Ireland, the third largest island off the northwest coast of continental Europe: its geography, climate, economy, flora
Ireland is the second largest island of the British Isles (32,598 square miles/84,429 square kilometers), the third largest island in Europe and the twentieth largest island in the world.. The island is divided into two major political units: Northern Ireland, which is joined with Great Britain in the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent country.
The Republic of Ireland covers 27,135 square miles (70,280 square kilometers). It occupies about 5/6 of the island of Ireland.
Dublin, located on the Irish Sea coast, is the capital of the Republic of Ireland and by far its largest city. It became the capital of Ireland in 1922, with the establishment of the Irish Free State, after the split with Britain. Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland, as well as the second largest city on the island of Ireland.
The Ireland flag has three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and orange.
The population is largely Roman Catholic (88%). For ecclesiastical purposes, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (United Kingdom) constitute a single entity.
The official languages are English and Irish (Gaelic). English is the language in common use. Gaelic is most common in the west of the country (the Gaeltacht).
Nearly three-fifths of the population is urban.
The most popular sport in Ireland is Gaelic Football.
Ireland lies to the west of Great Britain, from which it is separated by St George's Channel, the Irish Sea and the North Channel; it is bounded on the north, west and south by the Atlantic Ocean.
It consists of a central lowland, with highlands to the north and to the south; it has a deeply indented coastline, especially in the west, fringed by numerous islands. The several groups of mountains in the north and the south are of no great height; the highest mountain is Carrauntoohil (1,038 meters/3,406 feet), located in southwestern Ireland, near Killarney, in the Killarney region. In proportion to the size of the island of Ireland, there is a huge amount of rivers. The longest one is the River Shannon (386 kilometers/240 miles), which rises in the north, flows southwards receiving several tributaries and forming three lakes: Lough Allen, Lough Fee and Lough Derg; after forming a long broad estuary, it falls into the Atlantic Ocean on the southwest coast; it is navigable for nearly 200 miles/321 kilometers. Other important rivers are the Bann in the north and the Barrow in the south, both 150 miles/241 kilometers long.
Ireland is notable for its numerous and beautiful lakes, the largest is Lough Neagh (150 square miles/388 km), formed by the river Bann, which is also the largest lake of the British Isles. Particularly famous for their beauty are the lakes of Killarney, in the southwest of the island.
The Irish coast is indented by deep gulfs and estuaries, protected by jutting promontories; several seaports are situated at the end of these deep inlets. The most important of which are: Dublin, Belfast, Londonderry, Limerick, Cork, Waterford.
Ireland is is surrounded by hundreds of islands and islets: the Aran Islands, the Blasket Islands, Achill, Clare Island.
Ireland’s climate is classified as western maritime. The effect of the sea, which is felt everywhere inland on account of the deeply indented coastline, is increased by the influence of the Gulf Stream, which causes warm, moist winds from the Atlantic to blow over the island. So the coasts of Ireland are never ice-bound, and the interior is free from those extremes of heat and cold that continental countries on the same latitude generally experience. The rains, which are heaviest in the west, are responsible for the brilliant green grass of this island, called "emerald isle".
Ireland has a mixed economy.
Mineral production includes: lead, zinc, coal, iron, copper, limestone, aluminum, silver, hydraulic cement, clays for cement production, fire clay, granite, slate, marble, rock sand, silica rock, gypsum, limestone, dolomite, diatomite, building stone, and aggregate building materials.
Glass has been manufactured in Waterford, a place in south east Ireland, since 1783: Waterford crystal is world renowned.
Oil and natural gas are produced offshore.
Tourism is also very important: Ireland's green hills, rocky coasts, and cozy pubs have drawn tourists for centuries. The rocky Cliffs of Moher are the most popular tourist attraction. They provide a stunning view of the Atlantic ocean: they reach 702 feet (214 meters) at their highest point and stretch nearly 5 miles (8 kilometers) across. Dublin is blessed by a multitude of historic monuments, statues, sculptures, many shops and fine buildings. The most prominent monument is Nelson's Pillar.
Most of Ireland’s agricultural land is used as pasture or for growing hay. Cereal growing, particularly barley and wheat, is an important activity in the east and southeast of the island. Sheep raising is widespread on the rugged hills and mountain slopes throughout the country. Agriculture is considerably developed; the principal products are: barley, oats, flax, potatoes, corn, wheat, turnips, and sugar beets.
Dairy farming is very important; beef cattle, sheep, poultry, horses and pigs are reared for exportation. Other articles exported are: butter, cheese, meat, bacon, whisky, stout, linen, chemicals, machinery, computers, pharmaceuticals.
Today Ireland is the most deforested area in Europe. Considerably part of the territory is covered with bogs, or soft, wet, marshy ground, having a total surface of about 4.500 square miles/11.654 square kilometers. This renders communications difficult and reduces the area of fertile soil. Ferns are plentiful in many regions, especially in the western area. Many species of wild-flowers grow profusely in all parts of Ireland: they can be found on lake shores, rock ledges, dunes, marshes.
Image via Wikipedia