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*FILE PIC: Attendees at the launch of the Burren Ecotourism Network in March 2011.

Burren Ecotourism Network is celebrating its tenth anniversary this week.

During its decade existence, it has become a world leader in sustainable tourism. The network which now consists of nearly 70 tourism businesses has grown from 18 founding members when it was launched by Darina Allen and then Mayor of Clare, the now retired Cllr Christy Curtin (IND) at Gregans Castle Hotel on March 3, 2011.

Members range from operators like Burren Fine Wine & Foods and Marie McGauran’s Burren Walks to iconic tourist attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher. Businesses include those from hospitality, food, farming, activities, culture and heritage sectors, all committed to sustainable tourism in the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark.

A virtual event to celebrate the network’s journey and achievements with members past and present and associates will be held in March.

“It was a very good example of ground up collaboration, but the real glue that keeps it together and makes the Network the success it is today is the deep love for the place and for its future that is shared by all members,” Carol Gleeson, Manager of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark reflected.

Exploratory meetings held by the Burren Connect project led to the origins of The Burren Ecotourism Network in 2008. On long winter evenings, the group gathered at places like the Michael Cusack Centre and the Burren Centre to develop the structure and rules of operation, delineate the Burren catchment area and to establish the overall vision of the Network.

In 2009, Fáilte Ireland invited the group to become the ‘pilot’ for the promotion and expansion of ecotourism in Ireland. The aim was that the tourism business network could be used as a template for ecotourism development, with an accreditation that could be used nationally. The launch event in 2011 saw the 18 founder members presented with certificates by Mary Mulvey of Ecotourism Ireland.

The Burren Connect project became the Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark in 2011 achieving UNESCO status in 2015.

Global attention for the Burren has been earned “due to our having such a practical and holistic approach to sustainable destination management, especially now that ecotourism and sustainability have become such high priorities, worldwide,” Jarlath O’Dwyer, CEO of the Burren Ecotourism Network maintained.

Earlier this year, the network scooped the Lonely Planet ‘Best in Travel’ tourism project in 2021 with the group described as “a global leader for sustainable tourism.”

This accolade is one of a host of awards the Burren Ecotourism Network and Burren Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark has received over the years. In 2014 the Geopark won ‘Best Destination for Responsible Tourism’ at the Irish Responsible Travel & Tourism Awards. In 2015, the Burren Food Trail received the ‘European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) award for Tourism and Gastronomy’, closely followed by winning ‘Foodie Towns of Ireland’, 2015. In 2016 the ‘National Geographic World Legacy Award for Destination Leadership’ was awarded to the Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark.

Food has been a key part of the success story, with the establishment of a ‘Burren Food Trail’ in 2013, as well as the annual ‘Burren Food Fayre’ and’ the ‘Burren Slow Food Festival’. These events have run every year and attract high profile chefs from Ireland and the UK. In 2018 the highly successful Burren Long Table events were launched with five Long Table events held since. In 2019 the Network collaborated with Chef Trevis L Gleason to publish the ‘Burren Dinners’ Cookbook’ which features the food, chefs and producers from the Burren area.

George Quinn, Chair of the Board of Directors the Burren Ecotourism Network acknowledged the support received by the network over the years. “The maturity of our network has been the underpin of support for members during the pandemic and the members in turn have continued to contribute generously with their time and money, even in these most challenging times for our industry”.

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