Settlement Patterns (the way in which
settlements are arranged in an area)
Patterns in the distribution of towns and cities
1. Historical and social factors – Settlements have
always been influenced by history. Over a long
period of time, many different groups of settlers
(such as the Vikings and Normans) came to
Ireland from abroad. Most of these groups built
settlements that eventually grew into towns.
2. Physical factors – altitude, land quality and
drainage patterns affect the location and
development of towns.
1. Viking towns: The Vikings came to Ireland
from Scandinavia around 800AD. They made
dangerous journeys on longboats and settled
along the east and south coastline of Ireland.
Many of these settlements developed into
towns, which now form a linear pattern
along or near the coast. Many of the place
names where they settled end in
‘ford’, which comes from the Norwegian
‘fjord’. E.g. Waterford, Wexford.
2. Norman towns: The Normans invaded Ireland
in the 12th century and developed many towns.
They built great castles often along the banks of
rivers so they could defend themselves. They
first arrived in the south and east of Ireland and
mainly settled there. An example of a Norman
settlement is Kilkenny city, famous for its
• The Primacy of Dublin: A primate city is a city
that is twice as big as the second biggest city
in the same country. Dublin is a primate city
because it is twice as big as Cork. Dublin’s
primacy has heavily affected the distribution
of settlements in Ireland. Many settlements
have circled Dublin and surrounded it forming
a cluster pattern. The major roads leading out
of Dublin tend to have linear settlement along
1. Altitude (height above sea level): Little
settlement occurs in upland areas. They are too
cold, wet and windy. Most settlements are on
low-lying land under 200 metres. It is also more
difficult to build roads or railway lines in upland
areas than on flat land.
2. Land Quality: Fertile land attracts settlement.
This is why more people settled in the south and
east of Ireland where the land is more fertile than
the west. Soils on low lying land in river valleys
usually have very fertile and alluvial soils.
3. Drainage: Rivers attract settlement – many
towns are located in areas that are well drained
by rivers. In the past rivers were important for
food, water and transport.