Irish Sea

Where is the Sea? The curious case of sea-blindness


“The British Isles depend on the sea, but we who live here can suffer from sea-blindness, little realising how much our way of life is made possible through ships that bring goods and food, export our manufactured products, and provide the naval defence of our island.”

These are the opening words of a book by John Blake called “Sea Charts of the British Isles” which brings together an array of old maps from the UK and Ireland, and outlines the development of maritime map making in the UK.  Keep Reading

Islands in the Irish Sea

This might seem like a boring old post, but there are many islands here that I never previously heard about. In Ireland we are so focused on islands in the Atlantic that we ignore completely what is on the east coast. Many people in Dublin struggle to place Bull Island and it is only 7km from the City Centre. Lambay is even more exotic – but the vast majority of my fellow citizens would not know much about even Anglesey or the Isle of Man – even if they have already visited.

Ireland’s Eye from Wiki

And the yet, to my own embarrassment, the third placed Holy Island is one I have not known anything – not even its name.  Clare Island is better known and it is only 15 km squared – and Holy Island is even bigger than Inishmore which is just under 31 km square.  And yet incredibly, Holyhead sits on Holy Island and not on Anglesey. How come I do not know this – well until now anyhow. Okay, yes you can debate – just like Achill – that this is barely an island – but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that this large piece of land is as close to Dublin as is Athlone – and I have never heard about it!

Wikipedia lists all the islands in the Irish Sea which are above 1km squared

Name Area (km²) Rank (area) Permanent Population[1] Rank (pop.) Country
Anglesey 714 01 69,000 02 Wales
Isle of Man 572 02 80,056 01 Isle of Man
Holy Island 39 03 13,579 03 Wales
Walney Island 13 04 11,388 04 England
Lambay Island 5.54 05 <10 08 Republic of Ireland
Bull Island 3 06 <20 07 Republic of Ireland
Ramsey Island 2.58 07 0 Wales
Bardsey Island 2.58 08 <5 10 Wales
Calf of Man 2.50 09 0 Isle of Man
Piel Island 0.20 <5 10 England
Ynys Gored Goch 0.004 <5 10 Wales
Barrow Island Unknown 2,616 05 England
Roa Island Unknown 100 06 England
Ynys Gaint Unknown <10 08 Wales
Ynys Castell Unknown <5 10 Wales

Just to highlight my own ignorance here is an image of a 120 km radius from Dublin. I also know very little about the Isle of Man.  This is where borders become walls to learning.

Ports in the Irish Sea

There are many large and small ports – some less operational than others – along the shores of the islands. I want to explore each of these in a little more detail to understand the various intersections of communication and traversing in the Irish Sea. These ports have emerged for various reasons. But and some of the are like twins to others across the Irish Sea such as Dublin and Holyhead and Liverpool (and formerly Chester)

  • Arklow
  • Belfast
  • Birkenhead
  • Bristol
  • Chester/Parkgate – former port very important in the history of Irish shipping to the UK
  • Douglas
  • Drogheda
  • Dublin
  • Dundalk
  • Dún Laoghaire
  • Fishguard
  • Greenore
  • Heysham
  • Holyhead
  • Howth
  • Larne
  • Liverpool
  • Mostyn
  • Newport
  • Rosslare
  • Stranraer
  • Swansea
  • Warrenpoint
  • Wicklow


The Irish Sea is Born


It was 20 millions years ago that Britain and Ireland ended up where they are now.  Almost 300 million years before that, the super continent Gondwanaland had began to separate in a north-south movement. Then 100 million years ago this shifted a an east-west separation, and by 40 million years ago the Atlantic Ocean was formed – and the continents as they are now were more or less in place 20 million years ago.

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