded across the land. Since we were on our way to Galway, we decided to take a more direct route and drove toward the Burren National Park.
After many twists and turns on the back-country roads, we found an area near the town of Carran where we saw a few tour buses and other cars turning off. It was literally in the middle of nowhere and we turned left at an old church down a small road. We pulled off on the side of the road to a slew of different color-coded trails every which way you looked, from easy 30 minutes hikes, to several hour treks for the more experienced adventurer.
We found a shorter trail and decided to get out and walk around.
Food for thought, don’t wear sandals! We really didn’t know much about what The Burren was, so we didn’t realize we’d be hiking around on loose rocks. Lesson learned there. We didn’t walk too far, about 20-30 minutes, but we managed to climb up on a mountain of rocks to sit and look out at the rocky hills all around us.
One of our main interests driving through The Burren was to stop at Poulnabrone. This stone structure is defined as a dolmen, which is a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, dating back to the Neolithic era (over 6000 years ago).
Back in the 1980’s, when the land was excavated, and human remains were found on the site, it was discovered that Poulnabrone was indeed a tomb. It is one of the most photographed dolmens throughout Ireland, mainly for the almost perfect symmetry of the placement of the stones. Poulnabrone appears in a grassy field by the road in the middle of The Burren. I was expecting to find this enormous dwelling towering over the land, because it looks massive in almost every photo you see of it.
It’s only about 5 feet tall and 12 feet long. The tomb is roped off, but you can get pretty close to it. When we were there, a man dressed in ancient garb was selling ancient wares at the entrance of the park. He played music and talked in a very ancient tongue; it was a bit cheeky, but definitely worth a stop to shop.
We got back into the car to make it to Galway. At this point we were still driving through The Burren. You feel like you’re driving off the edge of the earth, well that’s how I felt. It was pretty desolate around us, then we drove over a mountain and BOOM! There was the sea below us. It just appeared out of nowhere, the mountainous Burren was all around us then there was Galway Bay. It was one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. We made our way down the mountain to Ballyvaughan and stopped for lunch (the best Salmon sandwich I ever had) by the harbor. It’s such a cute and quaint seaside town, definitely worth a stop.
You can even walk out onto a small pier to check out more of the bayside views. Leaving Ballyvaughan, we took the seaside road and found cows actually grazing on the beach, how wonderful!
Driving through The Burren should be on everyone’s destination list. That’s why it’s so much better to rent a car and drive through areas that you may not be inclined to see otherwise. Though we did see some tour buses here and there, it’s so much more fun to just see something cool and pull off on the side of the road and check it out, on your schedule. What started out as a drive through the rock lands, turned into an amazing adventure filled with memories that will last a lifetime.