How much do you know about Ireland? With thousands of years of history, there’s a lot to know. Most of us know at least the basics, but here are 20 fun Ireland facts that you probably didn’t know.
Fun Ireland Fact #1: Saint Patrick Wasn’t Actually Irish
No doubt you’ve heard about Saint Patrick: Ireland’s patron saint who supposedly rid the country of snakes and the guy behind the world-famous Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. Well, he wasn’t actually Irish. He was actually born in Britain and it is thought that he was kidnapped and transported to Ireland when he was about sixteen.
Fun Ireland Fact #2: There are 2 Places that Drink More Guinness than Ireland
Guinness is pretty synonymous with Ireland, but you may be surprised to know that Britain and Nigeria actually buy more Guinness than Ireland itself.
Fun Ireland Fact #3: The National Symbol of Ireland isn’t a Shamrock, it’s a Harp
While shamrocks are often associated with Ireland, they are not the national symbol. The harp became the national symbol of Ireland in 1922 when Ireland separated from the UK. You can find the Harp on many Irish brands and items including coins, Irish passports, and Guinness glasses.
Fun Ireland Fact #4: The Legend of Dracula has Irish Roots
The story of Dracula takes place in Transylvania, however, the author, Bram Stoker (who was Irish, by the way) is believed to have gotten the inspiration for his famous story from the Irish legend of Abhartach. The Abhartach was an evil creature who, despite being killed multiple times, kept rising from his grave and drinking the blood of his victims. For more about Irish books, read this post.
Fun Ireland Fact #5: Ireland Has Its Own Version of the Olympic Games
Ireland’s Tailteann Games can be traced back as far as 1600BCE, though have been historically proven to be held from the 6th-12thcentury. They Tailteann games were a variety of athletic contests that were held in honour of the deceased goddess Tailtiu. Tailtu was said to have died of exhaustion after cleaning Ireland’s fields for agricultural purposes. The Tailteann games still exist in Ireland today.
Fun Ireland Fact #6: The Irish REALLY Like Their Tea
The fact that the Irish drink a lot of tea is not surprising. But the fact, Ireland drinks more tea than Britain does. As per 2016 statistics, Ireland consumes the second highest amount of tea in the world (Turkey holds the number one spot).
Fun Ireland Fact #7: Halloween Originated in Ireland
While Halloween, as we know it today, is a big tradition in North America, this celebration actually originated in Ireland. It was called the festival of Samhain and dates back thousands of years. The Celts thought that, on this day, the veil between the worlds was very thin and spirits (both good and bad) could pass through. Learn more about the origins of Halloween in Ireland here.
Fun Ireland Fact #8: Ireland Might Have the World’s Oldest Lighthouse
Hook lighthouse in County Wexford is considered to be the oldest working lighthouse in Europe. Although, it could possibly the oldest working lighthouse in the world. The structure as seen today was built either in 1172 or 1245, however, there has been a lighthouse on that same spot since the 5thcentury.
Fun Ireland Fact #9: The Term ‘Boycott’ originated in Ireland
Captain Charles Boycott, a land agent from Ulster, is responsible for the term ‘boycott’ as we know it today. In 1880, the Captain refused to reduce the rents of his employer’s tenants, resulting in him being ostracized by the entire community. The Times of London started to use his name, Boycott, as a term of organized isolation. It has since become a common term in the English language.
Fun Ireland Fact #10: Newgrange is Older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge
When it comes to ancient wonders, the Pyramids of Egypt and England’s Stonehenge tend to get all of the attention. However, Ireland has its own mysterious archaeological site called Newgrange which is older than both. Newgrange is 5000 years old passage tomb best known for the Winter Solstice Illumination.
Fun Ireland Fact #11: Ireland had a Pirate Queen
Grace O’Malley (Grainne Ni Mhaille in Irish) was a 16thcentury pirate queen of Ireland. Despite having a half-brother, it was Grace who took over as lord of the O Maille dynasty after her father’s death. She was known as a fighter and noted for her abilities and the fame she had among the Irish.
Fun Ireland Fact #12: Ireland has the ‘perfect wave’ for Surfers
The scientists at the National University of Ireland in Galway have determined that the wave off the cliffs of Moher, dubbed Aileen’s Wave, is the closest thing to a perfect wave for surfing. When conditions are right, this wave can reach 12m. It was first surfed by John McCarthy (who runs Lahinch Surf School) in 2005.
Fun Ireland Fact #13: There is no ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in the Irish Language
‘Yes’ and ‘no’ are two of the most common words in most languages, but there is no direct translation for them in Irish. Instead, the language uses verb form. For example, the question: Do you want to go to the pub? Would be answered with “I would” or “I wouldn’t”.
Fun Ireland Fact #14: Irish Coffee Was Invented After a Plane Mishap
Irish coffee is made around the world, but it’s a relatively new recipe and only came about thanks to an emergency plane landing in 1943. A wicked storm caused a plane bound for NYC to turn back and a local chef prepared what we now know as Irish coffee for the passengers. For the full story as well as a real Irish coffee recipe, read this post.
Fun Ireland Fact #15: Ireland has over 30,000 castles
Well, that’s the estimate at least with the excuse that there are too many to count. Some of them are quite large and famous while others are ruins. There are plenty of smaller castles though that have been turned into hotels. So, if you really want a fairytale Irish experience, then take a look at these castle hotels in Ireland.
Fun Ireland Fact #16: The Burren is believed to have inspired The Lord of the Rings Series
Ireland’s landscape has inspired many movies and shows from The Chronicles of Narnia to the Game of Thrones series. However, it’s recently been discovered that Ireland may have inspired The Lord of the Rings series as well. Peter Curtain, pub owner and the man behind the Burren Tolkien Society, fell into conversation with a woman who worked for a man who had been friends with Tolkien. She had a number of stories about her employer and Tolkien visiting the Burren. Furthermore, it’s thought that Gollum might have gotten his name from a cave in the Burren known as Pol na Gollum (the Hole of Gollum).
Fun Ireland Fact #17: Ireland is Home to Europe’s Biggest Matchmaking Festival
Every year in September, the town of Lisdoonvarna in County Clare holds a matchmaking festival, and it’s the largest one of its kind in all of Europe. The festival runs every weekend for the month and dates back over 160 years. There’s plenty of dancing, music, and you can even meet with the country’s only traditional matchmaker. Legend says if you place both hands on his book you’ll be married within 6 months!
Fun Ireland Fact #18: You Can See the Northern Lights from Ireland
Nordic countries and Scandinavia tend to get all of the glory when it comes to the northern lights, but you can see them in Ireland too. Granted, you need a clear sky but Malin Head up in Donegal is one of the best places to see them. Read more about why you should visit Ireland in the winter here.
Fun Ireland Fact #19: Ireland’s Oldest Beer Is not Guinness, It’s Smithwicks
When it comes to beer in Ireland, Guinness is the first thing that pops into mind. However, you’ll be interested to know that it’s not actually the original Irish beer. That title belongs to Smithwicks. The Smithwicks Brewery was founded in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1710. Guinness came about in 1759.
Fun Ireland Fact #20: Dublin’s Phoenix Park is bigger than Central Park
New York City’s Central Park gets all the hype about being a huge city park, but Phoenix Park in Dublin is actually twice the size of Central Park. It’s also home to some pretty friendly deer (though you are asked not to feed them!). Phoenix Park is a great way to escape the bustle of Dublin city centre, and one of the places I recommend to visit in my Dublin itinerary.
There you have it! Hopefully, you learned something new with these 20 fun Ireland facts.