30 Interesting Facts About Ireland as Told by an Irishwoman

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Curious to learn some interesting facts about Ireland?

As an Irish girl, born and bred, I want to tell you interesting facts about Ireland that you may have not otherwise known.

Ireland is a country known across the world for its free-spirited conversations, lush green landscapes and, of course, our love for a good pint of Guinness.

But there is so much more to my beautiful country than meets the eye. We are quite a unique place for our size and today we are going to discuss additional points of uniqueness.

30 Fun Facts About Ireland

Let’s get into some of my favorite interesting facts about Ireland!

1. The shamrock is NOT the national symbol of Ireland

Celtic Harp Guinness logo next to a pint of Guinness

Most people presume that Ireland’s national symbol is the shamrock. While we do use the shamrock quite frequently, it is not our official symbol.

Instead, we use the Celtic harp as a way of symbolizing our country. You will find the harp on our coins, passports and even in the Guinness logo. 

In fact, Guinness trademarked its Celtic harp logo in 1862. Therefore, when the Irish government decided to use it as a national symbol, they had to place it in reverse to be able to do so!

2.There were actually never any snakes in Ireland

If you’re familiar with Irish history you might have learned that St. Patrick got rid of all snakes from the country. But in reality, there never were any snakes here to begin with.

This analogy was instead used as a way to describe the Pagans. St. Patrick wanted to enforce Christianity on the Irish and to do so he had to push the pagans (aka, snakes) out.

It’s also important to note, the absence of snakes in Ireland is not unique. This is common among other islands across the world, including New Zealand, Greenland and Iceland.

3. Ireland has a passage tomb older than the Pyramids of Giza

Newgrange is one of Ireland’s most famous landmarks. What many people don’t realize is that this passage tomb (constructed around 3200 BC) is older than both Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids.

The reason for this particular tomb’s popularity is the way in which it was constructed. It is known for the way the winter solstice sunrise illuminates its passage and burial chambers.

Basically what this means, is every year, on the shortest and longest days of the year, the sun shines directly through the chamber and onto the tomb.

It is mind-blowing, that without the use of modern-day machinery, a burial chamber of this complexity was made.

👉 Join a Small Group Tour to Newgrange

4. The Cliffs of Moher are not the highest cliffs in Ireland

White Cliffs, Achill Island

It’s no secret that the Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s leading tourist attraction but what many people do not know is the cliffs are not the tallest cliffs in the country.

In fact, there are two others that are 3 times larger, the first being Crogahun Cliffs on Achill Island in County Mayo. These beauties soar up to 688 meters in height.

The second highest cliff in the Country is Slieve League Cliffs, in County Donegal. They are not far off from Crogahun, reaching an impressive 609 meters.

5. Halloween began in Ireland

Another interesting Ireland fact is that Halloween originated here. Before the spooky celebration was known worldwide, it was a ritual practiced by the Celts.

But not in the way as we know it now.

It was known as Samhain. The Celts believed that on the 31st of October each year the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

They would light bonfires and wear costumes in an attempt to scare the ghosts away. And with emigration being a huge part of Irish history, this tradition carried over to the states.

Eventually it was adapted to the way we know it today, as Halloween.

6. Ireland has more than 7,000 pubs

Yes, that’s right. Ireland has OVER 7,000 pubs. And they come in all different shapes and sizes – some can fit a party of people, while others fit a small handful of locals.

And before you presume, drinking is not the only reason people visit the pubs in Ireland. It is a place to catch up with your neighbors, dance, sing songs and have a laugh.

It rains a lot in Ireland, so having somewhere dry and warm to go is very much needed.

The pubs in Ireland are also known for their grub. Nowadays, you can order a range of things from traditional bites to international cuisine. But my favorite is a carvery (roast) on a Sunday.

7. Saint Patrick was not Irish

This is not a well-known fact across the world, but Saint Patrick was actually Welsh. When he was 16 he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave.

After 6 years, he escaped and converted to Christianity. That is when he had the vision to return to Ireland on a mission to convert the people to Christianity.

And while the original purpose of Paddy’s Day was to commemorate his death, it is now seen as a celebration of Irish culture and heritage.

8. Ireland has its own language

While most people in Ireland speak English as their day-to-day language, we do actually have our own language called Gaeilge.

Gaeilge is still to this day taught in schools, used on public transport, road signs and in public buildings. It is very much part of our culture, and we are very proud of the language as a whole.

Some areas of the country still speak it as their first language, and these areas are known as the Gaeltacht.

We as a country are making conscious efforts to ensure that the language continues to grow after it was originally made illegal during British occupation in the 19th/20th century.

9. The Titanic was built in Belfast

The Titanic is a tragic story that touched many people across the world but what most don’t know is the famous ship was built in Belfast Northern Ireland.

The Harland and Wolff shipyard began to construct the ship on the 31st of March 1909, and it took over two years to complete.

The ship was launched on the 31st of May 1911, but it wasn’t short of skepticism from the general public. And sadly, they were right to be concerned.

There is now a museum in Belfast which lies on the footprint of the Titanic Shipyard, their people can learn about the tragic incident and the making of the ship.

🚢 Visit the Titanic Museum in Belfast

10. Ireland is home to the longest coastal drive in the world

Achill Island, Mayo

For such a small country, we hold a pretty interesting record. Ireland is home to the longest coastal route in the world.

The Wild Atlantic Way stretches for 2,500 (continuous) kilometers. This means you can drive from the most Northern Point, Malin Head in Donegal, to the most  Southern Point, Mizen Head in West Cork, on one route.

The drive welcomes visitors to some of Ireland’s most incredible landscapes from the famous Ring of Kerry drive to the lesser-known gems of Achill Island.

Exploring the Wild Atlantic Way is a must for your Ireland Itinerary.

👉 Book a 7-Day Wild Atlantic Way Guided Tour

11. St. Valentine is buried in Dublin

Another one of the most interesting facts about Ireland has to do with the famous St. Valentine. Did you know that he was buried in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin?

Every year on the 14th of February he is moved to the main altar and masses are held in his honor. It is also common for couples to visit his shire to ask for his blessings on their relationship.

Whether you are religious, or simply looking for fun and different things to do in Dublin, this is definitely something worth checking out.

12. Ireland is home to the largest city park in Europe

The Phoenix Park holds the record for being the largest enclosed city park in all of Europe. It covers over 1,700 acres!

It is a lovely place to spend an evening, especially for those looking to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city.

Onsite are Dublin Zoo, Ashtown Castle and the Presidents House, Áras an Uachtaráin.

It is also common to see a family of deer flock their way through the park. These deer tend to be very used to humans but it is important not to feed them if you do happen to pass them by.

The park is also home to numerous walking and cycling trails, making it a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Lesser Known Ireland Facts 

Next up, some interesting facts about Ireland that are even less widely known:

13. Ireland is NOT part of the UK

This is an Irish fact that many people confuse themselves with. No, Ireland is not part of the UK.

Yes, we are located within close proximity to the United Kingdom. And Northern Ireland is still part of the UK (we are not going to discuss politics here) but the Republic of Ireland itself is an independent country.

In fact, calling an Irish person British is not something we take lightly. We spent years working hard for our independence and it is something we as a nation are very much proud of.

14. Dublin means “black pool” (I’ll explain)

So, we already discussed that Ireland has its own language known as Gaeilge. Well, most of the English place names we have now originated from their Irish counterparts.

Dublin was originally known as “Dubh Linn” which directly translates to ‘black pool.’

It is suspected that the name comes from the color of a dark pool that once sat at the River Liffey.

15. The Book of Kells is located in Dublin

The Book of Kells one of the most illuminated manuscripts in Irish history is located in Trinty College in Dublin. The historic book dates back as far as 800 A.D and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

The Book of Kells consists of the four Gospels of the New Testament, presented in Latin text. It has really stood the test of time, as despite its age, the illustrations and colors are still remarkably vivid.

It offers the modern-day world an insight into life during the early Christian period in Ireland.

16. Ireland’s population still has not recovered from the famine

The famine was a heartbreaking part of Irish history, where the local people were forced to eat only potatoes while all other food sources were shipped out of Ireland to Britain.

As a result of this cruel starvation tactic, the Irish people ended up desperate for food.

Things eventually got even worse as the potatoes in Ireland became infected. This hit to the only food source meant millions of Irish people died or emigrated.

The Irish population has never recovered. Before the famine, it was estimated that 8 million people lived in Ireland. Comparatively, we today have a population of 5 million people.

17. Ireland is the most successful country in the European Song Contest

Ireland holds the record for the most wins in the Eurovision Song Contest, having won the competition seven times. This means we have also hosted the competition the most times!

Ireland also holds the unique record of winning three times in a row (1992-1994), a feat unmatched by any other country in the contest’s history.

Despite not having won since 1996, Ireland’s track record continues to make it one of the most competitive countries in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Who knows, maybe we’ll actually win again in the 21st century. 

18. An Irish sport is one of the oldest and fastest field sports worldwide

On the topic of facts on Ireland, many people are unaware that we have our own national sports, and they are unlike other field sports across the world.

We take a lot of pride in our Celtic Games, Hurling, Camogie and Gaelic Football.

In fact, Hurling is believed to be the world’s oldest field game. It has been played in Ireland for at least 3,000 years.

It is played with a small (yet, very hard) ball called a sliotar and a curved wooden stick known as a hurley.

There are 30 players in total and the objective is to score points by hitting the sliotar into or over the opponent’s goal. It is also considered one of the fastest field sports in the world!

19. Ireland has over 30,000 castles and ruins

a castle in Dublin Ireland

Some of these remain well preserved and others are, well, barely standing. Generally, these structures are subject to local myths and legends.

For example, the famous Blarney Castle. At the top of the castle, lies the Blarney Stones and it is said that anyone who kisses it is to receive the gift of the gab.

Or, the Rock of Cashel which is said to be the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, steeped in history and incredible architecture.

These castle ruins are a testament to Ireland’s rich history and provide visitors with an insight into the country’s past.

20. Ireland was the Titanic’s last port of call

So, we already discussed that the Titanic was built in Belfast, but did you know that the last time it was at port was also in Ireland?

The famous ship made its way down to Cobh (then known as Queenstown) in County Cork. There, the final 123 passengers boarded the ship before it set sail for New York.

Unfortunately, as we all know, the unsinkable ship met its tragic end. Today, visitors can learn all about Titanic’s story at the Titanic Experience in Cobh.

21. The Prime Minister has a different name in Ireland

While most countries will refer to their head of state as a Prime Minister that is not the case in Ireland.

Instead, we call our head of government our “Taoiseach,” which comes from the Irish language and translates to “chief” or “leader.”

The Taoiseach carries out the same roles and duties as a Prime Minister but it is rare you’d hear someone use PM when referring to them.

22. Irish people call the police the guards

In Ireland, the national police service is known as the “Garda Síochána,” often referred to by the public as “the Guards” or the “Gaurdaí.”

Again this comes from the Irish language and translates to the ‘guardian’ or ‘protector.’

I always forget about this not being normal until one of my international friends points it out. Even when I, as an Irish person am abroad, I find myself referring to the police as ‘the guards’ instinctively.

23. An Irish man invented the submarine

The invention of the modern submarine is credited to an Irishman named John Philip Holland.

Born in Liscannor, County Clare, Holland was the second of four brothers. His passion for the seas led him to design a vessel that could travel underwater.

Holland’s first successful submarine, named the “Holland VI,” was commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1900.

The impact of Holland’s invention on naval warfare and exploration cannot be understated. His design paved the way for modern submarine technology.

24. Not everyone in Ireland is a red head

If I had money for every time someone has said to me, “But you don’t have red hair!” I would be rich.

The whole, Irish people have red hair thing is very much a stereotype. Don’t get me wrong, some Irish people do have red hair, but not all of us.

Only about 10% of the Irish population are true redheads. Although it is becoming increasingly popular for women to dye their hair ginger or red.

With all that being said and done, Ireland does hold the record for the second-highest percentage of redheads in the world. Scotland holds first place.

25. Ireland is home to Europe’s oldest lighthouse

Ireland is home to the oldest operational lighthouse in Europe, Hook, in County Wexford.

The light has been in operation for more than 800 years, dating back to the 18th century. It stands at 36 meters tall and offers panoramic sea views of the Irish coastline.

Today, it is a popular spot for tourists to visit, offering tours that showcase the history of the lighthouse.

26. Dublin is one of the most expensive cities in Europe

Sadly, Dublin ranks as one of the most expensive cities in Europe. This is primarily due to the high cost of living and the introduction of international businesses to Ireland’s economy.

On paper, Ireland is quite a rich country with big corporate businesses like Apple, Google and Meta choosing to have their European Head Offices here.

But, the reality is that, while the country’s economy is growing, the Irish people are struggling to keep up with the high cost of living. The cost of rent, food and basic necessities is becoming less and less affordable for the average citizen.

It is quite a sad reality that many of us are facing.

27. There are only 5 cities in Ireland

street in Dublin Ireland near Temple Bar with green and orange flags hanging as a canopy overhead

There are only 5 official cities in Ireland, although some towns in my opinion should be upgraded to city status.

  • Dublin: The capital and the largest city, Dublin is a hub of art, history and nightlife, famous for its literary history and the iconic Guinness Storehouse.
  • Cork: Known as the “Rebel City,” Cork is rich in culture and maritime history, with attractions like the English Market and Blarney Castle.
  • Limerick: Home to the historic King John’s Castle and St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick is a city steeped in rich culture and medieval heritage.
  • Galway: A harbor city on Ireland’s west coast, Galway is renowned for its vibrant lifestyle and numerous festivals, such as the Galway International Arts Festival.
  • Waterford: The oldest city in Ireland, Waterford is famous for the exquisite craftsmanship of Waterford Crystal and its Viking history.

28. Ireland is home to some wallabies

It’s something you would not expect to see, but off the coast of Dublin lies an island with a population of wallabies.

Lambay Island first introduced Wallabies in the 1950s; however, the heavy breading did not begin until the 1980’s when 7 more were brought over from Dublin Zoo.

The island now has a population of about 100 wallabies, making it the only place in Ireland where you can see these animals in their natural habitat.

29. You can see the Northern Lights in Ireland

While Ireland is located relatively far south, it is not unheard of to be able to spot the Aurora Borealis during periods of high solar activity.

You are more likely to see this light display in Counties Donegal and Sligo along the Wild Atlantic Way due to their location and dark sky reserves.

But the Northern Lights have also been seen as far south as Cork and Kerry, although this is quite an unusual occurrence.

30. Ireland is a neutral country

Ireland is and has remained a neutral country, particularly during major conflicts such as World War II.

This neutrality is deeply ingrained in Irish foreign policy, maintaining a stance of non-alignment in military affairs.

Despite its neutrality, Ireland is an active participant in the United Nations, often contributing to peacekeeping missions.

Conclusion

There you have it! Thirty interesting facts about Ireland from an Irish person herself. I hope you’ve found these facts about my home countrrainy as fascinating as I do.

About the author: Laura Grace is an Irish travel blogger who loves to discover off-the-beaten path locations, nature spots and hiking trails. She is particularly fond of solo travel as it pushes her outside her comfort zone. You can read more about Laura’s travels at liveadventuretravel.com.