There are approximately 6,000 national monuments in County Clare, the vast majority of these located in the Burren. One quarter of all the known megalithic wedge tombs in Ireland are situated in this region.
One of the most iconic Irish images – and the single most photographed monument in the country – is Poulnabrone. This megalithic grave was also probably a site of deep spiritual significance to those who built it. The portal stone of this tomb is aligned towards the rising sun.This is an architectural characteristic of portal tombs whereas the later wedge tombs such as at nearby Gleninsheen are aligned towards the setting sun.
Farming practices such as winter grazing on the limestone hills and the keeping of goat herds have helped to shape the immense variety of building styles found in the stone architecture of the Burren hills.What further highlights the role of the farmer here as custodian our Irish heritage is that the highest concentration of wedge tombs in the country are found in the good winter grazing of the Burren uplands.
One of Ireland’s great national treasures, the Gleninsheen Gold Collar which dates from 800 to 700 BC and was found in a rock fissure in the Burren in 1932. The style of the gorget bears a strong resemblance to the styles of ultra-luxurious and superfine goods found in contemporary Europe, giving evidence of links between Ireland and the European mainland. This gorget, which is housed in the National Museum of Ireland is item 12 in A History of Ireland in 100 Objects.
The well preserved stone built ring fort, Caherconnell, Parknabinnia, Ballykinvarga fort, and Cahercommaun, with its dramatic, stunning vistas overlooking the Burren are fine visual vestiges of the ancient past.
The Burren Centre in Kilfenora provides a superb three dimensional interpretation of this site. If there are many remains of early pagan beliefs here, there is also a wonderful abundance of ancient sites and buildings bearing testimony to Christianity in the Burren.
In the north, lies the twelfth century Corcomroe Abbey, also known as Sancta Maria de Petra Fertilis, Holy Mary of the Fertile Rock. At Kilnaboy Church there is the only example in the whole of northwestern Europe of a double-armed cross built into a west gable.
This type of cross, the Lorraine Cross, perhaps indicates the former presence here of a reliquary of the True Cross.
Kilfenora itself was known in ancient Gaelic literature as The City of the Crosses, famed for its outstanding collection of High Crosses.
The high concentration of such accessible visual heritage from our past in close proximity to each other makes the Burren Ireland’s ultimate outdoor museum, hugely popular with visitors and scholars alike.
Such an abundance of archaeological remains testify to the vitality and ingenuity of the Burren’s ancestral inhabitants. These features now make the Burren one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world.