Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark

What is UNESCO?
 UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural     Organization. 
 UNESCO was created after World War II to help build peace through international cooperation and standards in Education, the Sciences and Culture.
Its core aims and values are to foster dialogue, mutual understanding, access to quality education, and an appreciation of all cultural heritage.
UNESCO contributes to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
UNESCO has three types of designations for places of global scientific, natural and cultural importance: World Heritage Sites, Man and the Biosphere Reserves and Global Geoparks.
All three designations celebrate heritage while conserving cultural, biological and geological diversity, and promoting sustainable economic development.
On the island of Ireland there are:
2 UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserves: Dublin Bay (1981) and Kerry/Killarney (1982).
3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast (1986), Brú na Bóinne (1993), and Sceilg Mhicíl (1996),
3 UNESCO Global Geoparks: Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark (cross-border counties Fermanagh and Cavan), Copper Coast Global Geopark, and Burren and Cliffs of Moher Global Geopark (all inscribed in 2015)
Global Geoparks differ from the other two UNESCO site designations in that they..
Use Geology to look at how we use our earth’s resources sustainably, how we can mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce natural disasters-related risks.
Have a bottom-up approach of involving landowners, community groups, tourism businesses, indigenous people, and local organisations.
Work together to establish Global Geoparks all around the world.
As of 2021 there are 161 UNESCO Global Geoparks spread across 44 countries. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/earth-sciences/unesco-global-geoparks
There are 83 Global Geoparks in Europe. http://www.europeangeoparks.org/
Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark
We are a UNESCO Global Geopark because we adhere to the UNESCO criteria to celebrate heritage while conserving cultural, biological and geological diversity, and promoting sustainable economic development.
We do this in the following ways:
▪ Our landscape tells a fascinating geological story that spans over 330 million years.
▪ Only here can you find an extraordinary botanical combination of Artic, Alpine and Mediterranean flowers growing side by side.
▪ We have over 3,000 archaeological monuments that record 6,000 years of history.
▪ We have farming and musical cultural traditions that are thriving and celebrated.
▪ Local communities feel a deep connection to their landscape, history and culture and have a strong desire to manage this in a sustainable way for the benefit of all.
▪ The Geopark manages a Code of Practice for Sustainable Tourism Business, which the Burren Ecotourism Network commits to using.
▪ The Geopark is managed by Clare County Council in partnership with local communities, tourism businesses and organisations and government agencies.
The Burren and Cliffs of Moher became a member of the Global Geoparks Network in 2011.
Global Geoparks were inscribed as UNESCO designated sites in 2015.
UNESCO Global Geoparks go through a rigorous revalidation process very 4 years. The Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark was last revalidated in 2019.
The area of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark covers 530 square kilometers. Its boundary is marked to the West and North by the coast from Hag’s Head to the county border at New Quay. It then runs south along the county border to Tubber and westwards through Corofin, Kilfenora, north of Kilshanny and on to Hag’s Head.
Mission Statement
The Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark supports people and organisations to work together to ensure a cared-for-landscape, a better understood heritage, more sustainable tourism, a vibrant community and strengthened livelihoods.

Top 10 Geology Facts:

1. The rocks of the Burren were formed around 330 million years ago.
2. The Burren limestone was formed in a shallow tropical sea near the equator.
3. Fossil corals, crinoids and brachiopods are common in the Burren limestone, they are also 330 million years old.
4. The layers of rock that make the Cliffs of Moher were formed by rivers flowing into a sea, forming a delta like the Mississippi delta.
5. The patterns in the Moher flagstones were made by an unknown creature burrowing just below the surface of sand layers on a shallow coast.
6. The cracks in the limestone and the Cliffs of Moher were formed by plate tectonic collision almost 300 million years ago and have been enlarged by weathering.
7. The gentle curves of the layers of limestone on Mullaghmore in the Burren National Park were also formed by tectonic collision almost 300 million years ago.
8. During the last Ice Age c.200m thick flowing ice sheets shaped the valleys and hills of the Burren.
9. The limestone in the Burren is dissolved by weakly acidic rain and groundwater, forming caves, so most of the water is underground.
10. In 5 million years the Burren will have been dissolved completely.
In 2011 the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher gained Global Geopark status, already spectacular neighbours,
their coming together formed a destination of natural wonders.
Making up over 530 square kilometres the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark offers diversity that is second to none.
This rich and alluring landscape of staggering sea cliffs, limestone karst terraces, fertile valleys, vibrant villages and welcoming
communities offers some truly inspiring experiences.
The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark not only has outstanding natural and culture heritage but a
management organisation that supports its people and organisations to work together to ensure a cared-for
landscape, a better-understood heritage, more sustainable tourism, a vibrant community and strengthened livelihoods.
For more information
Some interesting info about the Burren Geopark
Burren and  Cliffs of Moher GlobalUnesco Geopark, Ireland
Geology: The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Global Geopark is formed of Carboniferous limestones sandstones and shale. They form a near continuous sequence from the lower Carboniferous (Holkerian) Tubber Formation to the upper Carboniferous (Bashkirian) Central Clare Group. The limestones were formed in warm shallow water conditions on a carbonate shelf close to the equator. Fossil brachiopods, corals and crinoids are abundant. The limestones contain abundant caves including one of the longest free hanging stalactites in the world open to the public and are extensively karstified. The extensive limestone pavement is considered to be one of the best of its kind globally. The limestone is overlain by deep water shales and prograding cyclical deltaic deposits. Slumped units with sand volcanoes, turbidites and channel deposits are common. Typical fossils are goniatites, bivalves, and plant material. The sequence is part of some of the finest coastal exposures of ancient deltaic sedimentation in the world.
Geography: Located on the west coast of Ireland, the Global Geopark has an area of 530 km2, it is bounded by Atlantic coastal cliffs (10-200 m high) to the west, the Gort lowlands to the East and by low hilly terrain to the south. Much of the land is at an elevation of 100 m-200 m above sea-level; the highest point is Slieve Elva at 344 m. Average rainfall is 1200 mm per year. The Global Geopark is only one hour drive from Shannon International airport and the cities of Limerick and Galway. The area of limestone which comprises most of the Global Geopark has few rivers and only one (Caher River) which flows its entire length over ground. Farming (beef and dairy) and tourism are the main industries with the Cliffs of Moher Experience attracting over 1 million people in 2014. Population density is low and dispersed through villages and towns such as Doolin, Corrofin, Ballyvaughan, Lisdoonvarna and Kilfenora.
Education and Sustainable Development: The Global Geopark runs collaborative education programs with local businesses including an annual ‘Introduction to the geology of the Burren’ course, an international field geology school, and Young Scientist and Eco Environmentalism projects. We also support geology, groundwater and litter educational programs in national schools. The Global Geopark has supported the development of a network of over 60 tourism business in the area (the Burren Ecotourism Network) which is dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism. Members sign up to the Global Geopark Code of Practice in Sustainable Tourism and in return the Global Geopark provides training and marketing and co-ordinates group products such as Food and Activity trails. The Global Geopark is currently managing an EU LIFE project (GeoparkLIFE) on balancing tourism and conservation in the Burren. This project involves working with national tourism and conservation agencies, local farmers and tourism businesses to minimize environmental impacts and maximize the social and economic benefits of tourism in the Burren.


European Destination of Excellence 2015

Tourism and Local Gastronomy

On the face of it, the Burren is perhaps the last place on earth that one would expect to find a Food Trail.   It is an area of expansive karst limestone landscape, often referred to as ‘lunar-like’, which to the newcomer may appear as barren, inhospitable and forsaken.

However, it is not for nothing that the Cistercian monks who settled here in the 11th century gave the name Santa Maria de Petra Fertili, to the iconic Corcomroe Abbey which still remains a magnificent landmark of the Burren Landscape to this day.  The name, St. Mary of the Fertile Rock, reflects the fertile nature of the surrounding Burren lands, which insured that here a Cistercian community could, by cultivation, provide itself with the necessary means of support and ultimately, self-sufficiency.

It is a perplexing juxtaposition of nature whereby great bounty of lamb, beef, fruits and vegetables emerge from the cracks, crevices and valleys of the limestone Burren.  Flanked on the west by the magnificent Wild Atlantic, a bounty of fish and seafood is also assured.  A further layer of intrigue lies in the fact that it is the practice of an ancient system of farming (winterage), unique to the Burren area, that maintains the appearance and fertility of this landscape for this and future generations.  In recent years, the Burren’s rich and ancient food culture has expanded through the emergence of many award-winning chef-led restaurants and high quality artisan food producers, as well as an increase in practising market gardeners and growers.    Once again, The Fertile Rock is emerging as vital component in maintaining a thriving rural community.


Launched by the Burren Ecotourism Network in partnership with the Burren u0026amp; Cliffs of Moher Geopark in 2013, the Burren Food Trail connects growers, producers, artisans, retailers, chefs and restaurateurs who then work together to promote their destination as a whole.  The members are bound by their commitment to building a sustainable future for the region.  Each member has achieved recognised quality awards and standards in the areas of food.  Critically, each member has engaged in extensive training and networking in the area of sustainable development and has adopted the Geopark Sustainable Code of Practice for Tourism.

Each of the featured restaurants offers a Burren Food Trail Signature Dish to savour, and all members have signed up to the Burren Food Trail Customer Promise: you will find staff who are knowledgeable about the regional food story, menus which state the source of local produce, information on local food events and markets as well as a commitment to maximise the use of local ingredients and suppliers.

Burren Food Trail has as its mission the creation of solid relationship in the mind of locals and visitors between high quality, sustainable food and the karst limestone landscape,  thereby developing the Burren as the most intriguing food story and food destination on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Experiencing the Burren Food Trail

The Burren Food Trail is more than a listing of quality food establishments in the region – it aims to uncover for the visitor the path that food takes from field to plate.  Visitors and locals may decide themselves how to follow the trail: stop at every point or else dip in and out along the way, according to individual taste, interest and location.

The Burren Food Trail is supported by a highly innovative schedule of food events which take place every Monday from April to October.  These have become known as the Burren Food Trail Mondays which are now emerging as a tangible demonstration of how local gastronomy can take a central role in a destination’s tourism offering while concurrently sustaining the local environment.  The context which the Burren Food Trail provided unleashed a flow of creativity from tourism enterprises, not only involved in food but in all aspects of tourism, with wonderful experiences that combine food and outdoor activity, food and culture, food and music, food and spirituality.

The Burren Food Trail has also led to the emergence of a new food festival, the Burren Food Fayre which is part of the Burren Winterage Weekend.  This festival is a celebration of local food by local people and is a key contributor to raising local awareness of and pride in Burren Food culture.  With a strong advocacy and educational remit, it includes events such as Burren Junior Masterchef, Burren Masterchef, and Burren Culinaire – three cooking competitions that recognise excellence in sourcing and use of local ingredients and which span the childrens, locals and third level students sectors.

The Burren Slow Food Festival which pre-dates the Burren Food Trail, entering its 10th year in 2016, is also a flagship food event for the area.

Integration with the Tourism Economy

A key feature of the Burren Food Trail is that it grew out of collaboration and networking in the context of the Burren Ecotourism Network, supported by the Burren u0026amp; Cliffs of Moher Geopark (an office of Clare County Council).   The Burren Ecotourism Network comprises nearly 60 members and associates who represent all links on the tourism infrastructure chain.

The genuine links that visitors experience between farmers, producers, retailers and restaurateurs is a key feature of the Burren Food Trail.  The relationship between the Burren Food Trail and the wider tourism offering in the Geopark region is a defining characteristic of the initiative.  Through the Burren Ecotourism Network, food is integrated with outdoor activity and adventures, visitor centres and accommodation.  It’s a truly integrated local gastronomy experience.


Local Food Cultivation – a story of passion and pride

The Burren is a beautiful, powerful and unusual landscape and offers huge diversity, but it also presents a challenging environment in which to produce food. The passion and determination of the farmers and producers shines through and is evident in all aspects of their working lives in the Burren. The link to the landscape in terms of agriculture, history, food and tradition is what resonates through the landscape, safe for many generations to come. The locavore culture, which is so important and the significance that’s given to the fact that the food  is grown or produced in the region is immense. The relationship of the unique landscape of the Burren to the rich food culture of the area is what sets it apart, offering a truly ”different” fully immersive food experience.


Linking Food and the Landscape

For visitors, the Burren landscape is a challenging concept.   Almost all parts of Ireland provide  breathtaking scenery and awesome landscape experiences.  The Burren does this also.  Unlike other parts of Ireland however, the Burren landscape perplexes visitors –  it makes them question what they are seeing, makes them wonder why and how it came to be, makes them query whether anybody can live there.   Weighty in geological, archaeological and botanical significance of a global reach, it is not readily mentally and physically accessible in the way most of the island of Ireland is.

The Burren Food Trail is a narrative to tell the story of the Burren to visitors in a way that is accessible, appealing and delicious.  It is a new departure in communication about the region – it tells the story of the landscape through the food of the landscape in the words of those who produce and create the wonderful food offering.

In this way, the Trail contributes to sustaining a local tourism economy that sees visitors drawn back to the area not just be memories of people and landscapes but also by the food and drink that added to the pleasure of their stay.

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