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23+ Most Interesting Facts About Ireland

Ireland is a beautiful island on the western edge of Europe. The country is a tourist hotspot with people visiting who want to experience firsthand the natural scenic beauty and the traditional culture of the emerald isle. In addition to the beauty, there are plenty of interesting facts about Ireland, and below we share our favorites!

Ireland may be a small country, but it stands up time and again with the world’s most elite in everything from sports to music and are even trendsetters in some hugely topical government policies.

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Cobh, Ireland

Not exactly known as a tropical sun destination, Ireland only experiences a few short weeks of exceptionally good summer weather in the middle of the northern hemisphere summer.

But that matters little to the millions of tourists who descend on the cities of Ireland throughout the year to experience the culture and heritage that has shaped the cities of Dublin, Cork, Kilkenny, Galway, Limerick, and Belfast.

Outside of that, there are the many natural beauty spots and the breathtaking landscape dotted around the country at places such as the Cliffs of Moher, Skellig Michael, and The Giants Causeway. Top it all off with the gorgeously scenic towns such as Kinsale or Dingle and you’re well on your way to experiencing the best Ireland has to offer.

Curious & Interesting Facts About Ireland

A country with such cultural heritage isn’t just formed from nothing, let’s take a look at some of the interesting and fun facts that helped to shape Ireland into the cultural haven it is today.

Ireland on map

1. Ireland is Partitioned into Two Separate States*

Our first of our 26 Ireland facts is that the island itself is known as Ireland but there are two countries located on the island of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is an independent state and is made up of 26 out of the island’s 32 counties. The remaining 6 counties make up Northern Ireland which is a part of the UK. The partition of the two countries took place in 1921.

The island of Ireland comprises the Republic of Ireland, which is a sovereign country, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. 

The capital of the Republic of Ireland is Dublin. Following independence in 1922, Dublin became the capital of the Irish Free State, renamed Ireland in 1937.

*In Ireland, state and country carry the same meaning.

2. The Giants Causeway and its Legendary Links to an Irish Giant

Giants Causeway

The Giants Causeway is a huge formation of Hexagonal basalt rock on the County Antrim coastline.

The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill was challenged to a fight by a fellow Scottish giant known as Benandonner. In a fit of rage, Fionn began picking up large sections of rock and throwing them into the Irish sea in the direction of his Scottish opponent.

When he realized how well the rocks were forming a bridge he continued placing them to enable him to march across and confront Benandonner, and in the process built what we now know as The Giants Causeway.

3. Ireland Has Two National Symbols

shamrock

Ireland is indeed unique for having two national symbols in the form of the shamrock and their official symbol, the harp. If fact, Ireland is in possession of one of the oldest harps known to exist.

‘Trinity College harp’, is the oldest harp in Ireland and in 1922 was adopted as the official symbol of the Irish government.

4. English and Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) are the official languages in the Republic of Ireland

There are also two different languages spoken in Ireland with the majority of the country speaking English as their first language. Small parts of the country often known as Gaeltachts have Irish as the main spoken language of the area.

Gaelic

The history of the Irish language begins with the period from the arrival of speakers of Celtic languages in Ireland to Ireland’s earliest known form of Irish, Primitive Irish, which is found in Ogham inscriptions dating from the 3rd or 4th century AD.

The official State emblems of Ireland are the Harp and the Shamrock. The harp is also the national symbol of Ireland

5. Ireland is Home to the Fastest Sport on Grass

Hurling

Hurling, one of Ireland’s two native sports is the fastest field sport in the world. It is played on a grass surface along with their other native sport Gaelic Football.

Each is played by all the counties of Ireland who compete against each other to be crowned the All-Ireland champion annually. The All-Ireland final in both sports attracts a bumper attendance of over 82,000 people each year.

6. Halloween Originated in Ireland

Halloween, originally known as “Samhain” in Ireland was a pagan festival that began over 2000 years ago to celebrate the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. It is still a hugely popular festival in Ireland today as modern Halloween traditions are celebrated.

According to Irish mythology, Samhain was a time when the ‘doorways’ to the Otherworld opened, allowing supernatural beings and the souls of the dead to come into our world; essentially a festival for the dead.

7. St. Patrick is the Patron saint of Ireland but was not Irish Himself

The patron saint of Ireland is Saint Patrick, he was a Welsh shepherd who was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold into slavery. He escaped shortly after but later returned to convert the Irish people to Christianity.

8. The First Potato was Planted in Cork

Potato planting and harvest

Sir Walter Raleigh brought potatoes to Ireland from his travels to South America and planted the first potato in Ireland in the mid-1500s. This was done nearby to his home in Youghal, Co. Cork.

9. Carrauntoohil is the Highest Mountain in Ireland

Carrauntoohil

At 1038m, Carrauntoohil is the highest mountain in Ireland. Located in Kerry’s Macgillycuddy’s Reeks range, it is a favored hiking destination for many tourists to Ireland.

10. An Irish harvest Festival With a Goat Crowned as King

Puck Fair, Ireland

The Puck Fair, celebrated in Killorglin, Co. Kerry each year is another pagan harvest celebration and one of our favorite interesting facts about Ireland. To this day a goat is still hoisted into the air in a cage in the town square for three days and crowned as the king puck for the duration of the festival.

This is also the oldest festival in Ireland and takes place mid-August.

11. Sheep Roam Everywhere

sheep in Ireland

Sheep are a native animal to Ireland and you should beware when driving The Wild Atlantic way or any of the more mountainy areas in the South East as you will come across small flocks of sheep grazing the road verge and blocking your route, although they’re harmless they never seem to be in a rush out of your way!!

12. Ireland has the Longest Uninterrupted Coastal Route in the World

Wild Atlantic way

The Wild Atlantic Way, for all road trip lovers, is the longest uninterrupted coastal route in the world. Spanning 1553 miles and winding through 9 counties this route is a scenic gold mine for all tourists to Ireland reaching from the Inishowen Peninsula in county Donegal to the beautiful Kinsale in county Cork.

The oldest field system in the world is located in the county of Mayo.

Mayo’s C­éide Fields are the oldest known field system in the world. Covering hundreds of hectares the stone-walled fields date back over 6000 years.

13. Many Irish are descendants of Vikings

Viking hat

How about this interesting fact about Ireland! Vikings from Norway first settled in Ireland over 1200 years ago. They established many of the main cities which are still here today such as Dublin, Cork, and Waterford. In fact, Founded in 914 AD by Vikings from Norway, Waterford City is over 1100 years old making it Ireland’s oldest City.

14. Ireland is Home to over 30,000 Castles

Ross Castle, Ireland

Castles have been a huge part of Ireland’s ancient history, with an estimated 30,000 castles located around the country there is still a huge link to the eras of the Vikings and British occupation. Some of these castles have been restored for commercial use today where you can go to stay or dine.

15. Dublin Castle was the British Headquarters in Ireland

Dublin castle, Ireland

Located in Dublin City Center, Dublin Castle was once the headquarters for British rule in Ireland. Still very well intact today, a tour of Dublin castle can provide tourists with a unique insight into what Dublin looked like under British rule over 100 years ago.

16. The Phoneix Park and the MGM Lion

Dublin’s Phoneix Park is one of the largest enclosed public parks in any European capital city. Covering a massive 707 hectares it is home to the president of Ireland, Irelands police headquarters, and Dublin Zoo among others.

Also, resident is nearly 600 wild fallow deer who are free to be approached cautiously by the public. Interestingly, One of the famous MGM roaring lions who appears before some iconic films was born in Phoneix Park.

17. The Heart of Hearts is Buried in a Dublin Church

The relics of St. Valentine, a gift from Pope Gregory XVI, are buried in Dublin’s Carmelite Church on Whitefriar street. A particular place of interest for visitors to the city on the 14th of February each year.

18. Visit the Oldest Pub in Ireland and Unofficially the Oldest Pub in the World

Irish pub

Ireland’s Sean’s Bar located in Athlone, Co. Westmeath is officially the oldest pub in Ireland dating back to 900 AD. It is also claimed to be the oldest pub in the world and although it is much harder to verify there is yet to be one found.

19. The Oldest Operational Lighthouse in the World

Hook lighthouse located on the Hook Peninsula in county Wexford

Hook lighthouse located on the Hook Peninsula in county Wexford is the oldest operational lighthouse in the world and has been in operation since 1172. A guided tour is well recommended for anyone visiting those parts.

20. Ireland Has the Most Eurovision Wins

Ireland holds the lead when it comes to having the most Eurovision song titles having won the competition seven times. The first of these was in 1970 and the latest in 1960. Johnny Logan is the only Irish contestant to have won the competition twice.

Ireland has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 55 times since making its debut at the 1965 contest in Naples. Ireland participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 in Turin, Italy with the song “That’s Rich” performed by Brooke.

With 7 victories, Ireland has won the most times.

21. The Great Famine & How it Changed Ireland

The Great Famine reduced the Irish population by over 2 million in five years and re-defined Irish culture.

Between the years 1845 to 1849, Ireland was struck with a famine known as An Gortha Mór (The Great Hunger). Over 1 million people died of starvation as the Potato crop failed and they were left with little else to eat.

It is estimated another 1 million people emigrated in search of a better life elsewhere as they made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic Ocean towards the United States of America. They journeyed on ships nicknamed “coffin ships” as they were often rife with disease and the chance of getting sick and dying on board was extremely high.

22. There are 2 Harry Potter Filming Locations in Ireland

There are two Harry Potter filming locations in Ireland; The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare and Lemon Rock in County Kerry. They were mixed together with CGI so that it looks like one location. They were used for the backdrop of a very crucial scene in “Harry Potter and the Half–Blood Prince”.

23. The Irish Flag, Irish History & Easter Rising

Irish flag

The modern-day green-white-orange tricolor Irish flag was originally used by the Easter Rising rebels in 1916. It was then chosen to represent the Irish Republic during the War of Independence between 1919 and 1921. It wasn’t until 1937 that it was given official status during the Constitution of Ireland.

24. The Longest River in the British Isles

The River Shannon, at 360.5 km in length 360 km (224 miles), is the longest river in the British Isles. It drains the Shannon River Basin, which has an area of 16,865 km², – approximately one-fifth of the area of the island of Ireland. The Shannon divides the west of Ireland from the east and south. The Shannon is named after the Celtic goddess, Sionna, and flows through 11 of the counties of Ireland.

25. There Are 22 American presidents with Irish Ancestry

22 of the 45 presidents of the United States of America have Irish ancestry. This fact has often led to some of the most iconic American presidents making a major state visit to Ireland and visiting their ancestral home. The list of presidents of Irish descent includes Truman, Nixon, Reagan, JFK, and Obama.

26. Same-sex marriage is legalized in Ireland.

Ireland became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage which has been the case since the 16th of November 2015. This was momentous for what had once been a severely conservative country ruled by the teachings of the roman catholic church. Now Ireland is a trailblazer in civil rights and has since passed a bill that decriminalized the practice of abortion in the country. 

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