Winterage Weekend

Ancient ‘transhumance’ tradition to be celebrated in the Burren: walk in the steps of our ancestors

For thousands of years, Burren farmers have marked the end of summer by herding their cattle onto ‘winterage’ pastures in the limestone uplands where they spend the winter grazing. This ancient ‘transhumance’ tradition, which is synonymous with the Burren and key to the survival of the region’s famous flora and fauna, is to be celebrated this month as part of a community festival.

Supported by The Heritage Council under the Burren Community Charter Project, the first ever ‘Burren Winterage Weekend’ will consist of over 30 different events on the Samhain weekend, between October 26th and 28th, in various locations across the Burren.

As part of the weekend the Burrenbeo Trust are organising two unique walking celebrations across one of Ireland’s most inspiring landscapes accompanied by local farmers, poets and philosophers: The Herdsman’s Walk (approximately 10km) and the Fertile Rock, Sacred Stone Walk (approximately 5km). Each of the walks promises to be a unique and memorable immersion in Ireland’s most exceptional pastoral heritage. Both walks will culminate at the inaugural community re-enactment of a Winterage Cattle Drove, where walkers will accompany cattle from the village of Carron up to their winter pastures. The drove will be followed by a special outdoor concert by the world  Lismorahaun Singers nestled in one of the Burren’s most spectacular natural amphitheatres.

The term ‘transhumance’ is used to describe the seasonal movement of livestock and people between summer and winter pastures. In most cases where it is practiced – such as in the Alps - it refers to the herding of livestock to summer pastures, but in the Burren the reverse is the case. It is thought that Burren farmers initially adopted this practice in response to the shortage of water in summertime, only to find that the warmth of the limestone and the ample grazing on the rocky winter pastures made the Burren an ideal, low-cost ‘outwintering’ environment for their stock. Winter grazing by cattle, at a time when most flowers are dormant, enables the Burren’s renowned complement of flowers and insects to flourish unhindered in summer. Winter grazing is also critically important to the conservation of the extraordinary array of monuments built by farmers in the past, as it slows down the encroachment of damaging scrub.

As Dr. Brendan Dunford of the landscape charity Burrenbeo Trust explains “The practice of Winterage is not only unique and intriguing, it's a big part of the reason why we have so many monuments, flowers and stories here in the Burren today. Witnessing the cattle browsing on the herb-rich winterage pastures, drinking from the calcium-rich springs or enjoying the 'dry-lie' of the limestone captures the very essence of this 'fertile rock'. It’s nice to honour the many generations that have herded cattle on these hills, to celebrate their legacy and to hope that these wonderful traditions can somehow be sustained into the future.”

The Herdsman’s Walk -28th October
Beginning at the foothills of the iconic Mullaghmore mountain, explorer Dermot Somers will set the scene for this remarkable journey. Local farmers will guide walkers across their land bringing the myths and legends of this landscape alive through their impassioned descriptions. Walkers will visit a herd of Burren goats and taste their cheese, climb the sacred hill of Slieve na Glaisé to learn of the myth of a magical cow. They will stand on pastures awash with archaeological remains, myths and legends, older than the pyramids, and walk past the ruins of drover’s cottages and a herd of traditional shorthorn cattle. This promises to be a unique and memorable immersion in Ireland’s most exceptional pastoral heritage.

Fertile Rock, Sacred Stone -28th October
The Fertile Rock,Sacred Stone will cover no more than 5km and will celebrate the Burren’s unique farming traditions and their impact on the famous ‘fertile rock’ as well as visiting some very special sites of worship within this sacred landscape. It will include visiting holy wells and the spectacular ruins of the 12th Century Temple Chrónáin accompanied by a local farmer and the anthropologist and theologian Fr. Sean McDonagh; a visit to the Burren Perfumery; and a walk in the company of the poet Brian Mooney around the ancient penitentiary stations adjacent to Tobar Fachnan holy well.

The 30 different events taking place over the Burren Winterage Weekend will include a ‘food fayre’ showcasing the Burren’s fine food and drink; various guided walks and talks on the farming practices, geology and archaeology of the Burren; a very special presentation by travel writer and documentary presenter, Dermot Somers on the extraordinary ‘transhumance’ nomadic journeys undertaken by people and their livestock around the world; fancy dress scavenger hunts for children; traditional music sessions in the pubs and much, much more.

You can view full details of the Winterage Weekend and the two walks at

For more information please contact or 091-638096.
The Burren Winterage Weekend is a community led event coordinated under The Burren Community Charter. 


final Burren Winterage Weekend Programme2.pdf308.69 KB