Ireland is an island nation on the westernmost edge of Europe. It is the continent’s second largest island (after Great Britain). The Republic of Ireland occupies 80 percent of this landmass, while a large chunk of land in the north is part of the United Kingdom.
Ireland is known for its wide expanses of lush, green fields. In fact, its nickname is the Emerald Isle. But there are also large areas of rugged, rocky landscape. About 15,000 years ago, Ireland was completely covered by thick glaciers. The movement of these giant sheets of ice stripped the soil, leaving huge tracts of flat, limestone pavement.
The midlands and west coast of Ireland are dotted with damp peat bogs, the soggy remains of dried-up ancient lakes left by the glaciers. Ireland’s highlands rise mainly in the southwest, often ending at sheer cliffs that plunge thousands of feet into the Atlantic Ocean.
The Irish have a great affection for nature and rural life. The country’s first coins even featured pictures of animals. Low levels of development and pollution in Ireland have left most of the nation’s open spaces relatively undisturbed.
Did you know that there are no wild snakes in Ireland? The sea has stopped many animals common on mainland Europe from reaching the island. There are also only two wild mouse species, one type of lizard, and just three kinds of amphibians.
Irish wildlife is protected by government conservation programs. To preserve natural habitat, the government has established six national parks and hundreds of national heritage areas throughout the country.
Land Area: 26,598 sq mi (68,889 sq km); Total Area:27,135 sq mi (70,280 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 4,832,765 (growth rate: 1.2%); birth rate: 15.18/1000; infant mortality rate: 3.74/1000; life expectancy: 80.56
Capital (2011 est.): Dublin, 1.121 million
Monetary Unit: Euro (Formerly Irish pound [punt])