As hinted at in my last diary post, I had taken up mapping National Monuments in Ireland using the key ref:IE:nm (as documented in the wiki). I can’t quite remember when I started and how and why, but I think I noticed the numbers in the National Monuments calendar which was kindly sent to me by Jean Farrelly from the National Monuments Service (I presume in recognition of my engagement with them in the shape of reporting possible unknown monuments).

According to, I started on January 20th which happens to be the same day I created the wiki page, makes perfect sense. I “finished” (see TODO below) with Co. Tipperary yesterday.

The first numbers, I added from above mentioned, beautiful calendar (and the 2022 one), but of course, that only gives you roughly 12 per year. (Some beautiful sites are repeatedly presented, apparently.)

Anyway, I then discovered lists of National Monuments on Wikipedia which were adapted from lists published by the National Monuments Service online. The NMS lists are tables by county with a name or title of a monument, a category, the townland (not necessarily correct) and the Sites and Monuments records no. On Wikipedia, they left the SMR no. out and replaced it with GPS coordinates (also not necessarily all correct). The Wikipedia lists also have an image, if there is one available, which is not the case for all the sites. (I am as much to blame as anyone, there must be dozens of photographs of those sites somewhere on my devices…)


So I worked off these lists for some days, until I went to Freshford one day and discovered that the church there is apparently/ allegedly/ possibly a National Monument, but not on the list. This is when my sleepless nights began. Just kidding. Or am I? But what did begin was my quest to get a comprehensive list - which I have so far failed to achieve. I communicated with several people in the Heritage sector, most of them working in the Department for Heritage in Dublin, and I was lucky enough to talk to some people really high up in the Department; frankly, I could not have talked to anyone higher up. They did not deny that the monuments not on the list were National Monuments (like the church in Freshford and several buildings in Kilkenny), but nobody could produce a list.

The last verbal information I got yesterday was that the black plaques don’t mean anything and that only the monuments on “the list” are actual National Monuments, but that the list was outdated. I was devastated for several reasons, one being that I had already recorded my video about NMs (coming out Saturday Feb 18th), one other that I went from having worked in 3 National Monuments to none. I was desperate enough to actually start reading one of the more legal documents which makes me think that there are unlisted National Monuments, i.e. monuments not in State care (quoting from National Monuments in State Care: Ownership & Guardianship, 4th March 2009, published by National Monuments Service for County Kilkenny. Boldness added by me, pun not intended.)

National monuments in State care include those which are in the ownership or guardianship of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG). Other owners of national monuments are empowered under Section 5 of the National Monuments Act (1930) to appoint the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government as guardian of such monuments. This means in effect that while the property of such a monument remains vested in the owner, its maintenance and upkeep are the responsibility of the State. Monuments which may be defined as national monuments are also in the ownership or guardianship of Local Authorities which have similar responsibilities under the National Monuments Acts (1930-2004) to DEHLG. These monuments are not included in the data sets presented here.

I had asked someone in the local authority, but they didn’t know either. To be fair, they are new in the job. I seem to be the first person ever to want to see such a list. But maybe I have raised some awareness about the lack of publicly accessible information and OpenStreetMap along the way.

What was mapped?

All the while, I continued adding the listed monuments to OSM. The focus was obviously on adding ref:IE:nm, so that it would be possible to show/ filter for all National monuments on OpenStreetMap. That would have been done very quickly, if the sites and buildings had already been mapped which wasn’t always the case. I can’t give exact numbers, but there were quite a few church ruins and castle ruins etc missing. But that’s grand, I didn’t want this to be just a niche project; in the long run, it will make the map more complete. A few counties in, I realized that it would be a good idea to add wiki links as in wikipedia and wikidata. The list on Wikipedia linked to Wiki articles, naturally, but some links were actually redirects to the village the church ruin was in rather than the actual church ruin, for example. In these cases, I used related:wikipedia, but only, if the site is actually mentioned in that wiki article. I had to create, correct and expand quite a few wikidata entries as well. That slowed me down, but I didn’t mind - again, it will make OpenData better in the long run. These wiki links were already mapped for major sites; I’m not trying to take credit for everything on the map. :D

When I decided to add wikimedia_commons=Category:VALUE, that slowed me down again, because I had to create quite a few categories too. I also came across a few mislabelled photographs which I corrected. Again, I only decided to add wikimedia_commons about half-way into the project, so I will have to go back in with a few overpass-turbo queries to bring all the counties to the same standard.

I also tried to add the key ref:IE:smr for as many features as I could. These are the Sites and Monuments record numbers which (often) apply to individual church ruins, grave slabs, ogham stones, high crosses and holy wells which will be under the umbrella of just one National Monument number. These could be linked from OSM to the Department of Heritage website (as described on the wiki page), so that people exploring Ireland on the map can find more information about individual sites and monuments.

These keys were added to the monuments. However, I also looked around the monuments to see whether the roads leading up to it were mapped, whether parking facilities visible on aerial imagery were mapped; I added hedges and drystone walls around very rural sites to indicate where the access point was. If I knew from memory that there was no fee or no wheelchair accessibility, I added that information as well.

overpass: click

Exploring heritage on maps

In the long run, I hope that this will help people explore heritage using OpenStreetMap, be it using OSMAnd as described in my last video or a new app using OSM derived data. The Department for Heritage or the Heritage Council of Ireland seem to be working on apps for individual sites using GoogleMaps (as far as I can ascertain). I personally would not download an app for just one site; I’d rather have the whole region or even all of Ireland in one app like I do with OSMAnd (which already provides a lot more peripheral information than those apps do). They provide audio guides in theirs, though, which we obviously can’t do directly on OSM.

While I was working on this, Ordnance Survey in the UK announced that they would introduce “revolutionary” (my sarcastic quotes) things like toilets and bicycle repair features to their paper [sic!] maps. Well ahead of you, lads. But I’m sure that will be covered in someone else’s diary.

Other use cases

Of course, the data can also now be analysed to look for distribution of monument types or density of monuments in a certain area, access to hiking/ walking trails (if mapped) and other tourist routes (Wild Atlantic Way, for example). I’m sure there are many other use cases that I can’t even think of now.

All in all, it was a very interesting, challenging and turbulent 4 weeks that I did mostly enjoy.


  • add National monuments in Northern Ireland
  • add more wikimedia_commons links
  • add operator and website for the more tourism=attraction type sites
  • add access, fee information etc

Comment from Koreller on 26 February 2023 at 16:42

Thanks for your diary, it’s a really interessing way to connect free project like OSM, Commons, Wikidata and Wikipedia !

Comment from Mateusz Konieczny on 26 February 2023 at 17:08

related:wikipedia - maybe a better name can be invented? I am pretty sure that with such name sooner or later someone will add related:wikipedia=en:Building to every single building or something similar.

Maybe just link wikidata where there is no Wikipedia article?

Comment from b-unicycling on 5 March 2023 at 13:12

@Mateusz Konieczny: I didn’t invent this tag, and I made sure the structure tagged with it is mentioned in the corresponding wikipedia article linked with related:wikipedia. I am not responsible for other people’s decisions, and I doubt people will go as deep into the tagging to add related:wikipedia=en:Building when they can’t even bother adding house numbers.

Comment from Silva1989 on 22 March 2023 at 08:54

Thanks for your efforts! I’ve had a similar approach when adding or reviewing protected areas in the past. OSM was the main objective, but many wikidata or Wikipedia entries were improved in the process. It’s Great to see your efforts flourish! Congratulations!

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