Burren's 'mini-dolmen' trend criticised


THE FAD among tourists of building little replica dolmens from the stones in the Burren area of Co Clare has been deplored by groups concerned about protecting the landscape there.

Yesterday school children joined in a project to dismantle hundreds of mini-dolmens – little stone tables built by tourists – which could be seen inside a field at a site overlooking Ballyvaughan, two miles from the famous 5,000-year-old Poulnabrone dolmen.

The then project manager with the Burren Connect Project, Carol Gleeson, said: “The tourists erecting the dolmens are engaging in a form of vandalism. This is a wonderful ecosystem and the erection of these dolmens is like scribbling on a masterpiece.”

John Hehir, who was in charge of children from Lisdoonvarna school, said: “The tourists are so impressed by the real dolmen that they want to recreate their own. But they are like graffiti on the Burren and it does take from the real landscape.”

He added: “This is a great eye-opener for the kids. They could be inside in a classroom, but it isn’t until they come and see and handle things and talk to each other about what is out here that the penny drops.”

Ms Gleeson added: “Unique and vulnerable habitats are being destroyed by visitors when they illegally remove protected limestone pavement to build the dolmens. However, we believe that most visitors do not want to deliberately damage the Burren pavements, as they do not realise the full environmental impacts of their actions.”

Yesterday, Ms Gleeson was accompanied by Clare County Council’s heritage officer Congella McGuire and biodiversity officer Shane Casey as they oversaw the children.

Ms Gleeson said: “It is only recently that the erection of these dolmens has become a fad. There is no malicious intent on the part of the tourists. It comes from a lack of knowledge.”

As Ms Gleeson spoke, the children fanned out across the fields removing more little dolmens. As they took to their task, a busload of American tourists pulled up to view the scene.

Ms McGuire said: “We highlighted this problem around 10 years ago and it hasn’t emerged as a problem again until recently so I guess the message has been lost in the meantime.”

Ms McGuire said that the erection of the dolmens occurs in only a few tourist hot spots across the Burren.

Local landowner Mary Davoren O’Regan welcomed yesterday’s initiative. She said: “Most of the Burren is private property and landowners would appreciate it if visitors respected this fact . . . We are in a unique and special area that is protected by EU legislation and I wish visitors had a better understanding of the fragility of the pavements and how important it is to care for this special landscape.”