The cultural landscape of the Burren is not a fossilized entity composed of ancient tombs and stone forts. In actual fact the region must count as one of the most vibrant and diverse cultural landscapes in Ireland, home to a wide range of artists, craftspeople and entertainers who together account for such as rich and varied cultural output as does justice to this wonderful place. Whether it’s a traditional music session, high quality art galleries or a strong literary tradition, the Burren has a lot to offer for the interested culture seeker.
Many visual artists have been inspired by the sweeping grey landscapes of the Burren, and by the rich flora and ancient monuments found scattered throughout. Some illustrious names are associated closely with the region’s artistic heritage. Robert Gregory, the son of Lady Augusta Gregory, who died in 1918 in the First World War, painted some beautiful landscapes near his home in the northern Burren. Internationally renowned artists such as the great Australian painter Sir Sidney Nolan formed a close connection with the Burren through his frequent visits here.
The Burren also has a fascinating literary heritage, much of it focused on the New Quay – Finnevarra area, once home to the Bardic school of the O’Dalaighs, commemorated today by a monument. A little further north, on the Flaggy Shore is Mount Vernon, summer home of Lady Augusta Gregory and popular spot for literary greats like Yeats and Synge. The same shore has inspired poet Seamus Heaney who captured so beautifully the special ambience of the area in his poem ‘Postscript’.
Handmade knitwear, pottery, Celtic woodcraft, handcrafted leather, Raku ceramics, wooden furniture and handmade musical instruments – the variety of crafts available in the Burren is considerable, the character unique and of a very high quality.
Cultural traditions are celebrated at festivals in the region including the Cruinniú na mBád (Gathering of the Boats) in Kinvara, the Burren Winterage Weekend and the Corofin and Kilfenora music festivals.
Traditionally the Burren would have been viewed as a predominantly rural society, somewhat removed from urban influence, far out on the western seaboard. Most of the shopping, socialising, business and marketing would have been done at a local level, or extending as far as the towns of Ennis and Gort. There would have been relatively little interaction with the ‘outside world’ and most of those living in the Burren would have been from the area and working there.
In recent years a lot has changed and the Burren has become much more of a cosmopolitan society. Large numbers of holiday homes have been built along coastal regions, in small clusters or single sites. Large numbers of visitors pass through the region every year and a significant seasonal industry has built up around this. Indeed in summer, the region could be described as buzzing – there’s even a traffic jam or two to be seen.
More information on the rest of the Built & Culture Heritage of the Burren: