The best time to see wildflowers bloom in The Burren, Ireland
More to County Clare than the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are among Ireland’s top attractions but head further inland to the east side of the Burren and you’ll find a gorgeous display of wildflowers, somehow thriving in the limestone rock of this most unusual landscape. From a distance, it’s like you’ve landed on the moon when you approach Burren National Park. The rolling hills of grey, stone folds in the landscape, hide a precious bounty of exquisite flowers which are at their most vibrant in spring. Arctic alpine blossoms, delicate Mediterranean orchids and deep blue spring gentians are among the vast array of unique blossoms that are sprinkled all over the karst environment.
When and where to stay in The Burren, Ireland
Spring is the best time to see the wildflowers bloom in the Burren and more particularly, the month of May, is absolutely perfect. It’s yet another reason why Ireland is a fantastic destination for off season travel. In May, the Burren wildflowers are at their best, the sun starts to make an appearance and the air is a little warmer. We’ve often gone camping in May to celebrate Orla’s birthday and we’ve always been lucky with the weather, even enjoying a dip in the ocean along the Wild Atlantic Way. Our trip to the east side of the Burren was no exception and we started with a couple of nights in Clare’s Rock Hostel, in Carran. Peaceful sleeps, a friendly, helpful host and a pub with lovely food within walking distance are just some of the highlights of this superb hostel. The kitchen is fully equipped, if you prefer to cook, and there’s loads of walking to do nearby. Just head out the door and you find yourself in a walker’s paradise. We took in the local Carran loop walk, an easy way-marked trail that brings you to a hidden ruin of a 12th Century church. A happy dog followed us most of the way, seemingly keeping us safe along the lush green trail.
Walking in Burren National Park
Seeking out the wildflowers, we headed for Mullaghmore Crossroads in the Burren National Park. From here, there are tons of options for hikes and short loop walks of various levels of difficulty and they are all colour coded so they’re very easy to follow. The carpet of wildflowers we found on the White Route (Nature Trail) captivated us for more than an hour even though it’s only a 1.5km loop. It’s where we decided to have a little picnic so we could just sit and enjoy the multi-coloured beauty of spring surrounding us.
Lough Avalla Farm Loop Walk
It was a glorious day to explore the winding 8 km Lough Avalla Farm Loop walk. It’s only a short distance from the crossroads and it was definitely an easier option than hiking to the top of Mullaghmore in the hot sun (our original plan). At the trail head the landowner had helpfully left walking sticks all made from the local hazel wood for us walkers. They were lovely souvenirs to bring home and use time and again on our walks.
Magical woodlands and fairy springs
The holy well at the beginning of the walk is like a spring from a fairy tale, with cups on hand for anyone wishing to cure their ills or to simply enjoy the cool, fresh, water. Every part of the walk feels magic and secret. Whatever time you set aside for the walk, double it, especially if you have a camera! The flowers that the Burren is famous for are in abundance and, every step you take, brings you to a new species you never imagined would be found in Ireland.
After what seems like a journey through a hidden, parallel universe where time stood still in among the old hazel forests, the trail climbs up and out onto the limestone ground, following old stone walls, where there are sweeping views across the lunar landscape of the Burren.
Farming in the Burren
The walk has been carefully planned and routed through a working farm, surrounding lovely Lough Avalla, so we came across plenty of cattle and goats that graze on the scrub which helps the wild flowers to flourish. We met the kind owner who was working hard on repairing a fence and he explained his desire to make sure people still had access to the beauty of The Burren while ensuring their safety on his farm. Maintaining the trail is just one of the many jobs he and his family tend to while raising their livestock and we could tell there was no other place he’d rather be. We’re delighted somebody like him owns this land, otherwise we may never have experienced one of the most wonderful and tranquil walks we’ve ever been on.
The Burren Perfumery
We were in need of some sugar and a sit down after that so we headed to the Burren Perfumery, an incredible wildflower garden and café in the heart of The Burren. A highlight of our trip, we tucked into generous slices of moist, home-made cakes and pots of tea in the rose-covered Tea Rooms, all while the little birds eyed up our crumbs, sometimes even joining us at the table. A short stroll around the herb garden gave us a glimpse into our native herb species and their traditional uses which the experts here still use in their products. The range of cosmetics and perfume that is produced in this family-owned hidden gem, all certified organic, takes inspiration from the profusion of wildflowers, unique to this part of Ireland. You can’t leave here without picking out a present for yourself. The heady but subtle aromas in the shop make it a necessity for your very soul!
Camping at Fanore Beach
Our road trip continued out to the coast and we pitched our tent at Fanore where we enjoyed long lazy days on the beach followed by spectacular sunsets, only the west of Ireland can offer. Spring is definitely in the air in The Burren and it should be on any nature lover’s bucket list. If you choose a time to visit Ireland, make it May and make sure to explore County Clare beyond the Cliffs of Moher. Its magic awaits!
For more off season travel in Ireland, discover why Ireland’s northwest is best for off season travel and why autumn is the best time of year to visit Ireland’s Ancient Sites.