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Background Information on Northern Ireland Society - Geography

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Text and Research: Fionnuala McKenna
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change


The following (draft) page provides some brief geographical details on Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland
All of Ireland
Total Area :
5,456 square miles
32,593 square miles
5,156 square miles
31,557 square miles
300 square miles
1,036 square miles
232 miles
1,970 miles
Outline map NI
Outline map Ireland
  • The island of Ireland is situated in the Atlantic ocean, west of Britain, and to the extreme north-west of Europe. It lies between latitude 51.5 and 55.5 degrees North, and longitude 5.5 and 10.5 degrees West.
  • Ireland shares the same time zone as London that is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
  • Northern Ireland is situated in the north-eastern corner of Ireland, and is made up of six counties: Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh, and Tyrone.
    Outline map of Northern Ireland; counties
  • Belfast, situated in county Antrim, is the capital city of Northern Ireland.
  • There are five cities in the region: Armagh, Belfast, Derry, Lisburn, and Newry. (Lisburn and Newry were granted city status in 2002.)
  • Northern Ireland has a population of 1,641,700. Belfast is by far the largest city, but there are also major population centres in Ballymena, Coleraine, Craigavon, Derry, Dungannon, Lisburn, Newry, and Omagh.
    Outline map of Northern Ireland; main cities, towns, and villages
  • There is a significant imbalance in the industrial development between the east and west of the River Bann. The East of the Bann tends to be largely industrialised, whilst the West remains more agriculturally based.


The climate of Ireland is influenced by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and on the whole, it tends to be quite temperate. Its relatively small size and the prevailing south-west winds also give a fairly uniform temperature over the whole country. Winters tend to be generally mild, and summers generally cool.

  • Coldest months of the year: usually January and February. Average temperature: 4oc-7oc.
  • Warmest months of the year: July and August. Average temperature: 14oc-16oc.
  • Sunniest months of the year: May and June. Average sunshine per day: 5-7 hours.
  • Average rainfall for Ireland as a whole is between 800 and 1200 mm (or 31" to 41") per year.


  • The main rivers of Northern Ireland are the river Foyle and the Upper and Lower Bann. The river Foyle forms part of the northwestern boundary and flows into Lough Foyle at Derry. The Upper Bann rises in the Mourne Mountains and empties into Lough Neagh while the Lower Bann flows out of Lough Neagh to the North Channel. There are however many other rivers such as the Lagan, Erne, Blackwater, and Bush.
  • There are three main mountainous areas of considerable height in Northern Ireland. These are the Sperrin Mountains in the northwest, the Antrim Plateau which is along the northeastern coast, and the Mourne Mountains in the southeast. The highest point in the country is Slieve Donard (2796 ft), a peak in the Mourne Mountains, near Newcastle in county Down.

Main landmarks include:

  • The Giant's Causeway, which is a rock formation consisting of thousands of closely placed, polygonal pillars of black basalt. It is located on the North Antrim coast, and is one of Northern Ireland's main tourist attractions.
  • Lough Neagh, which is approximately 150 square miles, and the largest lake (in terms of surface area) in Britain and Ireland. It is situated roughly in the middle of Northern Ireland.


Counties of Ireland - Population, Major Towns/Cities, Land Area, and Rank by Area, (1996 Estimated Figures)

Top 10 Land Owners in Northern Ireland (2002)

Counties of Ireland - Population, Major Towns/Cities, Land Area, and Rank by Area, (1996 Estimated Figures)

County Population Major City / Town Land Area
square miles
Rank by Area
Antrim, NI 562216 Belfast 1093 9th
Armagh, NI 141585 Armagh 484 28th
Carlow 41616 Carlow 346 31st
Cavan 52944 Cavan 730 19th
Clare 94006 Ennis 1262 7th
Cork 473277 Cork 2878 1st
Derry, NI 213035 Derry 798 15th
Donegal 129944 Letterkenny 1876 4th
Down, NI 454411 Bangor 945 12th
Dublin 1529102 Dublin 352 30th
Fermanagh, NI 54033 Enniskillen 647 25th
Galway 188976 Galway 2350 2nd
Kerry 126130 Tralee 1815 5th
Kildare 134992 Naas 654 24th
Killkenny 75336 Kilkenny 796 16th
Laois 52945 Portlaoise 664 23rd
Leitrim 25057 Carrick-on-shannon 614 26th
Limerick 192140 Limerick 1030 10th
Longford 30166 Longford 403 29th
Louth 92166 Dundalk 318 32nd
Mayo 111524 Ballina 2159 3rd
Meath 109732 Navan 905 14th
Monaghan 51266 Monaghan 500 27th
Offaly 59080 Tullamore 771 18th
Roscommon 51975 Roscommon 984 11th
Sligo 55821 Sligo 709 22nd
Tipperary 133535 Clonmel 1647 6th
Tyrone, NI 152827 Omagh 1211 8th
Waterford 96295 Waterford 713 20th
Westmeath 92166 Athlone 710 21st
Wexford 104371 Wexford 909 13th
Wicklow 102683 Bray 782 17th

Source: Ireland Almanac and Yearbook of Facts, 2000

Top 10 Land Owners in Northern Ireland (2002)

Rank Owner Acres
1 The Forestry Service 185,250 acres
(5% of NI)
2 Northern Ireland Water Service 33,000 acres
3 National Trust 27,800 acres
4 Ministry of Defence 7,000 acres
5 Duke of Abercorn 5,500 acres
6 Royal Society for the Protection of Birds 5,335 acres
7 Blackston Houston 4,000 acres
8 Earl of Caledon 2,400 acres
9 Blackwood family 2,000 acres
10 Earl of Erne 2,000 acres

Source: BBC Newsline; 8 April 2002

CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

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