Burren Farm Experience: Meet Bronagh and Cathal O'Rourke

What is the Burren Farm Experience?

Bronagh and Cathal O'Rourke on their farm in County Clare. Photo courtesy of Burren Farm Experience Facebook.

The Burren Farm Experience is a 500-acre family farm set in the heart of the Burren and is run by me and my husband, Cathal.

As 5th-generation dry beef farmers, our love for the area resonates in how we run our eco-tourism business and in our efforts to highlight the conservation of this rich and unique landscape.

Our goal is to inform visitors about rural life in County Clare and the sustainable farming methods that ensure the continued health and diversity of the Burren.

At the Burren Farm Experience, you can expect the best of Irish hospitality when you visit.

Can you give me some background as to how you started the Burren Farm Experience?

I was in corporate sales for many years and after we started a family, we decided it wasn’t working for us.

The UNESCO Global Geopark in County Clare, where you'll find the Burren Farm Experience. Photo: Brian Morrison. Copyright: Clare County Council.

So I had my third daughter, did a tour guide course, and began looking at how to develop a great tourism offering on our farm in The Burren UNESCO designated Geopark in County Clare.

What was it about the farm itself that made it the perfect place to turn into a tourist attraction?

I think that sharing the knowledge and passion for the Burren landscape and lifestyle was the main reason for us going into tourism. And the kind of bespoke tours that we organize allows our visitors to taste, feel, and walk through one of Ireland's most raw and breathtaking landscapes, an area that is located on the beautiful Wild Atlantic Way.

rocks in a field Burren Farm Experience
The unique Burren landscape in County Clare. Photo: Chris Hill, Tourism Ireland.

Because our family has been in the Burren for over 200 years, the landscape has really shaped us and our lives. And as a result, we are happy to share our passion for the land, nature, and farming.

Visitors can reconnect with nature as they discover the raw and harsh beauty of the Burren, renowned for its limestone pavement, flora, and wildlife, as well as the native alluvial woodland and lush grassland.

What qualifications/experience do you both have as tourism ambassadors?

My husband is a qualified agricultural expert in farming, having farmed this land with his dad since childhood. He is also the holder of a Green Cert from An Teagasc, Ireland's Agriculture and Food Development Authority.

a cow and calf Burren Farm Experience
A cow and its calf on the Burren Farm run by Bronagh and Cathal O'Rourke. Photo courtesy of Burren Farm Experience Facebook.

He works in cow marts locally and as a result, is very involved in the cattle industry. In addition, our farm is part of The Burren Programme.

I am a fully qualified Failte Ireland tourist guide and eco guide, as well as a forest bathing facilitator. I am currently training to be a ranger in The Burren National Park.

We are also members of the Burren Ecotourism Network, and I am currently doing a course in transformational travel experiences with TTC.

What kinds of experiences can people expect when they visit and what would you say are the most popular experiences with your visitors?

In addition to the tours that I mentioned above, we offer the following experiences that are also popular.

WELLNESS EVENTS /FOREST BATHING – this includes yoga by the lake, a rejuvenating experience, in addition to a hike and wild cooking on a fire pit.

ART CLASSES – an inspirational hour-long outdoor workshop that is led by an art expert.

cooking outside Burren Farm Experience
Foraging and cooking food outdoors is part of the Burren Farm Experience. Photo courtesy of Burren Farm Experience Facebook.

WILD FOOD DINING – private dining with a personal chef; includes cooking over a fire pit with local ingredients.

WILD FORAGING HIKE – hike and forage seasonal plants with a foraging expert, and learn more about foraging itself.

SUNSET HIKE & OYSTER SHUCKING – enjoy a rejuvenating hike and watch the sun go down while feasting on oysters.

I know that in the past you have hosted events. Are you planning to do those again now that Covid restrictions have been lifted? If so, what events might be available soon?

At this time, we are only accepting bookings for private events.

What kinds of visitors does the Burren Experience attract?

We attract a lot of intergenerational family groups and specific groups who may be into nature/biodiversity/agriculture.

High-quality beef is also available at your farm? Is this popular among locals and is it possible to ship overseas?

food on a table Burren Farm Experience
Expect to enjoy succulent beef and other wholesome food at the Burren Food Experience. Photo courtesy of Burren Food Experience Facebook.

Yes, our beef is a very important part of our business and the management of the land. We sell it online and at local farmers' markets. It is not available to ship overseas at the moment.

Does the Burren Farm Experience work with other tourism-related businesses in the Burren area?

Yes, we are part of a network called the Burren Ecotourism Network, a group of 75 local businesses. We try to collaborate when we can. In addition, we use all local foods as part of our experiences.

Are people surprised by the fact that given the nature of the land in the Burren, you and your husband have been able to successfully run a farm here?

Yes, that is true. However, because I am not from here I see it as a visitor would and can explain it to guests.

How can people book tours with you?

They can do so by contacting us on our website, and on social media, including our Facebook Page and on Instagram.