The scandalously naked Burren

Monday, 15 July, 2019

The name means “stony place” and it is one of the strangest landscapes in Europe. What’s called The Burren occupies most of the top western corner of County Clare and this region of solid rock, which looks like a desert, is quite the opposite. Cattle are fattened by its limey grass and Arctic flowers blossom beside Mediterranean perennials between the niches of the limestone slabs. Emily Lawless (1845 – 1913) set her novel Hurrish (1886) in what she called this “Iron Land”. Snippet:

“Wilder regions there are few to be found, even in the wildest West of Ireland, than that portion of north Clare known to its inhabitants as the Burren. Seen from the Atlantic, which washes its western base, it presents to the eye a succession of low hills, singularly grey in tone — deepening often, towards evening, into violet or dull reddish plum colour — sometimes, after sunset, to a pale ghostly iridescence.

You picture them dotted over with flocks to sheep, which nibble on the sweet grass… But these Burren hills are literally not clothed at all. They are startlingly, I may say, scandalously naked.”


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