GEOLOGY & FORMATION
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Much of Northwestern Europe was folded up in the Caledonian and Armorican phases, forming mountains of Himalayan scale, which millions of ice age years and and denudation have eroded to their present shape and size. The remnants of this vast mountain chains can be found in Ireland, Scotland and Scandinavia. Today, 75% of Ireland is below 150m and the highest peak Carrantouhill in Co. Kerry in the Southwest is only 1,041m high.
Most of the regions in Ireland were formed by glaciation. While the Southwest and central areas of Ireland were covered by a thick layer of ice until around 20,000 years ago, the ice cap only retreated from areas in the Northeast around 10,000 years ago when the ice age came to an end. Wide areas of the Southern coast and the area of present Northern Kerry were left mostly ice free.
In the central lowlands, the main effect was the deposition of sheets of drift materials, which later became fertile agricultural land. The gravel and clay materials shaped undulating forms around Dublin while it’s shape is more irregular and hummocky in the central lowlands. The drainage from the glaciers formed lakes in the hollows, which later turned into peat bogs, which are typical for the area today. Eskers, ridges made from sand and gravel, formed where the water flowed beneath the ice and can still see today in the Shannon basin.
Where the ice melted last, the scraping ice molded the landscape into drumlins, little hillocks made of eroded sediments. The drumlins extend from the Donegal Bay to Strangford Lough.
Much of the upland area was stripped bare of soil by the ice, which was carried down as drift materials to the lowlands. Where ice formed in mountain-side valleys, great curved basins (corries) have been scooped out, leaving sharp escarpments where the corries met.
From palm trees and rhododendrons to heather and gorse, Ireland has an astonishing flora. The mild climate makes it possible for plants from all kinds of different areas to grow here. Due to the different climatic origin, it is possible to encounter bloom nearly all through the year, but the bloom of rhododendrons and fuchsias in spring and early summer adds a special atmosphere to the green pastures. Hazelnut, oak, birch, larch, ash and several pine trees are all native to Ireland. Ireland also has a rich variety of mosses, which grow in the moor lands together with heather and lichens.
The Burren in Co Clare is renown for its remarkable assemblage of plants and animals and over 70% of Ireland’s species of flowers can be found here. The region supports many rare Irish species, some of which can only be found here. Due to its unusual environment, arctic and Mediterranean species grow here side by side.
Among the wild mammals in Ireland are dodgers, hedgehogs, martens, otters, rabbits, red foxes and deer. The only reptiles in Ireland are lizards. There is a large variety of birds, including storm petrels, gannets, ducks, geese, puffins, oyster-catcher or grouses. Many birds nest in the cliffs along the Southern and Western coast in May and June.
Geology & Nature