His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, in his first ever visit to the west of Ireland, spent the opening day of his historic visit exploring the rare flowers of the Burren in the company of local farmers, schoolchildren, conservation staff and volunteers. During the visit, the Prince, who has an avid interest in issues around farming and conservation, learned about the Burren Life project, a highly innovative programme which pays Burren farmers for their environmental performance, as well as the work of the Burrenbeo Trust, a local charity which co-ordinates a number of community-led education and conservation initiatives.

Prince_Charles & Brendan_The_Burren_Ireland_0120 (2)On his arrival, the Prince was welcomed by Dr Brendan Dunford, manager of the Burren Life Programme, and introduced to some of the extraordinary botanical, geological and archaeological features of the Burren, before discussing the farming of the land with his host, Burren Life farmer Patrick Nagle, and local farm leader Michael Davoren. Mr Nagle showed off some of the work he had completed through Burren Life – including the construction of stone walls and the installation of traditional gates, the repair of disused livestock watering points and the removal of invasive scrub. The Prince was then briefed by Burren Life scientist Dr. Sharon Parr who explained the unique field scoring system developed by Burren Life which captures the farmer’s environmental performance and rewards him/her accordingly. The Prince was also introduced to National Parks and Wildlife Service conservation ranger Emma Glanville who works closely with Burren Life in planning and delivery of programme actions.

Burren Life manager Dr Brendan Dunford stated that

We’re delighted that Prince Charles chose to feature the Burren Life programme during his Irish visit, it’s a welcome acknowledgement of the great esteem in which this locally targeted programme is held internationally.

Dr. Dunford added

It was such a thrill to show our esteemed visitor around this wonderful site, to talk about the quality of the shorthorn cattle and to see first-hand Arctic Mountain Avens, Alpine gentians and Mediterranean orchids, all happily coexisting. That’s really what the Burren, and this programme, are all about and this has been a wonderful opportunity to share this story with the world.

Patrick Nagle, on whose farm the Royal visit took place, said that

It was a great honour to show Prince Charles around our farm. We told him about the work that my son Oliver and I have done over the past 5 years of the Programme – new walls built and gates hung, scrub taken out, water sources protected, silage replaced – and about how the improved grazing that has resulted from this work has helped us to earn better environmental payments. This is a very proud day for us, for the generations of farmers who have worked the land of the Burren in the past, and for the youngsters that we hope will farm it in the years ahead.

The visit also included a meeting with four local schoolchildren, recent graduates of the Eco Beo programme, a 20-week intensive course in ‘place-based learning’ through which local schoolchildren learn all about the Burren, before graduating as ‘Burren experts’. Eco Beo is run by the Burrenbeo Trust, and over 1,000 local children have graduated from it over the past decade. The Prince also met local conservation volunteers and saw some of their work – repairing stone walls, monitoring butterflies and mapping archaeology. The visit concluded with a presentation of a hamper of local farm produce to the accompaniment of a quintet of local teenage musicians.

The Burren Life programme is an award-winning Agri-environment programme which is funded by the Dept. of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and by the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Over the past 5 years, €5m has been invested through Burren Life in improving the conservation status of 15,000ha of priority EU habitat in the Burren. More information is available from www.burre and in the attached brochure.


On 10 July 2013, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to award the European Diploma for Protected Areas to the Burren. This is the first time the award has been made in Ireland. This recognises the European significance of the area, which has remarkable natural values, a rich flora and fauna, an important cultural heritage, traditional socio-economic activities and good management. It is also testament to the unique partnership between the Dept. of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the local farming community and a host of local organisations in the Burren.

Created in 1965, this prestigious award is a very effective means of conserving Europe’s most outstanding natural and semi-natural areas. To date, 73 Diplomas have been awarded and are held in 28 European countries. 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the inception of this award and events are being organised nationally and across Europe to mark this event.