The Emerald Isle

The Emerald Isle Along the Shannon and the Erne rivers are many areas of bird-attracting wetland, and the larger lakes in the north offer breeding grounds for birds such as the elegant great crested grebe. There are five national parks in the Republic of Ireland, and because they are mainly state-owned, unlike Britain’s, they are not very big. What they lack in size, however, they more than make up for in the varied nature of their landscapes and geology and the richness of their fauna and flora. The five parks are the Glenveagh National Park, set in the spectacular mountain ranges of County Donegal; the small but carefully conserved Connemara National Park in County Galway; the beautiful, lake-dominated Killarney National Park in Kerry; the Wicklow National Park; and the strangely austere and even bleak Burren National Park in County Clare, where the limestone grassland gives shelter to an extraordinary collection of wildflowers, from arctic-alpine species to Mediterranean ferns. The Burren Way, that can be completed by walkers in two days, offers a dramatic path through The Burren and OPPOSITE: The spectacular Cliffs of Moher are situated on the edge of the Burren, County Clare. The cliffs consist of shale and sandstone. ABOVE & OVERLEAF: The almost alien landscape of the Burren in County Clare consists of a geological feature known as a limestone pavement with criss-crossing cracks across it. A variety of land and aquatic mammals live in the Burren, notably the Irish hare, the pigmy shrew, and the hedgehog. OVERLEAF: A specatular view of the Burren with Gleninagh Castle, a 16th-century tower house in the foreground. 249