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Map of the Month December 2022 - The shape of the land

Following a break for a number of months our 'Map of the Month' is back. This month our cartographer Dr Jesko Zimmermann shows the different landforms as described by the Geological Survey of Ireland's Physiographic Units, and how the land left it's mark in our cultural memory.

This month's map focusses on two  aspects of the landscape that are among the most important drivers of human interaction with the land. The topography, and water. Using the same methodology as in a previous  Map of the Month  we searched for references to landscape features in the Irish names of townlands. This was done both automatically, followed by a manual scan to remove ambiguities. The Irish names were specifically chosen to avoid possible ambiguity of English translations. The sources of the names were the  Irish Placenames Database  and P.W. Joyce's The origin and history of Irish names of places. Examples of the Irish words used for each reference can be found in the legend, these are not the comprehensive list. 

The first map below shows the townlands with references to topography in their names. These include references to mountains, hills and heights such as binn e.g. Binn ÉADAIR, cnoc e.g. An Cnoc or ard e.g. Ard Mhoir and plains maigh e.g. Mhaigh Eo and valleys e.g. gleann An Gleann Garbh. 

Map showing Townlands with references to topography in their names

Over 6000 townlands with references to topography were identified. While most topographic references are well distributed across Ireland, the references to peak clearly coincide with the higher mountain ranges, especially in Cork and Kerry, showing the link even at a large scale.

The second map shows shows townlands with references to water features in their names, which include another 2190 townlands. They refer to names such as rivers - Abhann; e.g. Droichead Abhann O gCearnaigh, lake - lough e.g. Baile Dhúlocha or morass - currach e.g. An Currach

Map showing townlands with references to water features in their names.

One interesting aspect visible in the map is the sparsity of topographic and water related references in the north-east of the country, especially in and around Kildare, Meath and Westmeath. It wasn't in the scope of this map to look into the drivers of the distribution of names but a possible reason maybe the topography itself which is relatively flat. 

View full interactive versions of the maps here