“The Burren” stands in stark contrast to the lush countryside dotted with sheep and edged with golden gorse that greeted us along the way.The Burren means “great rock,” and it it internationally famous both for its remarkable glacial-karst landscape, which is one of the finest in the world, and its almost unique floral ecosystem that supports alpine, arctic, and Mediterranean plants side by side. It covers a huge area (about 100 square miles) in northwest County Clare, Ireland, although the national park proper is only 15 square miles. The rolling hills of the burren are composed of limestone pavements where layers of rock have dissolved due to the presence and action of glaciers (thousands of years previous) leaving crisscrossing cracks known as “grikes,” and isolated rocks called “clints.” This solutional erosion causes the geological formation known as “karst.”The unique combination of year-round moderate temperatures, protected surfaces, and subterranean drainage allow an amazing variety of plants to grow! Delicate alpine flowers bloom side by side with plants common to temperate zones! Statistically, late May is the sunniest and best time of year to see the fireworks of gentians and avens, but early May was beautiful too! Everywhere little treasures were eking out an existence among the rocks! Some I recognized—like the wild roses and ivy— But, some I could not name. There are many ancient sites in the Burren, such as this castle ruin, and there are over 90 megalithic tombs!The most famous is the Poulnabrone Dolmen. Michael and Grace, who preceded us to Ireland, said this was probably Mike’s favorite stone table and a “must see,” although he warned us that it would be hard to find. In fact, for some of the sites in Ireland, the best way to find them is to look up (ahead of time) lines of latitude and longitude for your GPS, since it’s not always possible to find anyone to stop and ask as you’re driving through great stretches of wilderness with no road signs to hint at where you should be going. The Poulnabrone Dolmen is immense! It has a 30-foot chamber in the low cairn, and the gigantic capstone slab is thought to weigh 3,300 pounds! “Poulnabrone” means “hole of sorrows,” and when it was excavated, the bones of nearly 30 adults and children were found, including one newborn. We made our way to our B’n'B through the gathering gloom of rain followed by a peaceful sunset in gold and cerulean pastels.I almost felt like God was reminding me of Isaiah 61:3. He brings beauty out of bareness…He will “give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; they that might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”
“He has made everything beautiful in his time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).