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Selected Trips

    Ireland's Only Landscape Conservation Charity

    Partnering with the Burrenbeo Trust, Ireland’s only landscape conservation charity, travellers on Wilderness trips help to support the conservation of the Burren’s unique geological, environmental and cultural landscape.

    The Burrenbeo Trust was founded in 2008 with the aim of generating increased awareness and appreciation for the Burren’s stunning landscapes. This membership-based charitable trust has 25 programmes to encourage community-led conservation, manned by over 100 regular volunteers. Over 5,000 more people regularly subscribe to the trust.

    From education to research, advocacy, and conservation, the Burrenbeo’s goal is to develop a sustainable future for the Burren. The members work with the farmers to facilitate and grow their connection and symbiotic relationship with the landscape. Burrenbeo engages and informs local communities and international visitors about the importance of conserving the Burren. Burrenbeo also acts as a model to promote sustainable practices in the Burren and beyond.

    Though initially developed for the Burren, their continuing success allowed the team to realise that the same methods could be used in other agricultural regions of Ireland with a few tweaks.

    Learn more about the Burrenbeo Trust on their site below.

    View Their Site

    The Burren Pine Project

    Golden sunset behind a silhouette of Burren poine

    Sunset lighting up ancient Burren pines. Photo credit: Donal Hogan

    Wilderness Ireland has chosen to support the Burren pine project. Every traveller on our trips has the chance to support this project with a small donation added to their trip price. Each contribution counts, enabling further tree planting, conservation efforts and community outreach.

    The Scot’s Pine – known as the Burren pine in a strictly Irish context – is Ireland’s only native pine tree species. For hundreds of years, it was thought that these trees had disappeared from Ireland, only growing here after reintroduction from Scotland-reared saplings.

    However, a student visiting a remote corner of the Burren region outside the national park (a place appropriately called Rock Forest) made a surprising discovery: a copse of native Scot’s Pines – now recognised as Burren pines – that has been growing in Ireland for thousands of years. These trees were growing here on their own without needing reintroduction. Pollen analysis confirmed that these trees were 100% native.

    Further research proves that the Burren pine trees once covered the Burren landscape but later died out, only to be reintroduced to Ireland in the Dark Ages. In fact, according to Burrenbeo, the Burren region supports the only confirmed native stand of pine trees.

    Restoring Ireland's Ancient Trees

    Planting a sapling Burren pine tree

    Planting a sapling Burren pine tree. Travellers on Wilderness Ireland trips contribute to tree plating through our conservation fund. Photo credit: Burrenbeo

    The Burrenbeo Pine Project intends to restore these ancient woodlands, returning this corner of the island to its former natural environment. When writing, the Burrenbeo Trust has planted 700 Burren pine trees, along with over 2,100 companion species, on seven different sites. Everyone backing this project, including travellers with Wilderness Ireland, contributes to planting a combination of Burren pine trees and other native Irish “companion” trees throughout the Burren.

    Extremely hardy and able to grow in adverse conditions, they continue to survive in rugged terrains and climates. In fact, of the 700+ Buren Pines so far planted, not a single one has been lost. A few companion trees have died out and required replacing, but the Burren Pines seem determined to prove their stubbornness.

    Additionally, the Burren Pine Project maintains and cares for the newly-planted saplings, as well as educating and encouraging community involvement in rewilding this landscape.

    Learn more about Burrenbeo’s Pine Project on their website below. 

    Learn More

    Why is the Burren Special?

    From afar, the Burren looks rocky and desolate. Up close though, it is a landscape teeming with life.

    The Burren region of Ireland, located in Co. Clare (and just over the border into Galway) on the west coast, is one of the most unique places in Ireland and beyond. This exposed limestone “pavement” accounts for one of Europe’s largest and most significant karst landscapes.

    At its heart, the Burren National Park covers 1,800 hectares and contains some of the region’s most iconic sights, from the swirls etched in stone atop Mullaghmore Hill to the ancient cultural heritage of Poulnabrone Tomb. But the Burren region defies borders. While there is no official demarcation, the region spreads well behind the (somewhat narrow) constraints of the national park, encompassing lots of private land.

    At first glance, this region might appear barren, but it is anything but barren. Every spring and summer, the Burren erupts into a carpet of wildflowers. The Burren hosts some of the broadest variety of wildflowers in Europe, with flowers native to the Arctic Circle down to the Mediterranean, all jostling for space between the crags of this alien terrain.

    Traditional Farming Methods – Winterage

    Traditional farming in the Burren. The farmer on the left practices winterage; the farmer on the left does not. Photo insets show the summertime difference. Credit: Burrenbeo

    Part of this is due to the traditional farming methods that have long been practised in the Burren. Called “winterage,” this practice is a sort of reverse transference of livestock. In most places, the upland regions are abandoned in winter, with farmers driving their cows into the valleys. But the situation is reversed in the Burren. The upland regions are where the cattle are brought to winter, as the valleys can be pretty wet. This is because of the Burren’s unique limestone landscape – the rocks keep the landscape drier.

    Winterage means the cows eat more of the grass in winter, leaving room for the meadows. When the farmers bring the cows down to the lowlands in summer, their now-empty pastures offer the perfect conditions for superbly stunning wildflower meadows. You can see an example of farmers who practise winterage and farmers who do not in the accompanying image.

    Traditional practices are dying out. This isn’t unique to Ireland, but regardless, it impacts nature and the country we live in. The Burrenbeo works with farmers to educate them, connect them with the landscape and encourage the sustainable practice of traditions. And in most cases, it’s been incredibly successful.

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