The first area of Ireland we have mapped is naturally our own, North Sligo. Our workshop sits between the rugged fractures of Copes Mountain and the iconic ice-sculpted contours of Benbulben, so it's hard not to be inspired by the natural beauty of our surroundings.
We've always been fascinated with the natural world and the processes which shape it, which is one reason we enjoy designing and making our maps. They give us a new insight and a different perspective on the landscapes we see everyday.
Sligo County contains some of the oldest rocks in Ireland, dating from almost 1.7 billion years ago. These can easily be found at Slish wood along the southern shore of Lough Gill through the Ox Mountains, and a small strip on Rosses Point. Much of North Sligo however is more recent limestone, but still between 300-400 million years old. These rocks were created in a warm, shallow tropical sea, something Sligo residents might find hard to believe now! There are plenty of fossils exposed on the beaches around Sligo, although much to the disappointment of our kids, they are too old to have any real dinosaurs in them. Shells and corals are everywhere though, and no trip to the beach is complete without a pocket full of little fossils and bits of stone. The great dreadnought prow of Benbulben limestone at 527m high, owes its unique shape to the glaciers which carved their way through Sligo at the end of the last Ice Age. The receeding ice allowed these sheer cliffs to collapse in spectaular fashion all up the Glencar valley, as seen in the beautiful Swiss Valley and the enigmatic Annach Re Mhor, or Kings Mountain Rift.
Knocknarea is probably the other most prominent feature of Sligo, after Benbulben. A huge limestone hill 320m tall, geologically it is also a Hum (remnant of a karst landscape), and a Marylin (a hill that sticks up more than 150m from its surrouondings), the most distinctive feature is Queen Maeves Grave at the top. The huge cairn has never been excavated, perhaps because there is more than 30,000 tonnes of rocks covering it, or perhaps because there are rumors of a curse on any who disturb it. Either way, the mystery is definitely part of the appeal, and although it doesn’t get it’s own layer on our HD map, the tracks that criss-cross the summit are clear to see.
Its easy to see how the layers of our Sligo HD map echo the layers of limestones and shales in the stunning photo below from the Irish Air Corps with Knocknarea, looming over Strandhill.
Photo courtesy of Irish Air Corps