Limestone, butterflies, ruined castles, and labyrinthine caves make the Burren, which covers 260 sq. km, a unique geological experience. HiBurren Exposure, between Kinvara and Ballyvaughn on N67, gives a soaring introduction to the region through films shown on a wall-to-wall screen. ( 707 7277. Open 10am-6pm. Tickets ‚5, children ‚3.) The Burren town of Lisdoonvarna is synonymous with its Matchmaking Festival, a month-long craic-and-snogging celebration that attracts over 10,000 singles each September. The Hydro Hotel O has information on the festival and its own nightly music. ( 707 4005. Open Mar.-Oct. ‚45 per person.) The Burren is difficult to get around; the surrounding tourist offices (at Kilfenora, Ennis, Corofin, and the Cliffs of Moher) have detailed maps of the region. Hikers can set out on the 40km Burren Way, a trail from Liscannor to Ballyvaughan marked by yellow arrows. Bus Eireann ( 682 4177) connects Galway to towns in and near the Burren a few times a day in summer but infrequently during winter. In Ballyvaughan, stay at O’Brien B&B , above a pub and restaurant on Main St. which has pleasing rooms, a plethora of fireplaces, and a hearty Irish breakfast. ( 707 7292. Single ‚20; doubles ‚40.) Fallon’s B&B 0, in Kinvara on the Quay, offers spacious rooms. ( 637 483. Breakfast ‚8-10. Open Apr.-Nov. Singles ‚35; doubles ‚60.)

In the past few years, County Galway’s reputation as Ireland’s cultural capital has brought flocks of young Celtophiles to Galway City (pop. 70,000). Given the 13,000 university students from Galway’s two major universities, the large transient population of Europeans in their twenties, and the waves of international backpackers that arrive daily, it is no surprise that Galway is the fastest growing city in Europe. During the day, Galway’s greatest draw is its close proximity to the Clare Coast and Connemara; as a starting point for seeing the west, Galway can’t be beat. At night, however, the city itself becomes the center of attention, with a mesmerizing pub universe and an incredible music scene.

THE BURREN Photo Gallery

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