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The Burren


The Burren, from the Irish ‘An Bhoireann’, literally means a rocky place.  Its lunar limestone pavement is Europe’s largest karst landscape. 

Uniquely on the planet Arctic, Mediterranean and Alpine plants grow side-by-side while acid and alkaline loving plants abide in close proximity.  Grasses grow in the crevices of the limestone pavement, a natural underfloor heating system, allowing cattle to graze the uplands in Winter in a reversal of practice elsewhere.  Waters flow through labyrinthine underground caves appearing on the surface only in the Caher valley.  Everywhere paradox and surprise are the norm.   

A place whose craggy features and otherworldly magic are believed to have informed Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the Burren has an unbroken human heritage stretching back more than six millennia. The presence and unflinching beauty of the place is palpable with the power to ‘catch the heart off guard and blow it open’*.  Few can fail to be touched and awakened by its primeval force.

For more information to help you plan an extended stay read more about The Burren here.

*From nobel laureate Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Postscript’ inspired by the Burren’s ‘Flaggy Shore’.


During the program we stay in Ballyvaughan (Irish: Baile Uí Bheacháin, meaning ‘Town of the Beacháin (Behan) family or Townland of the Mushrooms’), a picturesque harbour village in County Clare in Ireland.  It is located on the south shores of Galway Bay, in the northwest corner of The Burren, an area with a remarkable natural heritage and an even more remarkable human heritage.

Ballyvaughan is a busy place in Summer with its charming traditional pubs, restaurants, shops, hotels, B&Bs and other amenities.   The new pier and slipway, constructed in 2006, has opened up the area to boating, fishing, scuba diving and other maritime activities.  Ballyvaughan is also home to the Burren College of Art, and a perfect gateway to surrounding Burren landscape with its fascinating riches of geology, caves, flora, fauna, archaeology, history, walks in limestone and seaside landscape etc.

For information on accommodations for the retreat, please visit the Retreat Registration page.

Burren College of Art (BCA)

Clad in limestone and built on an intimate scale in the curtilage of a 17th century tower house, BCA  blends seamlessly into the Burren landscape forming a natural continuum with its surroundings.  It also carries a natural historical lineage with the tradition of learning in the area which boasted many schools of Brehon (legal) and bardic (poetic) scholarship in the medieval period.  Embracing the natural presence and heritage of its setting the college offers the elements of time, space and inspiration for the students of fine art seeking to find their authentic expression as artists. 

Recognizing that we live at a moment of profound change BCA has reached out beyond its core vocation as an art college to share the essence of what artists know - creative process - with masters and PhD students of many disciplines from the nearby university.  In addition it has sought to bring creative process to bear on ‘audacious conversations’ dealing with vital issues such as climate change, the nature of the education system and the survival of indigenous languages. 

Learn more about our Burren/BCA hosts here

To inquire about receiving an invitation, contact founder Mary Stacey to arrange a call.

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