Fun Facts About Ireland
For students, historians, and travelers alike, it’s craic (or “a good time”) when learning fun facts about Ireland. Indeed, the beautiful Old Country is a nation rich with history, mystery, tradition, and charm.
Introducing the Emerald Isle
Nicknamed the “Emerald Isle” due to its lush greenery, Ireland is also known as the “Celtic Tiger,” thanks to its progressive, fast-growing economy. Dublin, Ireland’s largest city, serves as the nation’s cultural, spiritual, and economic center. Its successes reverberate out to every other county.
Located in northwestern Europe, Ireland has been politically divided since 1920. Six of its 32 counties comprise Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Today, both the Republic of Ireland and the UK continue to strive towards a peaceful coexistence, adhering to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
Some Fun Facts about Ireland
Ireland is a country with a unique, unmistakable charm. Its “Irish eyes are smiling” upon you, the moment you walk onto its historic ground. For anyone who wants to learn about Ireland, it’s not enough to know about dates and timelines. To really know the Emerald Isle, you need to learn about the “did you knows” – the curious anecdotes, tales, and fun facts about Ireland that make the country all the more real and indeed inimitable.
History and Statistics
As said, the Good Friday Agreement between Ireland and the UK was approved in 1998, but did you know:
- The unrest that characterized the 1960s in Northern Ireland was known as “The Troubles”
- In 1990, Ireland elected its first woman president: Mary Robinson
- In 1997, Mary McAleese succeeded Mary Robinson – the first time in the world two female presidents held successive terms.
- Also in 1997, Ireland saw its first ever divorce granted
Ireland’s castles are big tourist attractions and some of the most beautiful in the world, but did you know:
- Irish castles from centuries ago are each fortified by a “murder-hole” – a hole in the ceiling where castle defenders could shoot incendiary devices or pour noxious liquid out onto attackers.
- Ballygally Castle in County Antrium is today a hotel, but is famed for its castle past. Built by James Shaw (of Scotland) in 1625, the castle is said to be haunted by Lady Isobel Shaw, who leapt to her death from a top window after being locked in her room and starved by her husband. Today, her spirit knocks on the castle’s doors to let guests knows she’s still around.
Irish Traditions and Legends
The Irish are known for their marvelous tales and hard-held beliefs. Most of them are rooted in Old Country traditions. For instance, did you know?
- A birthday tradition
- For young children involves them being turned upside down with their heads “bumped” on the ground: Once for each year on their birthday cake and once more for good luck!
- Legend says that anyone who kisses the famous Blarney Stone (1446) will be given the “gift of gab” or rather, eloquence or ability to flatter. Suffice to say, countless admirers have kissed the five-centuries’ old block of bluestone.
- Irish names ending with “Mac” or “O” mean “son of…” or “grandson of…” respectively
- The shamrock, the harp, and Celtic cross are the three most famous symbols of Ireland
- The Celtic knot signifies the “continuity of life”
- A banshee’s cry foretells a death in the family
Irish Trivia and Lighthearted Fun
There is reportedly one pub for every 300 Irish people in Ireland. In 2006, that equaled about 9,350 pubs. Today, the number is closer to 11,000. Not surprisingly, the best pubs are believed to be found here. Did you also know?
- It’s estimated that there are over 80 million people of Irish descent living elsewhere in the world
- Ireland is famous for its writers. Among them are Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, and James Joyce.
- The original Guinness Brewery remains the largest brewer of stout in the world. In 1759, Arthur Guinness secured the brewery’s location for 9,000 years for 45 Irish pounds/year (in perpetuity)!
- It’s believed there are more cell phones in Ireland than people. According to the Census (as of 2007), the most popular boy name in Ireland is “Jack,” followed by “Sean;” and the most popular girl names are “Sarah” and “Emma.”
- The word “quiz” may have gotten its meaning from Ireland. As the anecdote goes: Theater proprietor Richard Daly made a bet that he could make a nonsense word the talk of the town within 48 hours. To do so, he and his staff posted cards with the word “quiz” all over Dublin. Within a short while, everyone was buzzing about it, wondering what it could mean? Hence, the word’s meaning of “to question or interrogate” was born. Though the word existed prior to Mr. Daly’s stunt, locals will tell you that the word’s meaning wasn’t truly born until Ireland defined it.
Did You Know?
The longest place name in Ireland is “Muckanagheder-
dauhaulia,” found in County Galway.
A port, its translation is “pig marsh between two seas.”