To See Ireland's Most Unique Landscapes, Head To This Hidden Gem National Park

Ireland is a top tourist destination, which is no surprise considering the country's abundance of natural beauty, lively cities, and unique culture. Nearly 7 million travelers visited in 2022 (per the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation). The Emerald Isle is considered one of the most scenic vacation spots in the world. Ireland, or Éire in the Irish language, is known for its beautiful countryside with rolling green hills and rugged coastlines with craggy cliffs. Cities like Dublin and Galway offer opportunities for excellent nightlife with plenty of traditional Irish pubs. Many travelers consider Ireland the most friendly European destination due to the kind and welcoming locals. Whether you're into art, hiking, history, or partying until sunrise, you'll find plenty to satisfy your wanderlust during your trip.

One of the fantastic things about Ireland is that even though it's such a popular destination for travelers around the world, the countryside and small towns have managed to remain largely unspoiled by tourism, probably due to the authenticity and spirit of the Irish people. If you're willing to venture just slightly outside the tourist route, you'll stumble upon all sorts of hidden gems. Burren National Park is one of those places that's remained remarkably under the radar despite its location along one of the best scenic drives in the world, the Wild Atlantic Way. Located in County Clare, near Ireland's west coast, the park preserves a small part of the breathtaking Irish landscape known as the Burren. You should definitely add this epic national park to your Ireland itinerary. 

Flora, fauna, and ancient history

Burren National Park encompasses more than 3,500 acres of rugged Irish countryside. The name Burren is derived from the Irish word boíreann, which translates to "rocky place." Burren is rocky indeed, formed by glaciers moving over the land. The ground is covered with craggy limestone, cracked and worn smooth over the ages, and scattered with patches of grassland, shrubbery, and lakes. 

While the rocky environment may appear beautifully barren, unique species of plants thrive in the ecosystem. Orchids, for example, grow incredibly well in Burren National Park. You can find 23 out of the 27 species of orchids that grow in Ireland within the park, depending on the season you visit. In addition to the biodiverse botany, a variety of animal species call the Burren home. There are 95 species of birds and various other animals like hares, foxes, lizards, and frogs.

The Burren is a fantastic destination for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike, and one of Ireland's must-visit destinations. Throughout the region, there are more than 500 ring forts, Neolithic tombs, and other ruins spanning the centuries. Leamaneh Castle is one archeological point of interest within the park. The towering stone house remains remarkably intact, having been built around 1480.

Numerous hiking trails exist within the national park, ranging from 30 minutes to three hours in duration. The landscape can be challenging to navigate, and some hikes are ranked very difficult, so check out the official map to plan your route.

Planning your visit

The Burren, including the Cliffs of Moher, is a UNESCO Global Geopark due to its incredible beauty, ancient human history, and ecosystems that aren't found anywhere else. Burren National Park is about 40 minutes from the iconic Cliffs of Moher by car. If you want to make the most of your time, budget at least three days in the County Clare area to explore all of the adorable small towns and the natural wonders.

Take advantage of some of Ireland's incredible traditional music during your trip to County Clare. It is well known as one of the best places to catch Irish tunes. If you base yourself in the colorful town of Doolin, the traditional music capital of Ireland, you'll have plenty of lively Irish pubs to choose from where you can enjoy a "trad session" every night of the week.

Plenty of beautiful small hotels and quaint bed and breakfasts are scattered throughout the Burren. Most rooms range from $100-$150 per night. Rooms in Doolin can run slightly higher, but you can still find budget-friendly options. Fiddle + Bow is an excellent 4-star hotel in the heart of town with rates that start around $300 per night.

Renting a car is the best way to explore the Burren and enjoy all the area has to offer. Car rentals are affordable and average about $24 per day for a small car. You can drive to Burren National Park from Dublin in under three hours or stop along the Wild Atlantic Way route.