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15 Incredible Ireland Facts You Never Knew!

If you've ever wanted to know all about the Emerald Isle, these are the facts for you! Learn about history, culture, and mythology in this amazing list!

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Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  January 3rd 2024

Ireland is one of our closest neighbours, and it is SO interesting! When we say Ireland, we're usually referring to the Republic of Ireland, though the island of Ireland contains two nations - the other is Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. Here are some quick and easy Ireland facts you probably knew - the capital is Dublin, its currency is the Euro, and its official languages are English and Gaeilge (also known as Irish). But there's so much more to learn! Get ready to learn all about Irish history, culture, geography - and the real reason why you won't find any snakes in Ireland! And when you're done, why not read our 15 facts about Northern Ireland? Or have a go at our counties of Ireland quiz, or have a laugh at some St. Patrick's Day jokes!

1. It has a complicated history

The island of Ireland can be found just west of Great Britain. In 1170 the whole island was turned into English territory when invading Norman Vikings conquered it. Things got even more tense in the 1600s, when England became Protestant while most of Ireland stayed Roman Catholic. In the early 1800s, English laws that discriminated against Irish Catholics caused a lot of people to want freedom from England. Even though many of these laws were overturned in 1829, Ireland kept pushing for freedom, and in 1921 it was split into Northern and Southern Ireland. Southern Ireland became the Irish Free State, and later the Republic of Ireland (which is usually what we mean when we just say "Ireland"). It's not been a happy division - between 1969 and 1998 there was a conflict called "The Troubles", where pro- and anti-British sides fought, often violently. The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 ended most of the violence.

2. It's BEAUTIFUL

Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, and for a very good reason! Its famous green rolling hills are formed by a mild climate with frequent rain showers. The landscape is very diverse, though. Ireland also has a very beautiful coastline with stunning cliffs and rock formations. One of the most famous is the Giant's Causeway, a basalt structure of hexagonal columns that formed naturally around 60 million years ago.

3. It has a rich literary culture

So many amazing writers you might have heard of hail from Ireland! These include Bram Stoker (author of Dracula), satirist Jonathan Swift, poet and playright Oscar Wilde, poet W.B. Yeats, playright George Bernard Shaw, novelist James Joyce, novelist and playright Samuel Beckett, and Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney. You might not have read their works, but lots of children's writers also come from Ireland, including a few you might have heard of! C.S. Lewis (author of the Narnia series), Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl), Derek Landy (Skulduggery Pleasant), Kate Thompson (Switchers), and Patricia Lynch.

4. And a great music scene!

Enya - Orinoco Flow (Official 4K Music Video) | enyatv | YouTube.com

Need something to listen to while you're reading all those books? Ireland has produced some of the best musicians of all time! Some of the most famous solo singers are Enya, Hozier, Bono, Van Morrison, Niall Horan, Bob Geldof, Imelda May, and the late Sinéad O’Connor. There are also lots of bands to explore, like Bono's band U2, The Cranberries, Thin Lizzy, Snow Patrol, The Script, The Corrs, The Dubliners, The Pogues, and pop classics like Westlife and B*Witched!

5. There are no snakes in Ireland (and probably not for the reason you think)

One of the most famous myths about Ireland is that St. Patrick (the patron saint of Ireland) got rid of all the snakes in the country. According to the legend, St. Patrick was fasting on top of a mountain when he was attacked by snakes. He used his staff to drive the snakes away into the sea, and now there are no snakes in Ireland! This is a cool story, but the real reason there are no snakes in Ireland is because they never got there in the first place! After the Ice Age, the land bridge that used to connect Ireland to Europe was submerged before the reptiles could slither across! The only reptile you'll meet in Ireland is the common lizard - though you might meet a sea turtle off the west coast if you're lucky!

6. You can visit the Star Wars universe there!

That beautiful landscape has been used in a lot of films and TV shows! One of the most famous is Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Remember Ahch-To, Luke Skywalker's island retreat? It's actually Skellig Michael, a craggy island off the coast of County Kerry. Those beehive-shaped huts and the Jedi temple ruins are real buildings on the island! You can visit it, but you won't find any porgs. The porgs were actually invented because Skellig Michael is home to a lot of puffins, and there were too many to CGI out. The production department invented porgs to CGI over the puffins, and one of Star Wars' best creatures was born!

7. It has a lot of "world's oldests"!

It's not very surprising as people have lived in Ireland since around 6,000 BC, but it's home to some very old establishments! Lots of places claim to the the oldest pub in the world, and Sean's Bar in Athlone is said to have been around since 900 AD! The oldest parts of the current building probably date from the 17th century. Off the coast of County Wexford, you'll find Hook Lighthouse, which is one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world, dating from the 12th century! Additionally, you can find the oldest yacht club in the world in Cork, founded in 1720, and Dublin's Rotunda Hospital (which opened in 1745) is the oldest continuously operating maternity hospital on earth!

8. You can meet St. Valentine there!

Well, technically! If you visit Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, you'll be able to see his remains! St. Valentine was a Roman saint who died in 269 AD on the 14th February (Valentine's Day!), so how did he end up in Dublin? The Irish preacher John Spratt visited Rome in 1835. His preaching was so popular, he was given a gift by the Pope - the remains of St. Valentine! They've been on display in the church since 1836. Hey, now there's a first date idea!

9. There was a very serious famine

The Famine Memorial | Rowan Gillespie

Potatoes were first introduced to Ireland in the 16th century, and they quickly became a staple food (something that makes up a huge part of people's everyday diet). They're a great food because they are quite easy to grow, easy to prepare, and full of enough calories and nutrition to keep the hard-working peasants fed. They would eat potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner! From 1845 to 1852, there was a terrible famine known as "The Great Hunger." A blight on potato crops meant that plants died, wouldn't grow, or were completely inedible. This might not have been as much of a problem if it weren't for the fact that non-potato plants were expensive because of British tax laws. A combination of low crops and high tariffs meant that the Irish had almost nothing to eat. Britain did send relief by repealing the tax laws, but it was too little too late. In total, around one million people died of starvation, and more people emigrated, cutting the population of the country in half. It's still a huge point of contention in Ireland and the UK, even today.

10. You can go on a very long coastal drive there

The Wild Atlantic Way, on Ireland's west coast, is the longest coastal drive in the world! It's a stunning 2,500km in length, and that's because the coastline contains a lot of inlets and bays. The route goes through nine counties, and goes the entire length of the country!

11. Irish mythology is weird and wonderful

Every culture has its own myths, and Ireland's are just spectacular. There aer too many to go into, but here are a couple! Remember the Giant's Causeway? Well, according to mythology, it used to be a pathway across the sea to Scotland! A giant named Finn McCool created it so he could face his rival, Scottish giant Bennandonner. Finn dressed up as a baby, and when Bennandonner saw him he was terrified - if this was Finn's baby, how big was Finn? Bennandonner fled back to Scotland and ripped up the crossing, and all that's left is the Giant's Causeway! Ireland is said to be full of all sorts of magical creatures, not just giants (and not just leprechauns)! You'll also find fairies, mermaid (called merrow), pooka (shape-shifting animals), werewolves, pig-faced women (which is exactly what it sounds like), and some seriously creepy creatures like the Dullahan (a headless horseman), and the banshee. The banshee (bean sídhe) is a female spirit with a terrible scream. It is said that if you hear her scream, someone is sure to meet a gruesome end. Eek!

12. It has some long place names!

The longest place name in Ireland is Bullaunancheathrairaluinn (Ball√°n an Cheathrair √Ālainn) in County Galway. There are quite a few long place names in Ireland, and a lot of them are also in Galway, including Sruffaunoughterluggatoora, Loughaunbarnaheskabaunia, and Muckanaghederdauhaulia. Still no match for the longest place name in the world, which is New Zealand's Taumata¬≠whakatangihanga¬≠koauau¬≠o¬≠tamatea¬≠turi¬≠pukaka¬≠piki¬≠maunga¬≠horo¬≠nuku¬≠pokai¬≠whenua¬≠ki¬≠tana¬≠tahu!

13. The Titanic was built in Ireland!

The Titanic famously sailed from Southhampton to Cherbourg, then to Cobh, and across the Atlantic. You probably know that the voyage didn't end all that well, but did you know the Titanic's birthplace wasn't the south of England? It was built in Belfast! Today you can visit the Titanic museum there on the former Harland and Wolffe shipyard, and learn all about the true story behind the world's most famous ship! There's also a Titanic experience in Cobh, exploring the ship's last port of call before her tragic sinking.

14. The national symbol isn't just a shamrock

Ireland is associated with shamrocks, but the nation's official symbol is actually a harp! It's the only country in the world with a musical instrument as a national symbol. If you've ever flown Ryanair, you'll have noticed the harp on the plane's livery!

15. There's a huge Irish diaspora

A diaspora is a group of people who live outside their homeland, by choice or by force. A lot of people have emigrated from Ireland - about 10 million since 1700. There are a lot of reasons for this - one big factor was the potato famine, which you read about above. The poorest of the emigrants went to England and settled in places like Liverpool and London, but many went much further. About 5 million went to the Unites States, where there has been a large Irish-American population since the country was founded. It's the main reason why St. Patrick's Day is so popular in the States! The list of famous Americans with Irish heritage is way too long to cover here, but it includes former presidents John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and current president Joe Biden!