Imagine being blindfolded and led across the Burren

Burren Beo Trust tours are aimed at making the Burren accessible to everybody

Flowers on the Burren: ‘When I was a kid I went to the Burren on many school tours,’ says Áine Mae O’Mahony, who lost her sight in 2007. Photograph: Istockphoto

Flowers on the Burren: ‘When I was a kid I went to the Burren on many school tours,’ says Áine Mae O’Mahony, who lost her sight in 2007. Photograph: Istockphoto

 

Renowned for its rugged beauty, visitors from far and wide come to enjoy the rare flora and lunar landscape of the Burren. But despite it being open and free to the public to explore, the nature of the terrain means it is not accessible to all.

In an attempt to counter this, the Burren Beo Trust has introduced a series of tours aimed at people with disabilities and visual impairments.

“As you can imagine, the rocky terrain of the Burren can seem a daunting prospect for someone who has limited mobility, is visually impaired or has other disabilities,” says Richard Morrison, chief executive of the trust. “However, there are a good number of quiet single track and ‘green’ roads which provide appropriate surfaces,” he says.

Last month, at 5.30am on a Saturday morning, Dr Alex Copeland, senior conservation officer with Birdwatch Ireland, led a group of people with sight problems across the Burren to enjoy the beauty in the sound of the dawn chorus.

As well as listening to birds, the walk also provided the opportunity to touch and smell the unique plant life of the Burren.

“We are still learning how we can explain the wonder of the Burren to someone who is visually impaired. We hope that this walk will enable them to listen to and enjoy the sounds of the Dawn Chorus, something which many of us hardly notice.”

Tours for visually impaired

“When I was a kid I went to the Burren on many school tours,” says O’Mahony, who lost her sight in 2007.

“Even back then I was struck by the beauty of the place and the fact that so many unusual flowers were growing there. Losing my sight obviously meant that I would never see any of these rare plants again and I never imagined I would even return to the place which requires the ability to see where you are going.

“So when I was asked if I would like to join a visually impaired tour, I was really intrigued as I couldn’t imagine how it would work, but I decided to give it a go anyway.”

Power of smell

“We were taken firstly to the Burren perfumery which was a wonderful experience. Since losing my sight [through illness], my sense of smell has really heightened,” she says.

“We were guided around the garden and given the opportunity to touch and smell the different plants. Then we went into the perfumery where we got to smell different perfumes and oils and were given a little talk on how the various concoctions were beneficial.

“After a restorative cup of tea, we headed off across the rocks which I was a bit nervous about. If you can imagine being blindfolded and led across an uneven terrain, then you will get my drift, but it was quite exciting at the same time.

“We got to feel the fossils and the cracks where water had eroded the ground and got to hold some of the Neolithic tools which would have been used in the area many years ago; it was a fantastic voyage of discovery.

“After a day of touching, feeling, smelling and walking, we were completely exhausted but buoyed up by the experience,” she says.

“The guides were really passionate about the area and instead of just telling us what was what, encouraged us to get down and touch or smell for ourselves. We were all amazed at how much we got out of the experience and are looking forward to doing it again.”

For more information call 091 638096 or visit burreninbloom.com

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