Facts about Ireland: 36 Weird, Unusual And Wonderful Ireland Facts

facts about Ireland
Photo left: Failte Ireland. Right: Henry Doyle (1868)

Looking for facts about Ireland and Irish people? You’re in the right place!

Below, you’ll find everything from fairly standard facts about Saint Patrick and the Eurovision Song Contest to more weird and unusual facts about Ireland.

For example, did you know that Europe’s longest-running talk show hails from Ireland? Hmm… OK, maybe that one isn’t that weird. Let me try again.

Did you know that Ireland’s home to the world’s oldest maternity hospital? Hopefully not! Expect loads more facts like this below!

Table of Contents

Facts About Ireland for Kids

Section one is filled with facts about everything from mountains and rivers to where to find the remains of St. Valentine… yes, St. Valentine (they’re in Dublin, as it happens!).

1. The River Shannon is the longest river in Ireland

At a whopping 370km long, the mighty River Shannon is the longest river in Ireland. Interestingly enough, it’s also the longest river across in the British Isles. It also passes through 11 counties, including Cavan, Leitrim, Longford and Roscommon.

2. The highest mountain in Ireland is Carrauntoohil

At a nose-bleed-inducing 1,038.6 metres, Carrauntoohil in County Kerry is the highest mountain on the island of Ireland. You’ll find it on Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula near the Magillycuddy’s – Ireland’s highest mountain range.

3. St. Valentine’s remains are in a church in Dublin

This is one of the weirder facts about Ireland in this section (there’s plenty more in section 2). Yes, you read correctly – the remains of St. Valentine can be found in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin City where they’ve been for many years.

4. Cork is the biggest county in Ireland

The largest county in Ireland is County Cork, which is a whopping 7,457 km². The second-largest County is Galway, at 6,148 km².

5. The first potato was planted there!

A lad named Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have been responsible for bringing the potato crop from the Americas to Ireland many moons ago. It was at a farm near his home in Yoghal in County Cork that he planted the very first potato in Ireland, around 1588.

6. The smallest county in Ireland is Louth

Known as ‘the wee county’, Louth is the smallest of Ireland’s 32 counties. Interestingly enough, though, it’s the 18th-biggest county in Ireland population-wise.

7. Halloween originated in Ireland

If you read our guide to Irish traditions, you’ll know that the festival of Halloween originated in ancient Ireland. The story begins with the pagan celebration of Samhain. Find out more here.

8. There are five cities in Ireland

Ireland officially has five main cities: Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Cork, Kilkenny and Waterford. However, as Northern Ireland is part of the UK, it has five recognised cities: Armagh, Belfast, Derry, Lisburn and Newry.

If you’re reading this and scratching your head, take a minute to read our guide to the differences between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

9. The national symbol of Ireland isn’t a shamrock

Contrary to popular belief, official symbol of Ireland isn’t a shamrock. No, it isn’t a four-leaf clover, either. Ireland’s national symbol is the mighty harp!

10. There were never any snakes in Ireland

Now, you’ll find out more facts about St. Patrick later in this guide, but I’ve whacked this one in early on as it tends to surprise people. Yes, it’s true, there were never any snakes in Ireland.

It’s believed that the whole snake thing is to do with symbolism. In udeo-Christian tradition, the snake is the symbol of evil. Many believe that the story of St. Patrick banishing the snakes from Ireland represents his fight to bring the word of God to Ireland.

11. The earliest evidence of humans in Ireland was in 10,500 BC

Interestingly enough, it’s thanks to a discovery made in 2016 that we now know that humans were present in Ireland in 10,500 BC. A bear bone that was excavated from a cave in Clare that dates back to the late Palaeolithic Age showed signs that it was butchered.

12. Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is the longest coastal driving route in the world

At 2,500 km in length, the Wild Atlantic Way driving route is the longest in Ireland and the longest on earth! The route passes through nine counties and stretches from the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal right the way around the coast to Kinsale in Cork.

13. Ireland has won the Eurovision Song Contest a whopping seven times

In 1965, Ireland entered the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time. It won the competition 4 times in total and managed to rack up 7 wins over the years.

14. Dublin’s Phoenix Park is the third largest walled city park in Europe

At 1,752 acres, the Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed park in any European capital city. It’s the largest enclosed park in any capital city in Europe.

At 1,752 acres, it’s five times bigger than London’s Hyde Park. It’s also the eighth biggest urban park in Europe overall.

15. One of the lions used in the opening clips for MGM movies was born in the Phoenix Park

The seventh lion used by MGM in the opening clip for many of its movies was born in Dublin Zoo in the Phoenix Park. He started to appear at the beginning of movies from 1957.

16. Hurling is the fastest field sport in the world

Not only is hurling one of the oldest sports in the world, it’s also the fastest. The sliothar (the ball used) can travel up to 120km/h. Read more about Ireland’s traditional sports in our guide to Irish culture.

17. Before the Great Famine, Ireland’s population was estimated to be around 8 million people

It’s believed that the population of Ireland prior to the famine was around 8.2 million. After the famine, the population was recorded at 6.5 million people. Many years later, in 2020, the population stands at just under 5 million.

Weird and Interesting Ireland Facts

Section two of our guide to Ireland facts is filled with weird and wonderful facts. Below, you’ll find everything from old lighthouses and pubs to Count Dracula… yes, Count Dracula.

18. Count Dracula was written in 1897 by a Dubliner

The now-iconic Count Dracula is the main character in the Dracula novel. The book was written by Bram Stoker who was born in Clontarf in County Dublin.

If you’re familiar with Irish mythology, you may have heard of the Abhartach, also known as ‘the Irish Vampire’. It’s believed that some of the inspiration for Dracula came from this legend.

19. One of the oldest lighthouses in the world is located in Wexford

If you read our guide to Hook Lighthouse, you’ll know that it is one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world. The current lighthouse at Hook has been there for a whopping 848 years.

20. The oldest pub in Ireland is found in County Westmeath

Dating back to 900 AD, Sean’s Bar in Athlone town is the oldest pub in Ireland. It’s also widely believed that it’s the oldest pub in the world. Find out more about it in our guide to Sean’s Bar.

21. The second longest-running talk show in the world hails from Ireland

The Late Late Show (an Irish chat show) first aired in 1962. It’s been taking place every Friday evening ever since. The only other show that’s been running longer than it is the Tonight Show from America.

22. There is a festival in Ireland where a wild goat is caught and made king for 3 days

Yes, this is one of the more unusual Irish traditions. ‘Puck Fair’ is said to be the longest-running festival in Ireland. In August every year, a goat is caught from the Kerry mountains and placed in a cage in the village of Killorglin.

It’s crowned king and for three days a number of festivities are held throughout the town. When the festival ends, the goat is brought safely back up into the mountains.

23. The oldest hotel in Ireland can be found in Wicklow

The Woodenbridge Hotel in Wicklow is the oldest hotel in Ireland, dating back to 1608. The premises was first licensed as a Coaching Inn on what was then the old Dublin-Wexford road.

24. The Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Dublin

The Brazen Head on Merchant’s Quay is the oldest pub in Dublin. It’s said that it started its life as a tavern back in 1198 and was later developed into a coaching inn in 1754. Today, it’s a tourist hotspot and is arguably one of the most unique looking pubs in Ireland.

25. Cork was once the largest exporter of butter in the world

This is one of the more random facts about Ireland in this guide. Yes, during the Exchange’s peak in the 19th century, County Cork was the worlds biggest butter exporter. Butter made in Cork was exported to everywhere from the United Kingdom and France to Australia and India.

26. The oldest field systems in the world can be found in Mayo

At over 5,500 years old, the Céide Fields in County Mayo are officially the oldest known field systems on earth. These are one of the many incredible Irish attractions that don’t receive half as much credit as they deserve.

27. The Rotunda in Dublin is the oldest continuously operating maternity hospital in the world

The Rotunda Hospital in Dublin is officially the oldest continuously operating maternity hospital on earth. The hospital opened in 1745 and has been running for 275 years.

28. There’s an island near Dublin that’s home to a population of wallabies

Yes, randomly enough, there is a colony of wallabies that live on the private Lambay Island off the coast of Dublin. The wallabies were brought to Lambay in the 50s and 60s by the family that owned the island.

29. The place with the longest name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia in Galway

Other long names include Illaungraffanavrankagh in Clare, Glassillaunvealnacurra in Galway, Ballywinterrourkewood in Limerick and Corragunnagalliaghdoo Island in Mayo.

30. The term ‘Luck of the Irish’ was first used in a derogatory manner

People often think the term that the term ‘the Luck of the Irish’ is a positive thing (personally, I don’t agree – visit here to find out why). If you read our guide to ‘the Luck of the Irish‘, you’ll discover why.

31. The oldest yacht club in the world is located in Cork

This is another random fact about Ireland. The Royal Cork Yacht Club proudly wears the crown of the world’s oldest yacht club. The club, which is located in Crosshaven in Cork, was founded wayyy back in 1720.

Facts About St. Patrick

Think you know all there is to know about Ireland’s Patron Saint? Did you know that his name wasn’t ‘Patrick’ and that he wasn’t from Ireland?

Orrrrr did you know that he was abducted by pirates and taken to Ireland against his will when he was just 16? Hopefully, you’ll discover some St. Patrick’s Day facts below that you never heard before!

31. He wasn’t actually Irish

Now, this one tends to rile people up a bit before the no-way-you’re-joking phase kicks in. Yep, St. Patrick wasn’t Irish – he was Welsh… or Scottish…

32. When he died

It’s thought that St. Patrick died in 461 at the ripe old age of 75. He was in Saul in County Down when it happened. Do you know where he was buried? Find out in our guide to St. Patrick.

33. He was abducted and brought to Ireland at 16

St. Patrick was abducted by pirates when he was 16 and taken to Northern Ireland where he saved as as a slave. He was forced to tend to sheep for 6 years in the mountains.

34. His name wasn’t actually Patrick – it was Maewyn Succat

I’m not even going to attempt to pronounce that. Yep, St. Patrick’s name wasn’t actually ‘Patrick’. Mad stuff. Apparently he picked it up at one point or another.

35. The first parade wasn’t held in the Republic of Ireland

This was a new one on me! Yep, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade wasn’t held in the Republic of Ireland – it was actually held in Boston in 1737.

36. Green isn’t the original colour of St. Patrick

Although the world is (literally, in some places) lit up green come March 17th each year, the colour green wasn’t the first colour to be associated with Saint Patrick.

Interestingly enough, the first colour to be associated with ‘himself’ was blue. Can image people legging it about the place with blue face paint on? Me neither!

37. The Irish flag has nothing to do with St. Patrick (in fact, it was designed by the French.

The history of the Irish flag (the current one, that is), is closely linked to France. In fact, the flag was designed by a group of French women who supported the Irish cause.

Know any Irish Facts that we should whack in?

I’ve left the comments section below open. If you have any other facts about Ireland that you think we should add, let me know and we’ll pop them in.

If you enjoyed this guide, the chances are you’ll also like:

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

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