The Burren and Its Arcadia Fellowship

Dr. Thomas Kelley Resident Director


October 20, 2021

Ireland is old.  Not in a pejorative or disparaging way, but in a powerful and awe inspiring manner.  Like a sage family elder, time has refined Ireland, gracefully ageing among its people and using its grizzled landscape to tell the stories of its ancient past.  Arcadia in Ireland feels that an appreciation for Ireland’s geologic and geographical past is important in understanding the Irish people and their place in the Modern World.

We took our students to the Wild Irish West, starting with a visit to the glorious Cliffs of Moher, now a designated UNESCO site and in this author’s estimation one of the natural wonders of the world.  Students from all Arcadia programmes in Ireland bonded with each other and Arcadia staff while exploring these sheer cliffs that dramatically drop 700 feet and teem with plant and animal life.  These cliffs have featured in cinematic classics like the Princess Bride and Harry Potter and make an “inconceivable” starting point.

Guided by a local expert in Irish topography, the group toured over the rugged and captivating Burren landscape, learning about Ireland’s ancient civilizations and how they engaged with the land, its neighbours and the sea over centuries.  We also experienced Irish food, stopping in Doolin, a small fishing village located on the Clare coast for lunch before rambling off to another nearby village, Lisdoonvarna, known for its entrepreneurial Matchmaker Festival as well as the birthplace for many Irish musicians.  Along the way we saw Ireland’s first carbon neutral hotel, Hotel Doolin, to appreciate Ireland’s commitment to sustainable tourism.  This is where the ancient meets the modern in Ireland.

Braving the occasional downpour, we also stopped by one of the world’s best preserved pre-Christian portal tombs, the Poulnabrone Dolmen, and a fantastic example of a stone ring fort, Cathermore, near Ballyvaughan.   It’s simple to see how this landscape inspired J.R.R. Tolkien, who spent time in the Burren marking university exams while revising his epic Lord of the Rings manuscript.  Viewing such structures upon this dramatic landscape reminds one of Froto’s journey through Middle Earth.

While Ireland’s green pastures have been engrained in popular imagination, the rugged and rocky landscape of the Burren and County Clare cannot be forgotten.


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