Out and about in Ireland’s Heartland – Cavan Burren Park

Once upon a time – as all the best stories go – Ireland was in the tropics!! No, not a fairy tale – and if you’ve a hard time believing it you should see the weather outside right now! So we start off in shallow tropical seas, throw in some shifting tectonic plates, add a few glaciations and here we are….

The geology of Ireland is diverse. With over 6000km of stunning coastline to be explored and most major urban centres located close to the sea, Ireland’s interior can often be ignored – especially for those on their first visit to the country That’s ok – you can’t see everything – but its worth coming back some time to enjoy what our midlands have to offer…

County Cavan is known for its rolling hills (drumlins) and lakes which were shaped by the last ice age. There are supposedly 365 lakes in the county – yes – one for every day of the year!

If you like the outdoors then you’ll certainly enjoy a few hours at Cavan Burren Park. Here, you will find layer upon layer of history, all nicely interpreted and explained, accessed by a series of trails which offer impressive archaeological and geological features in a stunning setting.

You can come up here and not read one thing … just enjoy the wide open landscapes and fresh air!

Interpretation boards help you identify features in the landscape as you take in the 360° views. 

The park may have opened in just 2014, but it has been in existence for 340 million years! It is located on limestone bedrock, laid down in those tropical seas – you will find coral embedded in the rocks. You will see limestone paving with its characteristic gullies and crevices. There are sinkholes where rivers disappear and sunken valleys…..

You’ve a choice of 4 easy trails of differing length (1.3km – 2.9km) and access. Surfaces vary between gravel paths and bog bridge steps. All offer archaeological and geological features as well as fantastic views. The 26 km Cavan Way also runs through the Park if you fancy something a bit more challenging. 

Sitka Spruce likes the wet temperate climate in Ireland and is now the most commonly planted conifer in the country.

Not so long ago – about 13,000 years – during the last Ice Age, huge boulders of sandstone were deposited by glaciers on the limestone bedrock. These boulders are known as ‘Glacial Erratics’ and there are lots to be seen throughout the park. They sit on pedestals of limestone making them pretty distinctive.

The arrival of the first settlers heralded the next big influence on the landscape. Neolithic farmers arrived here around 4500BC. They cleared trees and laid out fields. They built settlements – evidence suggesting that they were quite significant in size. They built great funeral monuments using the resources around them – limestone slabs or the huge sandstone boulders of the glacial erratics. The variety of burial sites implies that the area was of sacred significance at this time.

There are more than 80 archaeological monuments in the park, ranging from prehistoric field walls to impressive tombs and ancient rock art.

This is a Wedge Tomb. In basic terms, this would be a stone box with a roof slab (there are about 400 in Ireland). This tomb faces the setting sun on the Winter Solstice (December 21st).

Boulder Tombs

A major part of the pedestal has been removed from beneath the glacial erratic rock to create a chamber or sacred space. The boulder has been levered up with stones or wedges.

The Calf House Dolmen is one of the most popular attractions here. Originally, that collapsed roof would have been positioned on top of uprights, resembling a table. The four inch thick slab is reckoned to weigh at least 10 tons of solid limestone (imagine the effort needed to move it!). During the 19th century, local farmers converted the chamber into a barn to house their cattle, hence the name.

Giant’s Grave

This wedge tomb is one of the best preserved in the country. The giant Lug and his brother Lag were both in love with the same giantess. They agreed on a competition to win her hand – they would jump over a nearby gorge. They both safely made the jump so Lag decided to leap again – backwards! He fell to his death and was buried here at the Giant’s Grave while the gorge is known as the Giant’s Leap Chasm. I cannot tell you anything about the giantess alas – Did she approve of the contest? Did she marry Lug? Did she live out her days in mourning for Lag?

On the capstone, you can see examples of rock art – mostly cup and ring. This is a sample of Atlantic Rock Art which can be found along the Atlantic fringe from Spain to Scotland.

One of today’s residents…. camera shy!

While you’re in the Area:

You’re just about 6 km from Shannon Pot – the traditional source of Ireland’s longest river.

That’s it – Not the most exciting landmark on the planet but nice to say you were there all the same….

Síonnan, granddaughter of r, the Celtic God of the Sea, came to the Shannon Pot in search of the great Salmon of Wisdom. The Salmon was angered at the sight of Síonnan and caused the pool to overflow and drown the maiden. Thus the Shannon was created and still bears her name today.

Small Stuff

Where is it exactly:

Not to be confused with its namesake in County Clare (The word ‘Burren’ actually comes from the Irish Boíreann meaning a rocky place), you will find the Park in West Cavan, close to the village of Blacklion, up near the border.

Getting there:

There is no direct transport link from Dublin. Bus connections are from Enniskillen to Blacklion (6km from Park).

The most convenient method of transport is car. Its about a 2.5 hour drive from Dublin.

Opening Hours:

Nov – Feb : 8am – 6pm
Feb – Apr : 7am – 9pm
May – Aug : 7am – 11pm
Sept – Nov : 7am – 8pm

Costs:

This is a FREE attraction

Park Information and Tours:

The Visitor Centre offers lots of displays about the Burren’s story and the geological, archaeological, mythological, natural, and cultural history of the landscape.

Interpretive information is easily accessed along the paths.

Visitors can download the free APP.

Tour guides can be booked through the Park website.

Facilities:

Accessible interpretative centre

Public toilets

Free Parking

Picnic tables

Cuilcagh Catering is on site from 12pm to 6pm on Friday, Saturdays, Sundays and bank holiday Mondays for the summer months.

Accessibility:

Trail one, which is approx 1.2km in length, is an accessible trail and encompasses some of the most important features at the Park as well as 360° views of the surrounding landscape from the highest point in the park. 

Before you go:

If you’re thinking of visitng this part of the country, have a look at these:

Slieve Russell Hotel

Lough Erne Resort

Fermanagh

19 thoughts on “Out and about in Ireland’s Heartland – Cavan Burren Park

  1. It’s true that from Dublin, Cavan was just known for the football games (gaelic) and no more. It is a good initiative to have created this park. Great report.

    1. My only connection with Cavan EVER was to stop in Cavan town to visit relatives on our way to Donegal! The park is relatively unknown so far – we only came across it because we were overnighting close by and I just looked up activities. It should do well with staycationers this year. XXXMarie

    1. Yes – between the landscape and the prehistoric stuff its certainly worth a visit. Its not far from the Fermanagh Lakes so might get a bit of attention from visitors to that part of the country. XXXMarie

  2. And there are supposedly 365 islands in the beautify Clew Bay; one for every day of the year! Even thou we live only 52 km from the park, we’ve never been to Cavan Burren Park. It’s definitely one of the places I would love to explore this year. Hopefully, the governments will allow us at least to travel within Ireland 🙂 Thanks for sharing and introducing me to a new park, Marie and have a lovely weekend. It’s bitterly cold in Sligo and snow is expected over the night. Take care. Aiva 🙂 xxx

    1. Hoping to get to that part of Mayo over the summer….
      There are a few nice bits to see around the Fermanagh Lakes / Cavan area – you could enjoy a nice few days thereabouts.
      Hope you not snowed in. Not very nice here but the snow didn’t stick. XXXMarie

  3. I started a blog post with those words once – – I’d always wanted to write a story that started that way!
    Love the rocks in that park – so cool. Amazing how it seems relatively unknown by the comments I have read here. Seems like a great place to escape to. Someday when we get back to Ireland I will put it on the list. Thanks for sharing.

  4. It’s years since I visited The Burren but I remember how I was impressed with the isolation. In a good way I may add. My own theory about the Giantess is that she laughed her socks off at the idiocy of Giant Lag in attempting to jump the chasm backwards and then kicked Lug into the chasm to keep Lag company so that she wasn’t forced to marry him!

  5. What an amazing place and I’ve never heard of it. Ireland is a treasure trove, it really is. For sure I’m headed up that way if I ever get the chance. And here’s me thinking that drumlins were only to be found in the sea, like in Clew Bay.

    1. I didn’t know of it either and I’ve never heard anyone talk of it! The drumlins in Clew Bay are actually ‘drowned drumlins’ – same thing only mostly under water. – Your lesson for today (once a teacher…..😖😖)

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