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15 Northern Ireland Facts You Never Knew!

Northern Ireland is one of the most interesting places in the UK, but how much do you really know about this cool country? We've put together 15 facts all about it!

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Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  November 26th 2023

How much do you know about the myths, legends, history and people of Northern Ireland? It's time to find out with these fascinating facts! Northern Ireland has a rich and complex history even though its only been around for a short time, and we've put together these facts to help you learn more about it! Find out when it was formed, which famous people come from there, what languages are spoken and which famous ship was build there! And if you liked this, how about more geography facts right here! Think you're ready to test yourself? How about this Northern Ireland quiz? Or what about heading to the Republic for this Irish history quiz! You might even be ready for this St Patrick's Day quiz!

1. People Have Been Living There For Thousands of Years

Northern Ireland, along with the rest of Ireland, has been inhabited by people since the stone age, which is about 9,000 years ago! Ancient sites, such as the Neolithic Lyles Hill, show that ancient people built homes, made pottery and hunted in the area.

2. It Was Created in 1921

Geographically, Northern Ireland is part of the island of Ireland. However, it didn't exist as a formal entity until 1921. After the Irish Civil War, the majority of Ireland, which had been ruled over by Britain for several hundred years, wanted to be independent, and became what we know today as the Republic of Ireland. However, a part of the population in Northern Ireland wanted to stay with Britain, and so Northern Ireland was created.

3. Its Capital is Belfast

The capital city of Northern Ireland is Belfast, which has been an important port and shipbuilding city for centuries. Because of this, it suffered heavy bombing in WW2, and saw a lot of conflict over the 20th century. Today, it's an important European capital, and the home of food like the Ulster Fry!

4. Its Seen a Lot of Conflict

Sadly, Northern Ireland has seen a lot of conflict over the past century or so. This conflict is often referred to as 'The Troubles' and happened because the Protestant and Catholic populations of Ireland couldn't agree on whether they wanted to be part of the Republic (the Catholics) or the UK (the protestants). These disagreements led to lots of violence and bloodshed with the population and the British army, but in 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed which has led to a more peaceful Northern Ireland.

5. It's Home to the Giant's Causeway

One of Northern Ireland's most famous landmarks is the oddly shaped stones at the Giant's Causeway. They look almost like steps, built especially for a giant! In actual fact, they are a natural rock formation, but the legend surrounding the causeway is that the giant Finn McCool built the causeway to get to Scotland and face his rival, a Scottish giant named Benandonner. You can visit them today and see for yourself how impressive they are!

6. Lots of Famous People Come from Northern Ireland

Death on the Nile | TSG Entertainment, Kingberg Genre, Mark Gordon Pictures, Scott Free Productions | 20th Century Studios | Kenneth Branagh | Ridley Scott, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund, Kevin J. Walsh

Northern Ireland has been home to many famous and talented people over the years. These include actors like Liam Neeson and Kenneth Branagh, writers like CS Lewis (who was inspired to create Narnia by the Northern Irish landscape), legendary footballers like George Best, and singers like Van Morrison and Nadine from Girls Aloud.

7. The Titanic Was Built There

Belfast is famous for its shipbuilding history, and one ship in particular...the Titanic! Work began on the Titanic in 1909, and the ship was launched from Belfast in 1911. Sadly (and very famously) the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to New York, but the people of Belfast never forgot the infamous ship. Today, you can visit the Titanic Belfast, a visitor attraction which takes you on a journey through the history of the Titanic.

8. It's Home to 1.8 Million People

Northern Ireland's population is about 1.8 million people, about 1/6th of Ireland's overall population. Belfast has the biggest city population, of about 330,000 people.

9. It's Home to Several Languages

As well as English, which is the most widely spoken language, there are several other languages in Northern Ireland. These include Irish (or Gaelic) which is spoken by a small percentage, and Ulster Scots, a dialect of Scots, which was originally brought over by Scottish colonists in Ulster in the 17th century. As well as these languages, languages from newer populations like Polish, Chinese and Romanian are also spoken.

10. Northern Irish People Can Choose Who to Represent

Because many people in Northern Ireland consider themselves either Irish or British, Northern Irish people can choose which country they prefer to represent in sporting events like the Olympics. Northern Irish people are also eligible for both British and Irish passports, and can even have both!

11. It's Got Several Names

Northern Ireland goes by lots of names, including Tuaisceart Éireann in Irish, The Six Counties, The Province, or simply Ulster. Lots of these names have political connotations, so if you're unsure which to use, best to stick with Northern Ireland (or, as they call it in the Republic, 'The North') for now!

12. The Most Northern Part of Ireland Isn't in Northern Ireland

One of the weirdest things about Northern Ireland is that southern Ireland is actually more Northern! Let us explain...Northern Ireland actually only extends over the right hand side of the north of Ireland, whilst the left hand side, the county of Donegal, is actually part of the Republic. So you could actually be in the South but more North than the North! Does that make sense?

13. It Has Lots of Myths and Legends

Northern Ireland has a rich and long tradition of myths and legends that stretch back hundreds of years. Giants like Finn McCool (who created the Giant's Causeway) were especially popular figures. Other figures like the Banshee (a terrifying wailing wraith said to foretell doom) are famous throughout Ireland, whilst more recent legends like the Armada tree tell the tale of an old tree in Larne, supposed to have grown from seeds in the pocket of a Spanish sailor in the 16th century.

14. You Probably Recognise it From TV

Artemis Fowl | Walt Disney Pictures | Disney + | Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund | Kenneth Branagh

Even if you haven't been to Northern Ireland, you'll definitely recognise it from the many films and TV shows its been featured in. This includes the very famous Game of Thrones, as well as other shows and films like Derry Girls, Dungeons and Dragons and Artemis Fowl.

15.  Lough Neagh is the UK and Ireland's largest Freshwater Lake

Yes, it's the largest freshwater lake in either country, even outdoing the very long and very deep Loch Ness! According to legends, Finn McCool (remember him?) is also said to have created Loch Neagh by scooping a great chunk of earth up to throw at another giant. He missed, and the earth landed became the Isle of Man, whilst the hole left behind was Loch Neagh.