All About Ireland

_map_of_irelandIreland, an island in north-west Europe, has an area of 32,595 square miles.  At its greatest it is 302 miles long and 171 miles wide and consists of a central lowland surrounded by a broken range of hills and small mountains.

The climate is mild on account of the Gulf Stream, without extremes of heat or cold.  Average temperatures in January are around 4-7oC and in July 14-16oC, rising occasionally as high as 25oC.  May and June are often the sunniest months, and North American visitors in particular will notice that there are many more daylight hours in summer than in the US.  Rainfall is heaviest in the mountainous west and lightest in the east but the weather is at all times very changeable.  A day of prolonged and depressing drizzle can end with a clear sky, a spectacular sunset and the promise of a sunny day to follow.  Even so it is wise to have a raincoat or umberella to hand while touring.

There are 32 counties and four provinces: Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster.  Six of the 9 Ulster counties are part of the United Kingdom and the other 26 form the republic of Ireland.  The principal cities and towns are Belfast (capital of Northern Ireland), Dublin (capital of the republic of Ireland), Cork, Londonderry, Limerick, Waterford and Galway.

Ireland, as everyone knows, is very green.  This is caused by the mild, damp climate which encourages growth.  Two areas of great botanical interest are Glengarriff, Co. Cork, which enjoys the full benefit of the Gulf Stream, there is a luxuriant growth of tropical flora such as arbutus, fuchsia and other delightful flowering plants.  A trip to Garinish Island, just offshore from Glengarriff, with its beautiful plant collection is well worth while.  By contrast the Burren is an area of Co. Clare which resembles a lunar-like landscape of bare, carboniferous limestone.  It is 100 square miles in size but in spring and early summer produces a host of exotic orchids, ferns and rare plants.

There are at least 380 wild birds to be seen in Ireland, for migration goes on all year.  The most common species are blackbird, thrush, goldcrest, starling and curlew.  Among the indigenous animal species are the Irish hare, the Irish stoat, fox and red deer.  Wild deer roam the Kerry and Wicklow mountains.

Irish horse breeding is world famous, being centred on counties Meath and Kildare.  The national stud at Tully Co.Kildare (near the Curragh) can be visited at certain times of the year.  There are seven distinct breeds of Irish dog, the best known being the giant Irish wolf-hound, the Irish setter and the Irish water spaniel.  There is only one reptile, the common lizard, and, thanks to St. Patrick, no snakes!

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