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This small island country in the North Atlantic has quite the global reputation for a country of just 5 milllion people. The country is split into the Republic of Ireland in the south and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
It is a country that is filled with natural beauty, famous for its Craic or having a good time, birthplace to many famous and talented people, home to many famous Ireland landmarks and well known for drinks and dancing which sometimes go together.
Here are 35 things that Ireland is known for.
What is Ireland Known For?
Guinness is perhaps the most popular and most successful export in Ireland. Guinness was originally brewed in Leixlip, County Kildare in Ireland. In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year contract with St James Gate Brewery in Dublin. This appears to have been an excellent idea as the drink regularly tops worldwide sales of over $2 billion.
There are only four ingredients in Guinness: malted barley, hops, yeast and water. The drink is genuinely a great source or iron and has fewer calories than orange juice.
This low-cost Irish airline has its head office in Swords, Dublin. Whatever your view of Ryan Air (I only fly with them when I have literally no other option) they are one of the most popular airlines in Europe and serve 34 countries.
3. St Patrick’s Day
March 17 is St Patrick’s Day, the patron saint of Ireland. The day commemorates the arrival of Christianity in IReland and is also the day that St Patrick died in 481. For over a thousand years St Patrick’s Day was a religious holiday. It was only in later years that Irish immigrants, particularly in the United States, turned March 17 into a major celebration. And of course McDonalds and its green shakes shouldn’t be forgotten.
4. Flavoured Crisps/Potato Chips
Joseph “Spud” Murphy came up with the idea of adding flavour other than salt to potato crisps. He developed three flavours that are still amongst the most popular in the world – Salt and Vinegar, Cheese and Onion and Barbeque. And every Irish person that I have ever met says that Taytos are the best crisps in the world and bring bags back from visits to Ireland.
Bono and the Edge are synonymous with Ireland and one of the most successful Irish bands – as well as probably one of the most popular bands in the world over the last 50 years.
6. Game of Thrones
Large amounts of the TV series Game of Thrones were shot in Northern Ireland in locations such as Dark Hedges and Dunluce Castle. Today this is the basis of a good-sized tourism industry.
7. The Titanic
The Titanic was built in the Harland and Wolff shipyards of Belfast, commissioned by the White Star Line. Famously this was to be the best luxury ship that the world had ever seen. After the Titanic left Southhampton, where it picked up the majority of its passengers, its last port was Cobh in County Cork which was then known as Queenstown.
Today, the Titanic museum in Belfast is one of the best that I have ever visited. If you are anywhere near Belfast don’t miss a visit and a tour. Not only are the displays state of the art and very moving, the actors working in the museum really bring Belfast in the early 1900s to life.
8. The Craic
The Craic is Irish for having a good time. It can also be used to describe news, gossip, fun or even good conversation. There are also different levels of craic. Good craic means haing a decent night out. The next level up is mighty craic. This can then be topped by savage craic. And the ultimate compliment is that The Craig was ninety.
Ireland has over 30,000 castles. They are scattered all throughout Ireland and of course in various states of disrepair. Some castles in Ireland were built as early as the 10th century. Some of the best known castles in Ireland are Blarney Castle, Dunluce Castle, Dublin Castle and King John’s Castle.
10. Traditional Music
Irish music is famous all over the world. And one of the most wonderful things about visiting Ireland is that people do literally sing in the pubs at night in many places. Unplanned playing and drinking sessions pop up all throughout Ireland.
The reality is that only about 10% of all Irish people have red hair. But apparently, this is the highest percentage of people having red hair in a population in the world.
Legend has it that the green shamrock was used as a tool to help St Patrick demonstrate the Christian Holy Trinity. However, there are no individual plants called shamrocks in botany. It is most likely that St Patrick used a young clover. Despite this fact, bowls of “shamrocks” are traditionally given by Irish political leaders to visiting dignatories.
The harp is one of Ireland’s national symbols. Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin is even shaped like a harp. In the 19th century Guinness was the first to register the harp as a trademark. The harp acts as a marker in the two-step pour process that is part of producing the perfect pint of Guinness.
However, the Irish State also wanted the harp to use as the state emblem. A compromise was reached. The Guiness harp faces right and the Irish State harp faces left.
14. Guinness Book of World Records
As if providing the world with the black stuff wasn’t enough, Guiness also produced the world’s most famous book of records. The book was originally designed to settle arguments in pubs.
Ireland is one of the world’s top golfing destinations. This little island has more than 400 golf courses including Ballybunion, County Sligo, Royal County Down and many more. The best ones are those that sit by the sea.
The humble potato cooked in many different forms has been part of the backbone of the Irish diet for centuries. In the mid 19th century problems with the potato crop lead to a major famine and death and emigration. Indeed, my ancestors moved from Ireland to Australia at this time (my surname is O’Brien). Today you will still find potatoes on every menu in Ireland.
17. Irish Stew
It might be beef or lamb but it would be hard to find an Irish pub that didn’t have stew on the menu. My personal favourite version of Irish stew is any that includes Guinness. I don’t like drinking it but I do like what it does to a stew. Most Irish stews will of course come with potatoes.
One of the most successful acts ever in the Eurovision Song Competition was the Irish act of Michael Flatley and Jean Butler in 1994. Riverdance and its Irish dancing went on to travel the world as a stage show and is still performed today.
The oldest document mentioning whiskey in Ireland dates back to 1405, which would make Irish Whiskey older than Scottish Whisky. The Gaelic Uisce Beatha which means water of life is the base of the word whiskey. The word Whiskey has an “e” in it in Ireland but not in Scotland.
The traditional recipe difference between the two is that distillers in Scotland use only malted barley but in Ireland a mix of malted and unmalted barley can be used to create whiskey. Irish whiskey is also blended and triple distilled (vs the single or double methods in Scotland) which is used as evidence that it has a smoother taste. Ireland’s most famous brand of whiskey is Jamesons.
20. Horse Racing
Horse Race has been part of Ireland for centuries and is still extremely popular. Ireland has produced some of the greatest jockesy of all time such as Anthony Peter McCoy. The Five Irish Classics take place at the County Kildare racecourse.
Some of the best writers, novelists, poets, and playwrights in the world have come from Ireland. WB Yeats, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and more recently Irish Murdoch and Roddy Doyle come to mind.
Irish pubs are synonymous with a fun atmosphere, lots of drink, laughs, and banter, chatting with anyone and everyone, and hopefully some traditional Irish music. The notion of the Irish pub has now spread all over the world and you can find Irish pubs everywhere from Koh Samui airport (one of my strangest encounters) to Dubai and most countries in between.
Boy can the Irish talk. And talk quickly. Irish people are seldom silent in my experience and they are often very amusing. Their natural willingness to chat means they are generally very friendly – both in Ireland and when outside the country.
The Irish culture is filled with stories and tales that are populated by fairies and often leprechauns. Apparently, they do exist and are all over Ireland but it is not easy to find evidence. These mischievous little guys began appearing in stories in Ireland in the 8th century.
Leprechauns are usually quite small, have a beard and wear a green hat and coat. The name comes from the Irish words “leath bhrogan” which means shoemaker.
25. Temple Bar
The Temple Bar area is in Dublin and well known for its pubs. It is very touristy but it is worth heading to The Temple Bar area at least once to see what it is about. After that ask the locals to recommend somewhere a bit more authentic for an Irish pub experience. Which shouldn’t be too difficult as there are over 1,000 pubs in Dublin.
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The Irish love sports and the most popular sport in the country is Gaelic football. (For Australians, this is believed to be the source of Australian Rules football). There are 15 players on each side, the match is played on a pitch and the objective is to score goals. Hurling, a rather unique version of hockey, is another popular sport in Ireland.
Until I wrote this post I had no idea that Ireland was the first place to celebrate Halloween. It does appear that Irish kids don’t have as a good a deal as those in many other countries as their treat is eating Colcannon (boiled potatoes, kale, raw onions and cabbage) which may have coins hidden inside.
The Jack o Lantern started in Ireland as well but it took the form of a turnip that was used by a spirit doomed to wander the earth. The turnip contained burning coal and was used outside houses to keep the evil spirit Jack away. When many Irish people moved to the United States they found that it was a lot easier to get their hands on a pumpkin than a turnip so used them instead.
28. The Blarney Stone
The Blarney Stone is located at Blarney Castle. It was built into the castle in 1447 and it is said that if you kiss the Blarney Stone you will receive the gift of the gab which so many Irish people have. Millions of visitors head to the Blarney Stone for a kiss each year.
29. The Wild Atlantic Way
The west coast of Ireland is justifiably famous for its beautiful and wild landscape. The Wild Atlantic Way is a 1500 mile highway that runs from the most northern point of Ireland, Malin Head in Donegal, to Kinsale in West Cork. There are many stunning views and a lot of sheep.
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30. The Giant’s Causeway
This stunning reserve is located in the north of Ireland and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is made up of thousands of connected black stone columns. Legend has it that an Irish giant named Fionn Mac Cumhaill built the causeway to cross to Scotland.
Tea is extremely popular in Ireland and served very hot. It is virtually always served with milk and sugar. Some of the most well-known tea brands in Ireland are Bewley’s (which also have restaurants), Barry’s, and Lyon’s. You may think of Irish coffee when you think of warm Irish beverages but that of course contains whiskey. And you probably won’t be surprised to hear that iced tea is not common in Ireland.
⇒ There is something special about seeing a famous landmark in person – and Europe has a lot of landmarks – see how many you have visited – 60 Most Famous Landmarks in Europe, Famous Greek Landmarks, 26 Landmarks of Germany, 61 Magnificent Landmarks of the UK, 30 Famous Landmarks in France, Spain Famous Landmarks, 25 Famous Paris Monuments, 40 Impressive English Landmarks, 38 Famous Landmarks in Italy and top Landmarks of London.
32. Soda Bread
Soda bread contains baking soda and is much denser than standard bread. Baking soda was added to increase the speed of baking a traditional style of bread.
By law, Irish pubs close at 11:30 on weekdays and 12:30 on weekends. However, in many cases if you are at a pub in Ireland around this time you may notice that quite a few people have left, the curtains have been drawn but drinks are still being served. The owner may allow a small number of people in that they know and then the door is locked and the drinks continue. This is a lock-in.
⇒ I love ticking off seeing a landmark. See how many famous landmarks you’ve seen in my series of posts: 60 Most Famous Landmarks in the World, 27 Top Australian Landmarks, 25 Asia Landmarks, 61 Magnificent Landmarks of the UK, 13 China Landmarks, 35 Japan Famous Landmarks, 60 Most Famous Landmarks in Europe, 25 North America Landmarks, 25 Canada Landmarks and 15 Famous Landmarks in the US.
34. A Long History
It is believed that the first people settled in Ireland around 6000 BC. Around 700 BC a more advanced culture from central Europe called the Celts settled on the island and stayed for the next 2,000 years. Vikings invaded in the ninth century AD and in 1170 Norman Vikings from England invaded and made Ireland an English territory. In 1922, the Irish Free State was created. In 1948, most of Ireland became an independent country but six counties in the North East of the country remained British.
35. Aran Sweaters
These cable knit sweaters are made of wool and their unique knits represent the fiserhmen’s ropes. Their diamond stitches are to invoke the Irish moss farmers use to fertilize fields and the zig zags the craggy cliffs of Ireland’s coast. These sweaters are named after the beautiful but rugged Aran Island which is off the west coast of Ireland.
You might enjoy reading my posts on 37 Fascinating Facts about Paris, 37 Facts about Greece, and What is Italy Known For? 35 Italian Claims to Fame, 31 Facts About Venice, 55 Fascinating Facts about Rome You Probably Don’t Know.
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