Ireland – home to Guinness, river dancing, and leprechauns. But did you know Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish? What about the origins of Halloween? Can you try your hand at pronouncing the longest place name in Ireland? It’s 25 characters long.
Find the answer to all these questions and more with these 59 interesting facts about Ireland.
59 Interesting Facts about Ireland
- On average, the Irish consume 131.1 liters of beer per year, putting them at 4th place in the world for highest per-capita beer consumption.
2. The harp is the official symbol of Ireland, making it the only country in the world with an instrument as its national symbol. Many people believe that the shamrock is the national symbol of Ireland but this is just one of many Irish symbols.
3. Irish Gaelic is the official language of Ireland, but only 380,000 fluent speakers remain. There are more Polish language speakers in Ireland than those who speak Irish Gaelic.
4. As of 2017, Ireland has won the Eurovision Song Contest seven times, which is more than any other country.
5. Because it’s an island, Ireland has no snakes, moles, or weasels.
6. The oldest bar in the world is in the middle of Ireland. Dating back to 900 A.D., Sean’s Bar is over 1,100 years old.
7. Halloween originated in Ireland from a festival called Samhain. It marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. The ancient Celtic festival of Samhain involved people lighting fires and wearing scary costumes to ward off evil spirits. The word Samhain is Gaelic and means darker half which was why it was used to mark the start of winter.
8. An Irish scientist, John Tyndall, is the person who found the reason for the sky being blue.
9. Saint Patrick was not Irish. He was the son of Romans who were living in Britain. It is believed that he was kidnapped at 16 and taken to Ireland where he helped herd sheep.
10. An Irishman, James Hoban, designed both of the White Houses in the United States.
11. 90% of the Irish population is Catholic, but only 30% of those ever attend church.
12. Ireland has the lowest annual number of reported UFO sightings in Europe.
13. In Dublin, there is one pub for every 100 people.
14. Located in Ireland, Hook Lighthouse is the oldest working lighthouse in the world. It dates back to around 1200 A.D.
15. Irish land was not fit for grain agriculture until modern machinery and fertilizers of the 20th This is the main reason why potatoes were the staple food from the 17th century and on.
16. The world’s oldest yacht club is The Royal Cork Yacht Club, founded in 1720.
17. On January 1st, 1801, the Union Jack flag was flown for the first time in Dublin to commemorate the union between Great Britain and Ireland.
18. Guinness is the biggest beer brand in Ireland and is the largest brewer of stout-style beer in the world. The original Guinness Brewery in Dublin has a 9,000-year lease at a constant rate of about $70 per year.
19. Ireland is called Éire in Irish.
20. Ireland was one of the original 12 European nations to begin using the Euro currency in 2002.
21. Blasphemy is still illegal in Ireland.
22. Off the coast of Dublin, there is an island with a population of wallabies. They were introduced in the 1950s due to an overcrowding issue at the Dublin Zoo.
23. It is a strange Irish birthday tradition to lift the birthday child upside down, and gently tap his head on the floor the number of times as is his age plus one.
24. Hurling is an ancient Irish sport with prehistoric origins. It has been played for 3,000 years and is considered the fasted field sport in the world.
25. Before the Great Famine, Ireland’s population was estimated at 8 million. Today, at 4 million citizens, the population has still not recovered.
26. Until the 1920s, on St. Bridig’s Day (February 1st) couples in Ireland could legally marry in the city of Teltown by just walking towards each other. They could also “divorce” by walking away from each other at the same spot, also on St. Brigid’s day.
27. The world’s oldest solar observatory is in Ireland called Newgrange. It was built during the New Stone Age over 5,000 years ago. That puts it older than both the pyramids and Stonehenge.
28. Ireland has the longest-running talk show in the world. The Late Late Show started in 1965 and has only had 3 different presenters since its start.
29. The longest place name in Ireland is called Sruffaunoughterluggatoora, located in Galway.
30. There is a town that holds a festival called “Puck Fair” during which a wild goat is caught and crowned king for 3 days. It is hoisted on a 40-foot tall pedestal. After the festivities, the goat is set free back into the wild
31. Ireland has a population of 6 million. However, more than 40 million people across the world have Irish ancestry.
32. Ireland is home to the longest coastal driving route in the world. The Wild Atlantic Way runs for over 2500 kilometres from County Donegal in the north of Ireland to the beach at Cork in the south of the country.
33. The most extensive Stone Age site in the world is in Ireland. The Ceide Fields in County Mayo are said to be 6,000 years old and they are Europe‘s biggest stone enclosure at 77 kilometres.
34. The second highest cliffs in Europe are Craoghaun Cliffs on Achill Island in Ireland. They rise nearly 700 metres over the Atlantic Ocean.
35. It is said that Ireland has approximately 30,000 castles.
36. Dublin was once home to the largest red-light district in Europe. The area known today as Summerhill was known as Monto and it had as many as 1600 prostitutes between the 1860s and 1950s.
37. The Irish flag was inspired by the French Revolution. Its green, white and orange represent Ireland’s independence and its history. The green represents the Gaelic tradition of Ireland, the orange is for William of Orange and the white represents the desire for peace between the two. It was first raised above Dublin’s GP and officially recognized as the national flag after the 1916 uprising.
38. The ashes of St Valentine are located in a shrine in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin. The ashes were a gift from Pope Gregory XVI. Today couples visit the shrine to ask St Valentine to watch over them.
39. In 2004, Ireland became the first country in the world to ban smoking in workplaces, pubs and restaurants across the country.
40. In May 2015, the majority of the Irish population voted in favour of gay marriage. This made it the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage.
41. The world’s first duty-free or tax-free store was at Shannon Airport in Dublin in 1947.
42. John Philip Holland was an Irish engineer who developed the world’s first submarine in the late 19th century.
43. Ireland is the second-largest consumer of tea per capita after Turkey.
44. More Guinness is drunk in both Nigeria and the United Kingdom than is in Ireland. Ireland ranks third when it comes to the consumption of Guinness.
45. It is illegal to be drunk in public in Ireland. This law was passed in 2009. However, there is one day of a year when this law is brushed aside. Of course, that is St Patrick’s Day. It would be almost impossible to enforce the public drunkenness law on St Patrick’s Day in light of the crowds.
46. Irish citizens receive a cheque for just over 2,500 euros when they turn 100. They also receive a letter from the President. This is called the Centenarian Bounty. And it doesn’t stop at 100. After reaching 100 years of age, citizens receive a letter and a commemorative coin every year.
47. Surnames that start with Mac in Ireland mean “son of”. Surnames that start with “O” mean “grandson of”.
48. The Titanic was built in Belfast. It took 150,000 Irishmen nearly 3 years to build the ship. The price of a ticket at the time would be over $100,000 in today’s currency. Additionally, the Titanic’s last stop was in Ireland. From Belfast, the Titanic went to Southampton, England. However, it made its last stop in the small town of Cobh in County Cork. There is a small Titanic museum in Cobh today.
49. Students at Trinity College avoid standing under the bell. The bell is called the Campanile and is very beautiful. However, it is said that if you’re a student of Trinity College and you pass under the bell before you graduate you will fail. It is also said that the bell rings automatically if a virgin stands underneath it.
50. Ireland is named after a goddess. In modern Gaelic it’s Eire. In Old Irish her name was Eriu and she was part of a trio of goddesses that looked after the wellbeing of Ireland. Here sisters Banba and Fodla rounded out the trio.
51. Officially, Ireland was neutral during World War Two. They were bombed a few times during the war due to both sides missing targets. Ireland remains neutral today and isn’t a part of NATO.
52. Ireland has its own Olympics. They are called the Tailteann Games and it is believed that they are older than the actual Olympics, dating back to at least 1600 BC. They began as “funeral games” – athletic competitions that were held to honour a person who had recently passed away.
53. Guinness the dark stout drink is the same Guinness as the Guinness Book World Records. The managing director of Guinness in 1955, Sir Hugh Beaver, had an argument with some friends about what was the fastest game bird in Europe. They checked reference books and couldn’t find a clear answer.
They decided that as people were having these kinds of debates in pubs across Ireland most nights they should come up with a record book that would have answers to all of these types of questions. And the Guinness Book of World Records was born.
54. County Mayo in Ireland has the most pubs per person in Ireland. They have one pub for every 323 people. And County Cork has more pubs than Dublin – nearly 1,000 vs just over 370 pubs in Dublin. In Dublin, there is one pub for every 1,649 people.
55. Gaelic is a compulsory subject in schools in Ireland. Street signs in Ireland are in both English and Gaelic. However, as noted earlier only a small percentage of the population speaks Gaelic daily.
56. The president of Ireland actually has very little power. The Taoiseach is the head of the Irish government and the real seat of power.
57. The author of Dracula was born in Dublin in the 19th century. Bram Stoker attended Trinity College. It is said that he was inspired to write Dracula by the Irish legend of Abhartach.
58. The Tara Min in County Meath is the largest zinc mine in Europe and the 5th largest in the world.
59. The guillotine was used in Ireland first, then France in the 18th century.