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From the Irish 'Boíreann' meaning a rocky place, the rolling hills of the Burren are composed of limestone pavements criss-crossed and gouged by fissures called grykes, leaving clints - raised, slab-like flat areas. The limestone, laid down in a shallow tropical sea in the Lower Carboniferous some 350 million years ago, has been shaped by episodes of glaciation, most recently during the last Ice Age. Covering roughly 360 square kilometres, parts of this karst landscape lie in one of Ireland's six national parks. The Burren boasts the most extensive area of limestone pavement in Europe, harbours a unique floral diversity with Arctic, Mediterranean and Alpine flowers blooming side by side, and is one of the finest examples of a glacio-karst landscape in the world. The rocky landscape that we see today is not just the result of glacial erosion and natural weathering, but also 6,000 years of agricultural activity. The Burren has been settled since the Mesolithic and boasts a cornucopia of archaeological monuments from the stone walled field systems and megalithic structures of the Neolithic, including the well preserved portal dolmen at Poulnabrone, to later Bronze Age settlements, Iron Age hill forts and Medieval churches. A landscape rich in both nature and lore, the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, managed by Clare County Council, is a member of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network.
Source: Martin Critchley