Geography of Ireland

Ireland is sometimes known as the “Emerald Isle” because of its green scenery, as can be seen in this satellite image.

Lough Neagh is the largest.

Politically, the island consists of the state, Ireland and Britain is often used as a neutral term for the islands.


[edit] Geological development

The oldest known Irish ice age. However, because of the effects of later upheavals, it is almost impossible to sequence these early rock layers correctly.

About 600 million years ago, at the end of the Precambrian super-eon, the Irish landmass was divided in two, with one half on the western side of the Iapetus Ocean in Laurentia and the other on the eastern side in the micro-continent Avalonia, both at a latitude of around 80° South, close to what is now northwest Africa.[5] From the evidence of fossils found at Bray Head in County Wicklow, Ireland was below sea level at this time.

Over the next 50 million years, these two parts drifted towards each other, eventually uniting about 440 million years ago. Old Red Sandstone also formed at this time.

Between 400 million and 300 million years ago, northwest Europe – including Ireland – sank beneath a warm, tectonic movement which saw Ireland drift further northward. The resulting pressure created those Irish mountain and hill ranges that run in a northeast to southwest direction.

Karst landscape in the Burren

By 250 million years ago, Ireland was at the latitude of present-day Egypt and had a desert climate. It was at this time that most of the coal and sandstone were eroded. The thinner layers of limestone in the south of the country were also partially affected by this erosion. The limestone that was exposed by the disappearance of its sandstone mantle was affected by carbon dioxide and other factors resulting in a karstic landscape that can still be seen in the Burren in County Clare.[6] Shortly after this period, organic debris in the seas around Ireland began to form the natural gas and petroleum deposits that now play an important role in the economy of Ireland. Then, about 150 million years ago, Ireland was again submerged, this time in a chalky sea that resulted in the formation of chalk over large parts of the surface. Traces of this survive under the basalt lava that is found in parts of the north.

About 65 million years ago, the volcanic activity that formed this lava began. The Mourne Mountains and other mountains in the northern part of the island formed as a result of this activity.[7] Climatic conditions at this time were warm and vegetation thrived. Vegetable debris in the Antrim depression formed deposits of brown coal or lignite which remain untouched down to the present time. The warm conditions produced high rainfall that accelerated processes of erosion and the formation of karstic landscape forms.

By 25 million years ago, Ireland was close to assuming its present position. The long period of erosion had resulted in considerable human inhabitants began to emerge. By about three million years ago, the present landscape of Ireland had more or less formed.

Since about 1.7 million years ago, the earth has been in the grip of a cycle of warm and cold stages and these have, inevitably, affected Ireland. The earliest evidence we have for this effect comes from the period known as the Ballylinian Warm Stage, some half a million years ago. At this time, most of what are now considered to be native Irish trees were already established on the island. The action of the ice during the cold stages was the major factor in bringing the Irish landscape to its current form.

Obvious impacts of the Machair.

[edit] Rocks and soil types

Layers of Doolin in County Clare.

The large central lowland is of [13]

The soils of the north and west tend to be poorly drained podzols. In contrast, in the south and east the soils are free-draining brown earths and brown and grey-brown podzols. This is reflected in the rainfall distribution on the island, with the poorly drained regions being those with the highest rainfalls.

An unusual environment is present in north County Clare, in an area known as the Burren. This karst-like landscape consists of limestone bedrock, with little or no soil in the inner-most areas. There are numerous sinkholes, where surface water disappears through the porous rock surface, and extensive cave systems have been formed in some areas. The Pol an Ionain cave, near Doolin, is the site of one of the world’s longest known free-hanging stalactites.[14]

[edit] Mountain ranges

Mountains, lakes, rivers and other physical features of Ireland are shown on this map. (large version).

Ireland consists of a mostly flat low-lying area in the midlands, ringed by mountain ranges such as (beginning in County Kerry and working counter-clockwise) the [17]

[edit] Rivers and lakes

Lough Lene, the Lake County

The main river in Ireland is the list of rivers in Ireland.)


[edit] Inlets

Topography of Ireland

Mayo for 16km

Beginning with County Donegal, [19]

Great Island is situated.

Dunmanus Bay, Bantry Bay, Kenmare estuary and Dingle Bay are all inlets between the peninsulas of County Kerry. North of these is the Shannon estuary. Between north County Clare and County Galway is Galway Bay. Clew Bay is located on the coast of County Mayo, south of Achill Island, while Broadhaven Bay, Blacksod Bay and Sruth Fada Conn bays are situated on the north west part of Connaught in North Mayo. Killala Bay is on the north east coast of Mayo. Donegal Bay is a major inlet between County Donegal and County Sligo.[18]

[edit] Headlands

Malin Head is the most northerly point in Ireland,[22] while Mizen Head is one of the most southern points, hence the term “Malin head to Mizen head” (or the reverse) is used for anything applying to the island of Ireland as a whole. Carnsore Point is another extreme point of Ireland, being the southeastern most point of Ireland. Further along the coast is Hook Head while the Old Head of Kinsale in is one of many headlands along the south coast of Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher along the coastline north of the point.


[edit] Islands and peninsulas

Dingle Peninsula as viewed from Banna Strand

Achill Island, in the northwest, is the largest island off Ireland’s coast. The island is inhabited, and is connected to the mainland by a bridge.[23] Some of the next largest islands are the Aran Islands, off the coast of southern Connacht, host to an Irish-speaking community, or Gaeltacht. Valentia Island off the Iveragh peninsula is also one of Ireland’s larger islands, and is relatively settled, as well as being connected by a bridge at its southeastern end. Omey Island, off the coast of Connemara is a tidal island.

Some of the best-known peninsulas in Ireland are in County Kerry; the Fastnet Rock.

[edit] Climate

Ireland’s climate is temperate,[24] though significantly warmer than almost all other locations at similar latitude, such as Poland (on mainland Europe) or Newfoundland (on the opposite edge of the Atlantic), due to the warming influence of the North Atlantic drift. The prevailing wind blows from the southwest, breaking on the high mountains of the west coast. Rainfall is therefore a particularly prominent part of western Irish life, with Valentia Island, off the west coast of County Kerry, getting almost twice as much annual rainfall as Dublin on the east (1,400 mm/55.1 in vs. 762 mm/30.0 in). Across the country, about 60% of the annual rainfall occurs between August and January.

January and February are the coldest months of the year, and mean daily air temperatures fall between 4 and 7 °C (39.2 and 44.6 °F) during these months. July and August are the warmest, with mean daily temperatures of 14 to 16 °C (57.2 to 60.8 °F), whilst mean daily maximums in July and August vary from 17 to 18 °C (62.6 to 64.4 °F) near the coast, to 19 to 20 °C (66.2 to 68 °F) inland. The sunniest months are May and June, with an average of five to seven hours sunshine per day.[25] Though extreme weather events in Ireland are comparatively rare when compared with other countries in the European Continent, they do occur. Explosive Atlantic depressions, occurring mainly in the months of December, January and February, can occasionally bring winds of up to 160 km/h/99 mph to Western coastal counties; while the summer months, and particularly around late July/early August, sudden and violent thunderstorms can develop, more especially, but not exclusively, across midland and western areas of the country.

The table shows mean climate figures for the Dublin Airport weather station over a thirty-year period. Climate statistics based on the counties of Northern Ireland vary slightly but are not significantly different.[26]

Dublin Airport weather station statistics from 1961 to 1990[27]
Factor Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily max temp (°C) 7.6 7.5 9.5 11.4 14.2 17.2 18.9 18.6 16.6 13.7 9.8 8.4 12.8
Mean daily min temp (°C) 2.5 2.5 3.1 4.4 6.8 9.6 11.4 11.1 9.6 7.6 4.2 3.4 6.0
Mean daily sunshine (h) 1.8 2.5 3.6 5.2 6.1 6.0 5.4 5.1 4.3 3.1 2.4 1.7 3.9
Mean monthly rain (mm) 69.4 50.4 53.8 50.7 55.1 56.0 49.9 70.5 66.7 69.7 64.7 75.6 732.7

Climate data for Belfast
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 13
Average high °C (°F) 6
Average low °C (°F) 2
Record low °C (°F) −13
Precipitation mm (inches) 80
Source: [28]

[edit] Political and human geography

Ireland is divided into four provinces, Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster, and 32 counties.[29] Six of the nine Ulster counties form Northern Ireland and the other 26 form the state, Ireland. The map shows the county boundaries for all 32 counties.

(Republic of) Ireland

  1. Dublin
  2. Wicklow
  3. Wexford
  4. Carlow
  5. Kildare
  6. Meath
  7. Louth
  8. Monaghan
  9. Cavan
  10. Longford
  11. Westmeath
  12. Offaly
  13. Laois
  14. Kilkenny
  15. Waterford
  16. Cork
  1. Kerry
  2. Limerick
  3. Tipperary
  4. Clare
  5. Galway
  6. Mayo
  7. Roscommon
  8. Sligo
  9. Leitrim
  10. Donegal

Northern Ireland

  1. Fermanagh
  2. Tyrone
  3. Londonderry
  4. Antrim
  5. Down
  6. Armagh

From an administrative viewpoint, 20 of the counties in the republic are units of local government. The other six have more than one local authority area, producing a total of 34 county-level authorities. Tipperary has two ridings, North Tipperary and South Tipperary, originally established in 1838 and renamed in 2001.[30] The cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford have city councils and are administered separately from the counties bearing those names. The remaining part of County Dublin is split into Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin.[29]

Electoral areas in Ireland (the state), called constituencies in accordance with Irish law, mostly follow county boundaries. Maintaining links to the county system is a mandatory consideration in the re-organisation of constituency boundaries.[31]

In Northern Ireland, a major re-organisation of local government in 1973 replaced the six traditional counties and two [35]

[edit] Natural resources

Life in Ireland

[edit] Bogs

Ireland has 12,000 km² (4,633 miles²) of [37]

Raised bogs are most common in the Shannon basin. They formed when depressions left behind after the ice age filled with water to form lakes. Debris from reeds in these lakes formed a layer at the bottom of the water. This eventually choked the lakes and raised above the surface, forming raised bogs.[38]

Since the 17th century, peat has been cut for fuel for domestic heating and cooking and it is called turf when so used. The process accelerated as commercial exploitation of bogs grew. In the 1940s, machines for cutting turf were introduced and larger-scale exploitation became possible. In the Republic, this became the responsibility of a semi-state company called Bord na Móna. In addition to domestic uses, commercially extracted turf is used in a number of industries, especially electricity generation.[39]

In recent years, the high level of bog being destroyed by cutting has raised environmental concerns. The problem is particularly acute for raised bogs as they yield a higher-grade fuel than blanket bogs. Plans are now in place in both the Republic and Northern Ireland to conserve most of the remaining raised bogs on the island.[40]

[edit] Oil, natural gas and minerals

Offshore exploration for [44]

In May 2007 the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (now replaced by the [45]

In March 2012 the first commercial oil well was drilled 70 km off the Cork coast by Providence Resources. The Barryroe oil well is yielding 3500 barrels per day, at current oil prices at $120 a barrel Barryroe oil well is worth in excess of €2.14bn annually.[46]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Nolan, Professor William. “Geography of Ireland”. Government of Ireland. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
  2. ^ “Site Synopsis (Inishtrahull)” (PDF). National Parks and Wildlife Service.,3875,en.pdf. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  4. 30002311.
  5. ^ Hill, Jon; Davis, Katie (November 2007). “Precambrian History of England and Wales”. Archived from the original on 2011-01-12. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
  6. ^ “Landscapes for living!”. European Landscapes. Geological Survey of Ireland. Retrieved 11 January 2008.
  7. ^ Northern Ireland – Living World“. Retrieved on 23 January 2008.
  11. ^ “Bog of Allen Map & Guide”. Irish Peatland Conservation Council. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  12. ^ “Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast”. Unesco World Heritage Sites. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  13. ^ Brittle tectonism in relation to the Palaeogene evolution of the Thulean/NE Atlantic domain: a study in Ulster Retrieved on 10 November 2007
  14. ^ Deegan, Gordon (27 May 1999). “Blasting threatens future of stalactite”. Irish Examiner. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  15. ^ “Glen Of Aherlow”. Glen of Aherlow Fáilte Society. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  16. ^ Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  17. ^ “500 m Irish Mountains”. Retrieved 11 January 2008.
  18. ^ Retrieved 2 February 2008.
  19. ^ Retrieved 2 February 2008.
  20. ^ Joyce, P.W. (1900). “Description of County Wexford”. Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland. Retrieved 2 February 2008.
  21. ^ Joyce, P.W. (1900). “Description of County Waterford”. Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland. Retrieved 2 February 2008.
  22. ^ “Malin Head”. Weather Observing Stations. Met Éireann. Retrieved 2 February 2008.
  23. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  24. ^ “Marine Climatology”. Met Éireann. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  25. ^ “Sunshine in Ireland”. Met Éireann. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  26. ^ “Northern Ireland climate information”. UK Met Office. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  27. ^ “30 Year Averages – Dublin Airport”. Met Éireann. Retrieved 23 January 2008.
  28. ^ “Belfast, Northern Ireland – Average Conditions”. BBC Weather Centre. BBC. Retrieved 8 October 2009.
  29. ^,3922,en.pdf. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  31. ^ “Electoral Act 1997″ (PDF). Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  32. ^ “Local Government Policy Division Structure”. Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 30 September 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  33. ^ Major reform of local government“., 22 November 2005. Retrieved on 23 January 2007.
  34. dead link]
  35. dead link]
  36. ^ Abbot, Patrick. “Ireland’s Peat Bogs”. The Ireland Story. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  37. ^ “Blanket Bogs”. Irish Peatland Conservation Council. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  38. ^ “Raised Bogs”. Irish Peatland Conservation Council. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  39. ^ “Peat Energy History”. Bord na Móna. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  40. ^ “Written Answers. – Raised Bog Conservation”. Dáil Éireann Parliamentary Debates – Volume 487. Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas. 26 February 1998. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  41. ^ b Shannon, Corcoran & Haughton (2001), The petroleum exploration of Ireland’s offshore basins: introduction, Geological Society, London Lyell Collection—Special Publications, p 2
  42. ^ Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  43. ^ “Providence sees Helvick oil field as key site in Celtic Sea”. Irish Examiner. 17 July 2000. Retrieved 27 January 2008.
  44. ^ “Mining in Ireland”. Minerals Ireland: Exploration and Mining Division. Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
  45. ^ Retrieved 11 January 2008.
  46. ^ “Ireland’s first oil well to yield 4,000 barrels per day”. BBC News. 15 March 2012.

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] Print

  • Mitchell, Frank and Ryan, Michael. Reading the Irish landscape (1998). ISBN 1-86059-055-1
  • Whittow, J. B. Geography and Scenery in Ireland (Penguin Books 1974)
  • Holland, Charles, H and Sanders, Ian S. The Geology of Ireland 2nd ed. (2009). ISBN:1903765722
  • Place-names, Diarmuid O Murchadha and Kevin Murray, in The Heritage of Ireland, ed. N. Buttimer et al., The Collins Press, Cork, 2000, pp. 146–155.
  • A paper landscape:the Ordnance Survey in nineteenth-century Ireland, J.H. Andrews, London, 1975
  • Monasticon Hibernicum, M. Archdall, 1786
  • Etymological aetiology in Irish tradition, R. Baumgarten, Eiru 41, pp. 115–122, 1990
  • The Origin and History of Irish names of Places, Patrick Weston Joyce, three volumes, Dublin, 1869, 1875, 1913.
  • Irish Place Names, D. Flanagan and L. Flanagan, Dublin, 1994
  • Census of Ireland:general alphabetical index to the townlands and towns, parishes and paronies of Ireland, Dublin, 1861
  • The Placenames of Westmeath, Paul Walsh, 1957
  • The Placenames of Decies, P. Power, Cork, 1952
  • The place-names of county Wicklow, Liam Price, seven volumes, Dublin, 1945–67

[edit] Online

[edit] External links

Maps from

Source: Wikipedia