Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Glacier country

Glacier country
14 Jul
2017
For this month’s Discovering Britain viewpoint, Laura Cole visits a glacier’s graveyard in Northern Ireland that is still defying explanation

For more great walks, trails and viewpoints, be sure to check out the new Discovering Britain Facebook page by clicking here.

db logo jpeg large

From the top of Scrabo hill, you have an unparalleled view of the long, narrow hills all around, rising about three metres high and 300 metres in length, with one end higher than the other. These are ‘drumlins’, parallel formations found in their thousands across Northern Ireland, which were left behind by glaciers 13,000 years ago.

Drumlins can be found all over the world, however, the word was originally coined by the Irish from the Gaelic word druim for ‘ridge’ or ‘hill’. Drumlin became a worldwide geological term in the 1800s, following the work of Irish geologists Maxwell Henry Close and George Kinahan, who determined the flow of the disappeared ice sheet from the drumlins’ tear-drop-shapes. Like much of Ireland, this region was under an ice sheet up to one kilometre deep.

From the Scrabo vantage point, you see how all the drumlins point west to east, with their lower end facing the direction the ice was going. They appear to be tumbling like an earthy current towards the water of Strangford Lough, where more drumlins have created a group of tiny islands. Their undulating shapes give the illusion of movement, like a shoal of slow, green sea creatures. These ‘drowned’ drumlins would have been formed on land, but since the last Ice Age the water has risen up to meet them.

An explanation for drumlins still eludes scientists. Even where there are existing glaciers, the transformation occurs under the ice, hidden from view until the glacier recedes. Two main theories have battled over their origins: the first, that they are made from accumulated sediment, or ‘till’ off-loaded by the glacier. The second, that they were carved out of the ground by the movement of ice across the land. The problem is the sheer variety of drumlins in nature: there are some made with layered till, others with a core of bedrock, and some made entirely of bedrock. A sound theory would need to consolidate all of their mutations.

An answer could come from climate change. As many glaciers recede due to rising temperatures, some of them reveal newer drumlins as they go. In 2010, Iceland’s Múlajökull glacier became famous to geologists as warmer climate reduced it enough to expose an active drumlin field. With similar events expected to occur in Antarctica, it could be that the processes behind landscapes like Strangford Lough are finally understood. For now, its mysteries enhance it.

TRAIL
• Location: Northern Ireland
• Type: Rural
• Duration: 15 minutes
Click here for more details

Unearth more of our nation’s history and find more great walks, trails and viewpoints around the UK at discoveringbritain.org or via the new Discovering Britain Facebook page.

This was published in the July 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in UK...

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain viewpoint, Rory Walsh visits the…

UK

Leading conservation organisations are calling on the UK government to…

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain trail, Laura Cole climbs the…

Discovering Britain

Laura Cole visits the lowest point in Britain at 2.7…

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain, Laura Cole visits Cuckmere Haven…

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain viewpoint, Laura Cole visits a…

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain trail, Laura Cole visits Chester,…

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain Viewpoint, Laura Cole heads to…

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain Trail, Laura Cole visits Bristol,…

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain viewpoint, Laura Cole visits Kennington…

UK

New research demonstrates the harsh reality of UK immigration policy…

Discovering Britain

On this month's Discovering Britain trail, Laura Cole heads to…

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain viewpoint, Laura Cole visits a…

UK

‘Iconic mammals of the hill’ see populations dwindling in the…

Discovering Britain

In this month’s Discovering Britain, Laura Cole visits Winchester’s chalk…

UK

A new interest in Cornish mines has been sparked amid…

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain viewpoint, Laura Cole checks out…

UK

An ambitious, long-term project is hoping to bring trees back…

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain trail, Laura Cole follows the…

Discovering Britain

For this month’s Discovering Britain viewpoint, Laura Cole visits Hay-on-Wye,…