The Republic of Ireland is located on a large
island lying to the west of Great Britain. The northern part of the
island is a separate country, known as Northern Ireland. To the west
and south is the Atlantic Ocean, while to the east the Irish Sea lies
between Ireland and Great Britain.
Ireland is roughly the same size as New Brunswick. The greatest distance in the island from north to south is 486 km and from east to west is 275 km. The west coast is deeply indented with many bays, including Galway Bay and Donegal Bay, and dozens of islands, including the Aran Islands, Achill Island and Clare Island. Inland from the coast are low mountain ranges. The mountains of Donegal are in the northwest, those of Connemara in the west and those of Kerry in the southwest. Ireland's highest point, located in the mountains of Kerry, is Carrauntoohill peak, which rises 1,041 metres above sea level. In the centre of Ireland is a plain, with green meadows and rich farmland. To the east of the plain rise the mountains of Wicklow. The east coast is not as deeply indented as the west and there are fewer islands offshore.
Ireland has 800 rivers and lakes. The longest
river, the Shannon, is 386 kilometres long. It rises in the north and
empties into the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest. The lakes, called
loughs, include Lough Corrib in Galway County, Lough Derg,
which is part of the Shannon River system, and the Killarney lakes
in the southwest.
The climate of Ireland is influenced by the Gulf Stream, a current of warm water that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and flows northeast across the Atlantic. The weather is fairly mild throughout the year. The coldest months are January and February, when temperatures average 4 to 7°C and the warmest months are July and August, when temperatures average 14 to 16°C. It is often cloudy and it rains almost every day in some part of the country. However, it rarely snows, except in the mountains. The sunniest months are May and June.
Before the 17th century, Ireland was largely forested.
Few of these old forests remain. Today, most forested areas have been created
by government reforestation projects.
Foxes, badgers, otters, red deer and Irish hares live in the wild. Herring, cod, lobsters, mackerel, salmon and giant basking sharks are found off the coasts. Sea lions live on the west coast. Many birds can be found in Ireland, including merlins, corncrakes and peregrine falcons.