While trekking through Ireland’s landscape the significance of the boggy terrain is often often misunderstood – that is until one finds themselves up to their eyes in a soft brown slimy substance. So here is a quick guide to the Irish bogs.

The retreating Ice Age glaciers scraped hollows in the rock that were filled with impermeable clay. In the wet climate that followed lakes developed and vegetation followed. This vegetation died but did not rot because of the underlying acidity. Bogs and the subsequent peat that developed are essentially decomposing organic material thousands of years old.

Depth of peat where turf cut for fuel

Depth of peat where where sods have been cut for fuel (Photo Martin Fitzpatrick)

There are two types of bogs in Ireland – defined by their location and altitude. Raised bogs are confusingly found in the central lowlands, while blanket bogs grow extensively in the the western and northern areas where there is higher rainfall levels. Blanket bogs are found at higher elevations and are what we, at Trekkingtrutime, slip and slide through in our adventures in the Irish uplands.

The composition of bogs means that they are ideally suited to the preservation of organic material and the National Museum of Ireland has a vast array of objects recovered from Irish bogs. These range from fragments of butter, deposited as a means of storage, refrigeration and socio-magical offerings to canoes trackways, psalters and off course the famous ‘bog bodies’. The latter are almost perfectly preserved bodies buried in the bogs between 400-200 BC.

Off course for the past number of centuries bogs have provided a source of fuel for Irish homes and the harvesting of peat (turf) for this purpose continues in many areas today. Initially the peat was cut and saved by hand however the foundation of Bord na Mona in 1946 saw mass exploitation of the peat resource primarily for the supply to electricity-generating stations. This exploitation has continued for the past 60 years resulting in the destruction of vast areas of bogland and with them a treasure trove of archaeological material. Today our bogs are being recognised as valuable areas of biodiversity and steps are being taken to protect them.

Turf stacked for drying prior to removal from the bog for use as fuel.

Turf stacked for drying prior to removal from the bog for use as fuel.  Connemara, County Galway (photo Martin Fitzpatrick)

Turf stacked on a low wall to assist drying

Turf stacked on a low wall to assist drying in County Kerry (photo Martin Fitzpatrick)

 

Walking through the Irish countryside with Trekkingtrutime you will experience an Irish bog – an essential component of our unique landscape.