Ireland is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, at the western edge of Europe accounting for approximately 84,000km2 of the Earth's surface. To put that in context, Ireland is approximately the same size as North Carolina and could fit into France over 7 times.

Underlying the landscape are ancient rocks, many of which are over 1.7billion years old. However, Ireland has been subject to prolonged denudation and it is the more recent glaciation phases that have shaped the landscape. Because of the high levels of erosion over millennia, the ancient mountains have been reduced to lowland. Only 5% of the island lies more than 300m above sea level with 75% below 150m.

Ireland has a large central lowland ringed by mountains, which is why it has often been likened to a saucer- upturned at the edges and flat in the middle. Almost all of the mountains in Ireland are around the coastal fringe, and only along the east coast, north of Dublin do the lowlands extend to the sea. Underlying the central lowlands is the largest area of Carboniferous limestone in Europe.

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