Seeking some fun facts about Ireland? If you’re looking for information on one of the friendliest countries on earth, then look no further than this list of Ireland facts.
Rolling green hills, castles, whiskey, rain, Guinness beer, and rugged coastline draws millions of visitors each year. The country’s small size and accessibility make it an amazing destionation. Before you head off to Ireland we’re here to help you brush up on some facts about Ireland!
Fun Facts About Ireland
1. The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia
In Irish Gaelic, this roughly translates as “piggery between two expanses of briny water.”Though it doesn’t come close to the longest Welsh place name (google it), we still think it’s a long enough – and confusing enough – word. To be exact, this one-word place name is 22 letters of goodness that describes a boggy peninsula where basically no one lives.
2. Halloween is Irish
What? Nope, it’s true. Halloween may have Christian ties, with Allhallowtide beginning a three-day veneration of the dearly departed, but Halloween traditions as we know them begin with the Celtic festival of Samhain. In Old Irish, this means “Summer’s End.” It features bonfires, terrifying masks, even more terrifying turnip lanterns, and amateur dress-ups. See more festivals in Ireland here.
3. St Patrick wasn’t Irish
Not at all. In fact, he was a regular Romano-British person who was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Irish raiders at age 16. At some point, he escaped and then returned as a missionary to convert the Celtic polytheists of Ireland. Maybe. His life story is shrouded in mystery, but one thing’s for sure – he wasn’t Irish.
4. More Irish people live outside of Ireland than in Ireland
From around 1700, between nine and ten million Irish-born people emigrated. That’s way more than Ireland’s highest population of 8.4 million during the 1840s. Today, around 80 million people worldwide claim Irish descent (including more than 36 million Americans). There’s even a government position dedicated to this – Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development.
5. Know your pub etiquette
If someone buys you a drink, you buy ‘em a drink back. If they’re in a group, then most likely drinks will be bought in a “round.” One person buys everyone’s drinks. So when it comes to your turn, do your duty. The round is sacred.
6. Students shouldn’t stand under the bell at Trinity College
Called the Campanile, this little architectural feature on the grounds of Trinity College is a lovely sight to see. But if you’re a student of Trinity College, you’ll be staying away; superstition states that if you pass under the bell before you graduate, you will fail. You shouldn’t even stand near it, apparently. Another legend states that the bell rings automatically if a virgin stands underneath it.
7. The Shamrock isn’t a symbol of Ireland
The Anglicised form of seamróg – which simply means “young clover” – the shamrock isn’t any more a national symbol of the Republic of Ireland than Guinness is. It’s linked to St Patrick, who’s often depicted preaching while holding a shamrock. The real symbol? A harp – a Gaelic harp, to be precise.
8. Ireland is named after a goddess
In Old Irish, she was known as Eriu. In modern Gaelic, it’s Eire. That’s exactly the same name as Ireland is known as in the mother tongue. Eriu, together with her sisters Banba and Fódla, was part of a triumvirate of goddesses that looked out for the general wellbeing of the ancient island nation. Even Banba and Fódla are sometimes used as poetic names for Ireland.
9. Ireland has won the Eurovision Song Contest more than any other European country
If you don’t know what that is, Eurovision is a song and dance extravaganza where all the nations of Europe try to out-cheese each other with pop songs. Ireland has won a record-breaking seven times. Seven. It’s also the only country to win it three times in a row. It seems Ireland knows a thing or two about pop ballads.
10. You can see the Northern Lights in Ireland
If you don’t feel like spending your inheritance on a trip to far-flung Finland or pricey Iceland or Norway, well… a little known fact about Ireland is that you can actually see the Northern Lights from this Atlantic island.
11. Ireland was neutral during World War II
“Officially” anyway. They did provide some clandestine help; a detailed weather report from County Mayo, for example, gave the green light for the D-Day Landings. Despite being neutral, Ireland was also the victim of a few bombings because of Allies and Axis bombers alike missing their targets. It remains neutral and isn’t even a part of NATO.
12. Guinness isn’t the only drink available
Guinness is famous – that’s obvious. But on a trip to Ireland, you can try more drinks than just that. There’s Murphy’s, another stout (like Guinness) established 1856. There’s whiskey in the form of Jameson (1780) and Bushmills, the oldest Irish whiskey – in production since 1608. There’s Bulmer’s, Irish cider, first made in 1935. The list could go on.
13. But the land the company owns is on a 9,000-year lease
Crazy, we know, but it’s true. In 1759, the founder, Arthur Guinness, signed a contract for the land on which the Guinness Brewery stands – St James’ Gate Brewery, of course. It was approved for 9,000 years. That’s pretty confident. Seems like so far at least it’s stood the test of time. Let’s see how the next 8,740 years go.
14. Ireland has its own Olympics
A sports fact about Ireland now. Yes, it has its own Olympics, claimed to predate the actual Olympics. Called the Tailteann Games, this dates back to at least 1600 BC and is a famous edition of “funeral games” – athletic competitions held in honor of a recently deceased person. Imagine running 400m with your family after your grandpa passed away.
This began thanks to the awesomely named managing director of Guinness at the time, Sir Hugh Beaver. He went out shooting with some buddies, missed a shot, and got into an argument about what was the fastest game bird in Europe. Classic. Later that evening, they tried to confirm the answer in reference books but realized it was impossible. Realizing people were having these kinds of debates in pubs nightly across Ireland, he decided that the idea of a Record Book would settle these debates. The original Google, born in 1955.
16. Ireland currently has a record-breaking prime minister
Leo Varadkar, born in 1979, became Ireland’s prime minister in 2017. Not only is he the youngest prime minister that the country has ever ushered into power, but he is also the first of Indian heritage. To add more to the list of firsts, Leo Varadkar is also Ireland’s first openly gay party leader and prime minister. How’s that for a fact about Ireland?
17. There are around 30,000 castles in Ireland
Castles and the ruins thereof are located all over Ireland. Centuries-old fortifications, restored castles, half-fallen down towers… You name it, Ireland’s got it. To have that many in such a small area is pretty mad though.
18. The O’ in Irish names means “Descendant of…”
A useful, name-based fact about Ireland now. You’ve probably seen a zillion surnames that begin with O.’ O’Brien. O’Malley. O’Murphy. The list goes on and on. The O – or more properly Ó – means descendant of. If you were wondering, Mac means “son of.” Fitz is of Norman origin and derives from Latin filius – son.
19. There are no snakes in Ireland
The legend and well known “fact” about Ireland and its snakes is that Saint Patrick drove them all away. But in fact, there were never any snakes to begin with. It’s more to do with the Ice Age than anything else. You may find a snake in a zoo, however.
20. Newgrange is older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids at Giza
Newgrange, a prehistoric monument in County Meath, is an amazing passage tomb that dates back to the Neolithic period. We’re talking 3,200 BC. That’s older than Stonehenge, which dates back to around 3,000 BC. The Giza Pyramids were built in 2,600 BC. It’s not just old, but impressive – a big circular dome 76m in diameter complete with stone-walled burial chamber. Though sealed for actual millennia, since construction, it has featured in various Irish folklore and mythology.
21. Not everyone in Ireland has red hair
You’d be surprised, but seriously – this world-shifting fact about Ireland is that, yes, not everyone has red or ginger hair. Only about 9% of the population are redheads. It’s just a colossal stereotype that everyone is ginger in Ireland.
22. It’s one of the world’s biggest movie stars
Yes, the entire country. The Cliffs of Moher have featured in Harry Potter. The beach of Curracloe Strand was the D-day landing scene in Saving Private Ryan. Scenes from the 1969 Italian Job were shot at Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. The island of Skellig Michael and its ancient monastic settlement were famously in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A bunch, basically.
Though you may instantly be thinking of Dublin as the place with the highest pub-to-person ratio, it’s actually County Mayo. Yes, Dublin’s 722 pubs means that there is one pub for every 1,649 people in the capital, but with 373 pubs in all, Mayo has one pub for every 323 people. Dublin doesn’t even have the most pubs; County Cork has close to a thousand (955 to be exact).
24. One of Ireland’s most charming towns is abandoned
The glacial valley of Glendalough is beautiful. There are two mirror-like lakes and nature in abundance. Hidden here is an old monastic settlement – and no one lives there. It’s not really a town, to be fair, but it this collection of buildings where monks used to live was founded in the 6th century by Saint Kevin. It’s not hard to see how this spot came to be a site of religious contemplation.
25. Irish Gaelic is the first official language of the Republic of Ireland
Gaelic is a compulsory subject in schools. Street signs are in English and Gaelic. There are whole areas (called Gaeltacht) of the Republic of Ireland where people’s actual first language is Gaelic, notably in coastal areas of County Mayo and County Cork. Only around 1.7% of the population speaks it daily, however.
26. And Irish words are amazing
Not necessarily a fact about Ireland, but we can’t help ourselves. Not necessarily “Gaelic,” but words used by a lot of Irish people on the daily are pretty awesome, so we thought you should get to know a few. There’s “craic” (pronounced “crack) as in “what’s the craic?” (what’s going on?) and “good craic” (good fun). “Grand” is what they say instead of good and okay; e.g., “I’m grand.” There’s “fair play,” which is like saying “well done.” “Eejit” is a good one (i.e., idiot). There are hundreds more.
27. But more people speak Polish than Gaelic in Ireland
Being a country in the European Union, Ireland allows free movement of people, and a lot of people from elsewhere in the EU live in Ireland. While just over 82,600 people speak Gaelic outside of school, 119,526 speak Polish at home, making Gaelic the 3rd most-spoken language. 56,430 speak French at home.
28. Comedy is a big deal
Dark, dry comedy is the thing in Ireland. TV shows – from the ‘90s favorite Father Ted to 2016’s Derry Girls – put characters in compromising situations where no one ever ends up better off than they were before. It’s genius, and you need to experience it.
29. There’s a ton of marine life just off the coast of Ireland
Did you know that you can go whale watching from County Cork? That you could spot basking sharks? Seals? Puffins? Sea turtles? It’s not all Emerald Isle rolling valleys and castles; it’s also those rugged offshore islands and the host of sea life that lives around ‘em!
30. It’s not “Southern Ireland”
It’s Ireland. The Republic of Ireland. After a long history of being entwined with (but probably more correctly, under) British rule, Ireland fought a guerrilla war against its overlords and gained independence in 1922. The northeastern portion, historically populated with “Ulster Planters” (colonists of English and Scottish origin), decided to opt-out, supporting the Union and remaining part of the UK. The rest is history. Confusing, messy history.
Quick Ireland Travel Tips
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Gaelic: “Dia dhuit” and “Go raibh maith agat”
- Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
- Visa: The Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland are separate countries on the island of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland known as ‘Ireland’ grants 90-day visas. Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom also grants 90 days.
- Weather: Expect lots of weather! Ireland is known for having rapid shifts in and lots of rain – it’s only the only reason a country like Ireland remains so green and fertile. See our full packing list here.
- When is the best time to visit Ireland? Ireland is a fantastic country to visit year round. Though you’ll find crowds during the summer. My favorite time to visit Ireland is in September when the weather is cool and the crowds are low. Plus it’s when the famous Galway Oyster Festival happens!
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