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50 Fun Facts About Ireland That May Surprise You

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Ireland is a country known for its love of Guinness, lush, green land as far as you can see, and friendly people, but there are likely many fun facts about Ireland that you don’t know. I always find that a trip is made better when I know about the history and culture in advance, as I can then appreciate what I’m seeing a lot more.

That’s why I compiled 50 interesting facts about Ireland so you can learn more about the country and impress your friends with your knowledge.

From learning about the geography of the land to understanding the culture more, let’s dive into these Ireland fun facts!

Geographical Facts About Ireland

The country has one of the most impressive geographical profiles globally, attracting tons of visitors annually. Here are some fun facts about Ireland regarding the geography of the Emerald Isle.

1. The Republic of Ireland has just six official cities. These are Dublin (the capital city), Cork, Kilkenny, Waterford, Galway, and Limerick. Northern Ireland has Armagh, Belfast, Derry, Lisburn, and Newry.

2. Of the counties and cities in Ireland, Cork is the largest as it spans around 2,879 mi² (7,457 km²). In comparison, Louth is the smallest county with a size of approximately 322 mi² (836 km²) and is commonly referred to as “the wee county.”

3. If you fancy an Ireland road trip, you’re in luck. The country has many fantastic drives featuring rugged landscapes, and perhaps none are as great as the Wild Atlantic Way, which spans around 1,553 miles. It’s the longest coastal driving route in the world — with many arguing it to be the most beautiful too.

Wild Atlantic Way Sign

4. You may already know this given its popularity, but Ireland is commonly referred to as the Emerald Isle. The nickname stems from the greenery found in the country’s rolling hills and landscapes. Not to mention, the island is beautiful, and many may refer to it as a jewel — although this is my opinion.

5. The statement “it’s always raining in Ireland” isn’t just hyperbole. Ireland has one of the wettest climates in Europe, which is primarily responsible for the greenery in the country. In fact, it once rained for over 40 consecutive days in 2007.

6. Included in Ireland’s population of rugged landscapes are the Croaghaun Cliffs on Achill Island. The towering cliffs are 2,257 feet (688m) above the Atlantic Ocean, making them the third-highest cliffs in Europe. 

7. While the Croaghaun Cliffs are the tallest cliffs on the island, they are pipped to the top spot of the most elevated landscape by the Carrauntoohil Mountains. This mountain has a height of 3,405 feet (1,038m).

Carrauntoohil Mountain

8. The island of Ireland is home to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, although the latter is part of the United Kingdom. This means that Ireland is one of the only territories with a single land border, which it shares with the UK.

9. Ireland is home to the longest river in the British Isles. The River Shannon at 224 miles (360 km) is longer than the River Severn by just four miles.

10. Apart from rugged cliffs and mountains, you’ll find that Ireland is dotted with tons of castles. While the official number isn’t finalized yet, there are at least 20,000 castles in Ireland. Many are centuries-old, and some function as accommodation options today.

Irish Culture Facts

In addition to its magnificent geographical profile, Ireland has a rich culture that still has significance today. Below you’ll find some of the cultural facts, and some are guaranteed to surprise you.

11. One of the most interesting facts about Ireland is that it’s named after an ancient Goddess. The name loosely translates to Eriu in Old Irish and Eire in modern Gaelic, and the latter is the name of the island in Gaelic. Eire and her sisters were a group of goddesses that are said to have ensured the ancient island was doing well.

12. While St. Patrick is one of Ireland’s most renowned icons and a significant part of Ireland’s history, he wasn’t actually Irish. He was a Briton abducted by pirates to Ireland at 16 and made to work as an enslaved person. There, the pirates forced him to herd sheep in the mountains for several years.

13. Like St. Patrick’s origins, the now-famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade didn’t originate in Ireland. The first recorded parade took place in 1762 on American shores, and Irishmen that were part of the English army took to the streets of New York City to partake in the fiesta. The rest, as they say, is history.

14. St. Patrick’s real name wasn’t Patrick. He was born Maewyn Succat, and he may have randomly or not randomly picked up the name he’s now most famous for. Like many, I’ll stick to Patrick and won’t even attempt to pronounce his real name.

15. Green has become the color everyone mostly thinks of when thinking of St. Patrick. However, he was first associated with blue, and green only came when the clover became a sign of Irish nationalism in 1798.

16. While English is the most widely spoken language in the Emerald Isle, Irish Gaelic is the first official language of Ireland. It’s taught in schools and can be found on official government documents, public buildings, signs, and more. Despite this fact about Ireland, most of the population can’t have a prolonged conversation in Gaelic.

Dublin Countryside

17. Whether you’re Irish or traveling to Ireland, you’ve probably met dozens of Irish people whose surnames begin with O’ or “Mac.” These names and surnames have a lot of thought in them as they’re more than just random naming. 

The O’ predecessor in a surname means descendant of (for example, O’Murphy is a descendant of Murphy). Similarly, “Mac” means “son of.”

18. While Ireland is commonly associated with the shamrock, it isn’t the national symbol of Ireland — unbelievable, right? Instead, the harp is the Irish national symbol. This means that Ireland has the distinction of being the only country using a musical instrument as a national symbol.

19. While the Irish flag is thought to be associated with St. Patrick, it actually has no association with him. The flag was drawn using the French flag as inspiration during the French Revolution, and the colors on it all represent something of significance.

The green represents Ireland’s Gaelic traditions, the orange represents the William of Orange, and the white symbolizes the chase for peace between the two.

20. One of the more interesting things about Ireland is the long-running “Puck Fair” and its traditions. Annually in August, the Irish catch a goat in the mountains and place it in a cage in Killorglin.

Once caught, the goat is crowned as a king for three days. During these three days, the population takes part in many festivities. The goat is safely released back to the mountains at the end of the celebrations.

21. Leprechauns, long associated with Ireland, are said to be a type of fairy — just not the Disney or Pixar kind. Further, they haven’t always been associated with luck as the Irish believed they could be nasty creatures that may be amusing or dangerous depending on whether you displeased them or not.

22. There have been no female leprechauns historically. Some sources claim that the Irish believed these creatures were unwanted children of the fairy community.

Irish Trivia Facts

Here are some other fun Irish facts that aren’t of any significance but could come in handy in the future — who knows when you might get challenged to a game of trivia?

Carved Pumpkin

23. The entire world (myself included) has Ireland to thank for its favorite spooky holiday, Halloween. The holiday has its roots in the Celtic, end-of-summer festival of Samhain, and people would don various costumes during the event to scare off unwelcome spirits.

24. Despite the Emerald Isle’s rugged beauty, more Irish people live outside Ireland than in the country. Compared to the approximately 5 million residents living on the island, around 80 million people globally claim to have Irish blood while living in other countries. Many of them are descendants of the nine to ten million people that emigrated from the country in the early 1700s.

25. The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia, which translates to “piggery between two expanses of briny water.” The place is a rugged peninsula that has close to zero residents. If you’re brave enough to risk biting your tongue, try pronouncing it yourself several times in succession (muk-an-hand-ra-do-dauter-hal-i-a) — once is already a challenge.

Floral Landscapes

26. When you think of Ireland, how many global musical stars and icons come to mind? Probably not as many as, say, the UK. Despite the fact that a lack of worldwide sensations musically compared to some of the other countries, Ireland has the most victories at the renowned Eurovision Song Contest. They’ve won the competition seven times, entering their first in 1965.

27. An Irish chat show that goes by “The Late Late Show” is the second-longest running talk show in the world. It’s been airing every Friday evening since 1962, and it’s second only to The Tonight Show from the USA.

28. While Ireland is the home of Guinness beer, it sits only third in terms of total Guinness pints consumed per year. The British and Nigerian nations are the largest consumers of the beer brand — keep in mind that the two countries have way more citizens than Ireland.

Guinness Beer

29. Sticking with Guinness, you may be wondering if the beer brand has anything to do with the Guinness Book of World Records. The answer is yes, these two are related, and this is one of the most fun facts about Ireland.

Back in the 1950s, Sir Hugh Beaver was the managing director of Guinness. He got into an argument with friends regarding the fastest game bird; realizing no one was conceding defeat, they turned to books. Unfortunately, there were no such books with the records found in the Guinness Book of World Records today — and there and then the idea was born.

30. Talking about records, this may be a record on its own. Back in 1759, the founder of the Guinness beer brand signed a lease for 9,000 years (!). The brand’s been on that site for over 200 successful years; can this continue for another 8,700+ years?

Guinness Gate

31. Reaching your 100th birthday is an iconic achievement that most people don’t reach. A typical celebration of reaching a century of living is cake and time spent with loved ones. 

In Ireland, this is a deal big enough for you to receive recognition from the country’s President. On your 100th birthday, you get a letter and €2,540 as part of the Centenarian Bounty. Afterward, citizens get a letter and a commemorative coin on each subsequent birthday.

32. People with ophidiophobia rejoice. Ireland is one of the few countries in the world without snakes. It’s not because St. Patrick banished snakes for religious purposes. Most snakes can’t swim, so they can’t make the journey to the island from Britain.

33. This is one of the more interesting and cool facts about Ireland that blew my mind when I first learned about it. The first-ever divorce in Ireland took place in January 1997 after a referendum voted to remove the constitutional prohibition on divorce in the country.

Other Ireland Fun Facts

In addition to the above, there are more Irish fun facts you can pull out to impress friends at your next trivia night.

34. While Ireland is well-known for its love of alcohol, the country isn’t a fan of seeing anyone drunk in public. In fact, being drunk in public spaces to the point where you may be a danger to yourself or anyone else is illegal. Punishment includes having your drink confiscated by the police and a possible fine.

35. While on alcohol, Ireland has a pub dating back to 900 AD, indicating that the Emerald Isle’s reputation isn’t new. Sean’s Bar in Athlone is the oldest pub in Ireland, and some argue that it’s the oldest in the world.

36. Sean’s Bar has been around because it has had many customers over the years, and it looks set to continue being around for a long time. After all, Ireland is one of the leading beer consumers globally, and it sits in the top ten of beer consumption per capita, with over 24 gallons (90l) drank annually.

37. Despite their reputation, the Irish has no problem going without alcohol. They are, of course, the third-largest tea consumer per capita.

Tea And Teapot

38. The stereotype that Ireland has a large population of redheads isn’t precisely true, but it isn’t a lie either. While Ireland doesn’t have the largest redhead population worldwide, it has the highest number of redheads per capita globally. At least 9% of the Irish population are redheads.

39. Ireland holds the distinction of being the only nation to have had two female presidents, which is a considerable feat given some countries haven’t even had one.

40. Among Ireland’s impressive cliffs are the world-famous Cliffs of Moher, a must-see famous Irish landmark. Not only are these towering cliffs famous amongst travelers, but they’re also well-known in Hollywood. They have previously been Ireland filming locations for movies such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Snow White and the Huntsman, and more.

Cliffs Of Moher

41. Ireland has seen many inventions come from the country in the past centuries. Some of Ireland’s most innovative creations include color photography, flavored crisps, whiskey distilling, hollow needles for syringes, and more.

42. While Ireland isn’t home to many species thanks to its secluded location, it has an exciting mix of wildlife. This group includes the wallabies that have an entire island to themselves — one of the most random facts about Ireland.

These wallabies can be found on the private Lambay Island and were brought between the 1950s and 1960s by the family that owned the island.

43. A fun fact about Ireland that I love is while the term “Luck of the Irish” is popular today, it initially wasn’t meant to be a positive term. It was coined in America during the gold rush as a derogatory phrase. Many Irish immigrants got to the States and quickly gained a reputation as prominent miners who often struck gold. 

However, some felt this was pure luck rather than the actual results of working hard, and the term came to be.

Clover

44. While the Titanic sailed from Southampton, the port of Cobh was the last port of call of the infamous passenger ship.

45. The ashes of St. Valentine, the Roman saint, sit in a shrine inside Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin. Many couples visit the shrine to ask for St. Valentine to look over their relationships.

46. Ireland also is home to the Royal Cork Yacht Club, known as the oldest yacht club globally.

47. Long before the Olympics were a thing, the Irish were already participating in their own form of the games. The Tailteann Games featured athletes competing in several competitions dating back to at least 1600 BC.

48. If you’re a fan of the constellations, you don’t have to make your way to the Nordic nations to enjoy a sight of the Northern Lights. You can see the Aurora Borealis in Ireland, particularly if you visit Ireland in winter.

49. One of the more little-known facts about Ireland is that it’s home to one of the oldest active lighthouses in the world. The Hook Lighthouse has been around since either 1172 or 1245, depending on who you ask.

50. A fun fact about Dublin is the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin is one of the world’s oldest maternity hospitals still in operation, with its roots dating back to 1745.

Now that you know all of these fun facts about Ireland, you can test your friends with your knowledge next time you’re at the pub!

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