Ireland is an island with a rich history and plenty of legends. It’s the birthplace of Hallowe’en so that fact alone is reason enough to take notice.
This list of 10 facts about Ireland is the result of picking interesting information from a number of sources.
Here is a selection of 10 facts about Ireland that may intrigue you.
1 Ireland Invented Hallowe’en
The origins of Hallowe’en can be traced back to the Celtic festival called Samhain, during which people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off evil spirits.
The name Hallowe’en derives from All Hallows Eve, or the night before All Saints. Pope Gregory III in the eighth century chose the 1st November to mark the day to honour all saints.
Samhain festival was the celebration of the new year, which started on 1st November. The 31st October symbolised the world between the dead and the living.
2 The Place to Watch the Winter Solstice: Newgrange, Older than the Pyramids
Built near the river Boyne, Newgrange is a Neolithic monument in County Meath. Newgrange is about 5,000 years old and precedes the Pyramids in Egypt and Stonehenge in the UK.
The structure is an ancient burial site that is aligned to the passage of the sun on the day of the winter solstice, 21st December, which marks the shortest day of the year. It is a circular mound with an internal tunnel allowing the light would travel from one end to the other where a large chamber is during a few minutes in the morning of 21st December.
3 The Oldest Pub in Ireland is Sean’s Bar in Athlone
Sean’s Bar in Athlone is reported to date back to 900AD. The BBC featured the pub stating that it was officially certified as the oldest pub in Ireland in 2004 by the Guinness Book of Records.
Some of the original building materials can still be seen in the interiors and excavations unearthed more materials that can be traced back to the Dark Ages thanks to the archaeological research from the National Museum of Ireland.
4 Bram Stoker, Author of Dracula, Lived in Dublin
Bram Stoker was born and spent his formative years in Dublin, moving to London later on. When he published his novel Dracula it was an immediate success. The story of the Transylvanian vampire is based on the Irish legend of Abhartach, a vampire in the Derry area who was extremely powerful and evil.
The Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin celebrates the author and all things gothic with films and events for all ages.
5 Waterford Was Voted Best Place to Live in Ireland
According to a survey by the Irish Times, Waterford won the contest among the newspaper’s readers in 2021. Located in the south-east of Ireland, Waterford was established by the Vikings in 914AD. It is a much loved destination thanks to its variety of hiking trails and beaches.
6 The Aran Islands Were Voted among the Best Islands Worldwide
The Irish Post proudly reported that the Aran Islands, located off the west coast of Ireland, a short ferry trip from Galway, were rated one of the best alongside more famous locations such as Fraser Island in Australia, Barbados and Bora Bora in French Polynesia.
7 Ireland Had Two Female Presidents (So Far)
In the 1990s the first female president of Ireland was Mary Therese Winifred Robinson, who held the position for seven years, after which term a second female president was elected, Mary McAleese, who kept the role for 14 years.
Mary Robinson worked to promote marriage equality and gender equality. Mary McAleese focused on social inclusion.
8 You Can See Dinosaur Footprints on Valentia Island
Valentia Island is located in Kerry. The dinosaur footprints are estimated to date back to 350 million years ago.
The Tetrapod imprints are of particular significance: not only they are well preserved but they represent the phase when living beings moved from water to land.
9 It Is Estimated that 80 Million People around the World Have Irish Roots
Compared to Ireland’s population of about 5 million, people of Irish descent living outside Ireland are estimated to be 80 million, of which 33 million are Irish American.
The EPIC Museum in Dublin is dedicated to Irish emigration and it contains interactive displays narrating the stories of prominent Irish emigrants as well as featuring American presidents of Irish descent.
10 The National Ploughing Championships
How many of you have heard of the Ploughing Championships? Each year (unless major world calamities disrupt planned events) the National Ploughing Championships take place in Ireland. Established in 1931, the championships (also called “the Ploughing Match”) started as a competition between two counties for the best ploughmen and women. Over the years the championships have become a major attraction with peaks of 300,000 visitors, music, cooking, fashion shows and more. Ploughing is judged on the straightness and perfection of furrows in the soil. Participants range from the under 21 years old up to seniors. Vintage and horse ploughing are also featured.
There are hundreds of fascinating facts about Ireland and this selection is simply an introduction to discover more.