Affectionately known as the Emerald Isle, Ireland is a relatively small island boasting vast green fields, rich flora and fauna, rugged mountainous regions, and meandering rivers.
Ireland is located on the westernmost edge of Europe, neighbouring Great Britain. It has a population of around 5 million people, uses the common Euro currency, and has two official languages in English (spoken by the majority) and Gaelic (spoken fluently and daily by a small minority).
In a similar fashion to the UK, Ireland’s climate is mild with extremely changeable weather and a fondness for heavy rainfall. Temperatures in Ireland rarely hit acute lows or staggering highs. Put simply, the winters are pretty cold, and the summers are pretty hot, with no major surprises in between.
In this article we are going to look at Ireland from a geographical viewpoint, and examine the various landscapes and natural phenomena that makes the Emerald Isle so uniquely beautiful.
A Typical Irish Landscape
Approximately 15,000 years ago the island of Ireland was completely covered in ice, dominated and suppressed by thick glaciers. The eventual movement of these glaciers stripped the island of its top level of soil and left behind massive segments of limestone pavement. This is why enormous sections of limestone can be found most famously at the Burren in County Clare, the Gort lowland to the east, and the Galway/Mayo border out west.
Unsurprisingly, Ireland is not known for its hilly and mountainous terrain. In fact much of the landscape, particularly in the midlands, is flat, grassy, and ideal for farming. However, Ireland does in fact have some quite remarkable mountains to climb. Carrauntoohil (pronounced car-an-two-hill) is Ireland’s highest peak at a whopping 1,038.6 m (3,407 ft). It acts as the towering centrepiece of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks range located in County Kerry.
Other popular mountainous areas in Ireland include Cnoc na Péiste and Mount Brandon (both of which are also located in Kerry). Beginning to see a pattern? Much of Ireland’s peaks and cliffs reside to the west of the country and span across Kerry, Clare, Galway, right up to Donegal. While I cannot speak from experience in terms of climbing any of these particular peaks, I have ventured to the top of Galtymore, a 919 m high mountain that spans across County Limerick and County Tipperary. It is Ireland’s tallest inland mountain, with a plethora of beautiful sights to behold including several glacial lakes.
Rivers & Lakes
Ireland’s longest river is the River Shannon which spans a basin area of 16,800 km2, and runs for just over 360km in length. To put it into context, the Republic of Ireland comprises of 26 counties, and the River Shannon can be found in 11 of them. The river develops into three major lakes along its course before eventually entering the Atlantic Ocean at the Shannon Estuary.
The largest lake on the island of Ireland is actually located in Northern Ireland and is called Lough Neagh (pronounced lock-nay). Not only is it the biggest lake in Ireland, it’s also the largest lake in the United Kingdom and the British Isles overall.
Northern Ireland consists of six counties, and five of the six have shores on Lough Neagh. They are Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone, and Derry. Before you open a new tab to Google, the other county that doesn’t touch the Lough is Fermanagh. It is a truly enormous natural freshwater lake that, if you can believe it, provides 40% of Northern Irelands water.
By now you’ll have realised that Ireland is much more than Dublin City and grassy fields! We hope you enjoyed this short geographical guide to the Emerald Isle.
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