Sadly, the geographical facts of Ireland are not going include stories of Leprechauns, Banshees, St. Patrick and Guinness. Ireland is an island in the Atlantic, off the west coast of Britain. It is sub divided into two nations – the Republic of Ireland (Eire) and Northern Ireland. Eire is independent, but Northern Ireland is part of the UK. For the purpose of imparting some geographical facts of Ireland, we’ll be discussing the island as a whole and not taking into account the political boundaries.
I’m sure you all know that Ireland is associated with all things green and that’s its nickname is the Emerald Isle, but did you know that it is estimated that there are 40 shades of green in Ireland? It may not be the most startling of geographical facts of Ireland as it is somewhat hard to prove, but country singer Johnny Cash thought there was something in it and penned his tune ‘40 Shades of Green’ during a visit in 1959.
In a country associated with rolling hills and lush green pastures, Ireland has a few mountains over 3,000 feet (13 actually) and 10 of these are found in the Macgillicuddy Reefs in County Kerry in the south west corner of the country. The honour of being the tallest mountain in Ireland goes to Corrán Tuathail (Gaelic) or Carrauntoohil in its English name. It stands 3,406 foot high (1,038 m).
The Shannon is the longest river in Ireland. It is also the longest river in the British Isles. At 240 miles it is 24 miles longer than the River Severn, the longest river in mainland Britain. The Shannon was plotted way back in antiquity and runs a course that dissects much of the country into east and west. It is named after the Celtic Goddess Sionna, and where it meets the Atlantic (near Limerick), its estuary is 70 miles long.
Having the longest river is one of the geographical facts of Ireland that shares the title for the British Isles, the other is Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Ireland and the British Isles. Lough Neagh is a freshwater lake located in Northern Ireland and covers an area of 151 square miles. As the 15th largest lake in the European Union, the lough supplies 40% of Northern Ireland’s water needs. Of the 6 counties of Northern Ireland, it is only County Fermanagh that doesn’t share the shores of Lough Neagh.
The coastline of Ireland is simply stunning. It’s very craggy and rugged, and inlets give way to some gorgeous beaches. The headlands provide for some amazing views either inland to the rolling hills or out to sea and across to Wales and Scotland. The most northerly point in Ireland is Banba’s Crown at Malin Head, while the most southerly is Brow Head (near Mizen Head). The title of most westerly point goes to Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula, while the opposite in the east is Burr Point. Just imagine, stand on Dunmore Head facing the sea and there’s nothing to see but ocean until you reach Newfoundland in Canada, more than 3,000 miles away. These extreme points don’t take into account the various small islands around the coast of Ireland.
The largest valley is found in the Wicklow Mountains and is called Glendalough, a name which means valley of the two lakes, recognising the two bodies of water in the valley. Glendalough is a glacial valley formed in the last ice age and calling it beautiful is a serious understatement. The valley is a designated area of natural beauty and also a conservation area. There are also some significant monastic sites around Glendalough, as this is where Saint Kevin was abbot way back in the 7th century.
Did you ever wonder why one of the derogatory terms for the Irish used by the British is Bog Trotters? One of the unique geographical features of Ireland is the expanse of bog. More than 12,000 sq kms (4,633 square miles) of Irish countryside is bogland. Bogs were formed millennia ago – Neolithic farmers cleared large areas of land for agriculture, but as the land fell into disuse, it leached and the soil became more acidic. This provided a great growing environment for rush grasses and heather, and over many, many years, the debris from these plants formed peat. Peat became one of the most valuable resources in Ireland, being used for heating and cooking. One of the largest bog expanses is in Erris, in County Mayo.
The geographical facts of Ireland can’t really convey just how gorgeous this country is. Its mountains, lakes, valleys and swathes of pastures which give way to the stark karst landscape of The Burren really are a fest for any visitor. Enjoy, and let us know your favorite places to visit in Ireland!
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