Discover the History and Hidden Secrets of Irish Peat Bogs
Locally harvested peat from the boglands of Ireland has been used to heat homes for nearly a thousand years. Peat has played an important part in Ireland’s history and heritage and is still used across Ireland today. As part of our Granny’s Cottage theme, we want to help you discover the natural wonder-product that has been heating cottages, cooking stews, preserving history, and boiling pots of tea for centuries.
What is a peat bog?
Peat comes from peat bogs. The bogs are made up of decaying vegetation, such as leaves, roots, herbs and plants. Some of these plants are up to 10,000 years old. The ground forming the bog is almost always unsuitable for growing crops, and often is impassible making it unsuitable for building or agriculture.
What is peat?
Peat refers to the soil which forms underneath the surface of a peat bog. It is a completely natural fuel formed made up of 95% water, and 5% organic material and is formed over thousands of years. In Ireland, peat is often referred to as ‘turf’ and the harvesting of peat is called ‘cutting’. In order to harvest the turf, it is cut using a specially designed spade. The turf is then laid out to dry and turned a number of times to ensure it is fully dried before being compressed. The peat is cut into blocks and then compressed to remove water and air to make it suitable for burning. By the end of the cutting and harvesting process, the peat is formed into condensed bricks. Peat bricks are similar to fire logs.
Is peat still used today?
In a 2016 survey, 90,000 homes across Ireland reported using turf to heat their homes.
Where can I visit a peat bog in Ireland?
Céide Fields in County Mayo is of exceptional historic importance. The bog hides a civilisation more than 5,500 years old, and mapping of this bog provided insight into how ancient civilisations in Ireland were structured. Here you can discover the prehistoric landscape and the ecology of blanket bog alongside dramatic cliffs and coastline.
Looking for a taste of traditional life? At the Ireland West Bog Experience you can learn how the turf is cut and used, and discover both the working bogs and living bogs of County Mayo. Why not try cutting the turf yourself, or simply delight in the unique flora and fauna.
Virtually Visit the Bogs of Ireland...
Not going to be visiting Ireland any time soon? The New York Times recently featured an interactive walk through of Ireland’s peat bogs, revealing the fascinating and hidden history of this natural product. The digital story was created by Emily Toner, who studies soil carbon in Ireland's boglands.
We are fascinated by the 'bog bodies' - preserved human remains some of which are around 2,200 years old. You can visit the bog bodies in Dublin in the National Museum of Ireland's archaeology building.
Who would have thought that these wetlands could be so fascinating?
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