16th- and 17th-century Maps of Ireland

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Ireland 1567

After the fall of the Roman Empire and during the Dark Ages, there was no particular requirement for a map of Ireland - no foreign country wanted to invade, and the Irish lacked the expertise to draw up their own maps. Only in the reign of Elizabeth I (1558 onwards) were new maps of Ireland commissioned, mainly by the British government for military purposes and to enable the plantation of settlers.

Look below to see a 1567 map of Ireland, or Hibernia as it was called in Latin.

This map was drawn to be seen on its side so is a little awkward to look at but worth the effort. It shows that little was known about the true shape of Ireland in 1567.

Notice how the coast line is not correct. Which part of Ireland on this early map has most errors - the east or west? Why do you think that these errors occured at the time?

Did you notice how pictures show towns and mountains and that the Atlantic Ocean was called the Western Sea?

Can you spot some family names and coats of arms on this map? There are plenty to choose from.

Munster c.1580

This is a map of Munster from around 1580. It may look a little strange to you as, like the map of Ireland above, it was drawn at a different angle from today's maps. There is not much detail on this map and the coastline is not drawn very accurately. Maps from this period were drawn and painted by hand. While it may not be very accurate, it is certainly very nice to look at!