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*Mullaghmore. Photograph: Julie Tillett

THE BURREN has been crowned as ‘The Best Place to Holiday in Ireland 2022’.

Hosted by The Irish Times in association with Fáilte Ireland, the Burren won the summer competition for its stunning landscape and its vision for sustainable tourism.

Unanimously backed by the judging panel, The Burren beat off stiff competition from the four other shortlisted locations, Achill, Co Mayo, Carlingford, Co Louth, The Causeway Coast / Portrush in Co Antrim and Inisbofin Co Galway.

Among the other things which impressed the judges about The Burren are its breath-taking coastal scenery and world-class tourist attractions, its grassroots food culture, and its joined-up community approach to warmly welcoming visitors while also protecting what is a unique environment.

The announcement was made live simultaneously on and on The Ray Darcy Show on RTÉ Radio One. The win caps a remarkable double for Clare in The Irish Times ‘Best Place to Holiday in Ireland Competition’ as the inaugural winner of the competition back in 2013 was the Loop Head Peninsula.

This year’s competition began in early May when members of the public were invited to nominate their favourite holiday destination on the island of Ireland. Over the course of the summer, close to 1,200 members of the public nominated hundreds of locations in every county in Ireland for the title of ‘The Best Place to Holiday in Ireland 2022’. While the number of nominations was a factor in the selection of the top locations – The Burren received 6 – the quality of the place itself was the chief consideration.

Two weeks ago, the long list of ‘Best 20 Places to Holiday in Ireland’ was published while last week the short list of five finalists was announced. Clare was one of just four counties to have two locations on that list – The Burren and Lough Derg.

Every nominated location was considered by a panel of judges on a range of criteria including natural amenities, built environment, sustainability, tourism services, diversity, a warm welcome for visitors, transport links, accommodation supply, cost and of course the X factor.

Chair of the Judging Panel, Conor Goodman from The Irish Times said that while selecting a winner had been difficult, in the end, the many fine qualities of The Burren shone through. He said this was clearly demonstrated in the comments of the judges and reviewers.

For Irish Times journalist Rosita Boland who hails from Ennis, The Burren is simply a unique region. “Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, and composed of fields of limestone, under which a network of unseen caves lie, the Burren is a haunting, stunning landscape. Among the fields of stone are a myriad of small businesses, making and selling local produce, while also collectively doing their best to safeguard this special place, including the rare flowers that bloom among the stone each spring. The towns and villages in the Burren each have their own distinct character and charm. The more you explore of this unique region in Ireland, the more it rewards the visitor”.

Travel blogger Nadia El Ferdaoussi says she has a feeling of excitement every time she visits The Burren because there’s always a different experience awaiting. “The drive up to Fanore beach along the coast is spectacular. Other highlights include The Burren Farm Experience where you can try some of the best local produce Clare has to offer, Wild Atlantic Picnics and Gra Picnics, incredible self-catering accommodation options with Fiddle and Bow, The Burren Smokehouse, brunch in Wild at Doolin Cave, a dip at Doolin Pier. The landscape is what sets The Burren apart, but the genuine friendly welcome is what’ll make you want to keep going back for more”.

Tourism consultant, Cillian Murphy who is also a Fianna Fáil councillor based in West Clare was among the judging panel of six. “As a destination, it’s the complete package, a place you can visit for a week, two weeks or if the impulse takes you, to move there full-time. There is a cohesiveness to how it all works — again something that’s easier to talk about than to achieve. This is what makes it stand out against all the other destinations,” he said.

Trevor White, Director of the Little Museum of Dublin described the region as one of the great natural landscapes of Europe and a place of enormous character and charm. “There is so much to do, accommodation options for all budgets, and a welcome that is second to none. Everyone knows about the Cliffs of Moher. This award will, we hope, encourage readers to linger awhile in a part of the island that richly deserves to be celebrated”.

For Irish Times reviewer Mary Minihan, The Burren has that real X factor. “Crumbling castles and forts at every turn, the incredible Poulnabrone Dolmen, impressive caves and traditional stone walls dividing rock-strewn fields – the Burren’s dramatic karst landscape is breathtaking long before you reach the Cliffs of Moher and the highly recommended beaches. Thoughtfully planned attractions to suit all tastes include the Birds of Prey Centre at the Ailwee Caves and the Burren Perfumery”.

She added, “The food is excellent, with a firm focus on local produce. Refreshingly uncommercialised, there is little sense of tourists and visitors being ‘gouged’ and a true welcome is shown to outsiders. The Burren deserved to be crowned ‘The Best Place to Holiday in Ireland 2022’ because it is such a magical place with an original vibe – a real X-factor that placed it above rival destinations”.

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