Looking for interesting facts about Ireland? Truth be told, we could go on and on. The Emerald Isle (the 20th largest island in the world), is famed for its lush greenery and sweeping coastlines. And that’s before we get to Irish culture, with its enormous influence on world literature, music, sports, food and drink. So, for a quick selection of some mind-blowing facts about Ireland, read on…
1. There are approximately over 70-80 million people of Irish descent living outside of Ireland!
To put this into perspective, the population of Northern and The Republic of Ireland is around 6-million. Much of the Irish diaspora was caused by the Great Famine of the 1840s, during which many poorer families fled to Liverpool and Manchester, and some 5-million embarked across the Atlantic to North America. Today, in the USA, almost 36-million citizens state their primary ethnicity as Irish.
2. The Great Famine, spanning from 1845 to 1852, tragically took about 1-million lives
The main cause of the ‘Great Hunger’ was potato blight, a fungal infection that ruined Ireland’s most vital crop. The worst affected areas were the west and south, where Irish was the most commonly spoken language. The famine was a huge tragedy for Irish history and culture, and the exploitative role the ruling British government played is still a source of anger today.
3. Ireland is home to two nations
Northern Ireland, whose capital is Belfast, is part of the United Kingdom, alongside England, Scotland and Wales (Britain). The Republic of Ireland, whose capital is Dublin, is an independent republic that’s part of the European Union (and uses Euros).
4. The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia
Found in County Galway, Muiceanach idir Dhá Sháile (Irish) means ‘pig-marsh between two sea inlets’.
5. The Titanic was built in Belfast’s Harland & Wolfe docks
Today you can visit the awesome Titanic museum, located where the doomed ship was designed, built and launched. Not only is it a really cool building, it’s a great way to follow the story from conception to tragic fate.
6. Ireland doesn’t have any snakes (and it’s not because of Saint Patrick)
Legends say St. Patrick chased the snakes from Ireland. But a more grounded explanation for one of the most famous facts about Ireland is that, after the ice age, the land bridge connecting Ireland to Europe was submerged before the snakes could slither their way onto the Emerald Isle. There is one reptile species that is native to Ireland, however: the common lizard (which is a bit less scary).
7. A REAL four leaf clover can only be from the White Clover plant, trifolium repens
The fourth leaf can be found in about 1 in 5000 of its ‘shamrocks’. It’s not clear where the ‘good luck’ part originated.
8. Redheads only make up about 10% of the Irish population
Which doesn’t sound like much, but still makes for 500,000 people and ensures Ireland has the largest per capita amount of red-heads in the world.
9. Irish stew is the national dish of Ireland, and traditionally includes mutton (the meat of adult sheep)
Irish stew has been recognised since about 1800. Mutton was an important ingredient as sheep were so vital for wool and dairy, and the long, slow cooking time allowed tougher cuts of meat to be used (and be transformed into something delicious).
10. The lease for the Guinness Brewery was signed in 1759 for 9,000 years
Guinness now owns the property, however, and the lease is no longer valid. Another fun fact: despite being referred to as ‘the black stuff,’ Guinness is actually ruby red. Hold your pint up to the light next time you have a drop if you don’t believe us!
11. Due to Ireland’s small population, many people historically had just one name
Last names were first established in Ireland by adding either ‘O’ (grandson of) or ‘Mac’ (son of) to their father’s or grandfather’s names.
12. Irish whiskey isn’t the same as Scottish whiskey
Scotch is composed with malted barley and water, while Irish whiskey is made from fermented corn, wheat, barley. Plus, Irish whiskey is usually distilled 3 times, rather than twice. Both are delicious in their own ways, however.