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16 surprising facts about Ireland you probably didn’t know

Think you're an expert on Irish history, geography and drinking habits? Think again! Swot up on some perfect weekly pub quiz facts and check out these 16 surprising tidbits.
Dublin by night - surprising facts about Ireland

Put yourself to the test: how many of these facts about Ireland did you know?

16 surprising facts about Ireland you probably didn’t know

1. Being drunk in public is an offence

Blurred vision - being drunk

Despite what many tourists believe about the Irish and our drinking habits, “it is an offence for you to be so drunk in a public place that you could reasonably be presumed to be a danger to yourself or to anyone around you”. The only day of the year when this law is slightly bent is on St. Patrick’s Day, when there simply aren’t enough police officers to monitor the one million plus tourists on the streets of Dublin.

Check out our guide to the best festivals in Ireland, month by month for 2019.

2. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish

Two people dressed in green celebrating St. Patrick's Day

Contrary to popular belief, and despite being the Patron Saint of Ireland, St. Patrick was not actually from Ireland. Born in Wales around 386 AD, he was in fact captured by the Irish and sold into slavery, working as a shepherd in the West of Ireland. Later in life, he returned to Ireland as a missionary, helping to spread Christianity in Ireland.

Beer and hat - how to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Ireland

We’ve rounded up the best places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

3. Nigerians drink more Guinness than the Irish

Pouring a pint of Guinness

While Guinness will always be Ireland’s most famous drink, more of the black stuff is consumed each year in Nigeria than it is back home in Ireland. In fact, the Brits are the largest consumers of Guinness, followed by Nigerians, leaving Ireland in third place!

4. There were never any snakes in Ireland

There were never any snakes in Ireland - surprising facts about Ireland

Another surprising fact about Ireland? While many old wines will tell the tale of St. Patrick banishing snakes from Ireland, the truth is that there have never been wild snakes on the island of Ireland. Being an island helped greatly with this, since the snakes inhabiting Britain were never able to make it across the water!

5. More Irish live outside of Ireland than in

The population of Ireland currently sits at around 4.8 million people, which is still almost 4 million less the population before the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1852. However, it has been reported that almost 80 million people around the world have Irish passports. Up to half the entire population of Australia claim Irish ancestry, while just over 39 million Americans believe they are part Irish.

6. English is not the first language of Ireland

English is indeed widely spoken across Ireland, with most people claiming it as their first language. However, Irish is the official first language of Ireland. It can be seen on all official government documents as well public transport, signs and public buildings. Despite Irish being taught as a subject in schools across Ireland, a lot of people still struggle to hold a simple conversation as gaelige.

7. Ireland was the Titanic’s last port of call

The Titanic was built by 15,000 Irishmen in Belfast, Northern Ireland. While the ship officially left for America from Southampton in England, its last port of call was in Cobh, County Cork. While The Titanic Experience in Belfast is a well known visitor attraction in Northern Ireland, few people visit the small coastal town in Cork where you will find statues in memory of those who died and a small Titanic Museum on what was once the old railway station.

8. Gay marriage is legal in Ireland

Ireland was the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage by public referendum. An overwhelming majority (68%) of the population voted in favour of the new legislation in May 2015, an event that made headlines around the world. For a country that only legalised the sale of condoms in 1978 and divorce in 1997, it is incredible to see such positive and forward-thinking movements.

9. Wild Atlantic Way is the longest coastal driving route in the world

The Wild Atlantic Way, a stunning drive that stretches all the way from the cliffs around County Donegal, in the far north of Ireland, all the way down to the beaches of County Cork, is the ‘longest defined coastal driving route in the world’. The 2,500 km route passes through nine counties and three provinces, can you name them all?

If you’re planning on driving this famous route then make sure you build in some time at Ireland’s top surf spots along the way.

10. Argentina‘s Navy was founded by an Irishman

The Irish have made their way to the far corners of the world in the past, and Admiral William Brown is a great example of Irish accomplishments abroad. Brown was creator and first admiral of the Argentine Navy. He is today hailed as a hero in Argentina for his attempts to successfully protect the country from the Spanish invaders.

11. The Irish flag was inspired by the French

The Irish flag painted on wooden boards

The Irish tricolour of green, white and orange represents both Ireland’s history and its independence. The green represents the Gaelic tradition of Ireland, the Orange represents the followers of William of Orange and the white represents the aspirations for peace between the two. The flag was inspired by the French flag when it was designed by Thomas Francis Meagher in 1848. But it was only first raised high above Dublin’s GPO and recognised as the Irish flag after the 1916 rising.

12. The shamrock is not the national symbol of Ireland

Woman playing the harp, the national symbol of Ireland - surprising facts you didn't know about Ireland

The shamrock is recognised around the world as a symbol of Ireland and all things Irish. But the harp is actually the official National Symbol of Ireland. You can see the real harp on which the symbol is based in the Trinity College library, which dates back to the fifteenth century.

13. Wet summers are no myth

Wet summers are no myth - surprising facts you didn't know about Ireland

They say “it’s always raining in Ireland”. And the sad reality is that they’re not wrong. While we Irish love to think that we bask in the sun for hours on end during the summer, the reality is pretty grim. We have one of the wettest climates in Europe. In the summer of 2007, for example, it rained in Ireland for 40 days straight!

14. Halloween originated in Ireland

Halloween pumpkins

Another fun fact about Ireland: Halloween as we know it today actually originates from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when the people would light bonfires and wear scary costumes to ward off unwelcome spirits. Samhain is an old Gaelic word which translates to ‘darker half’, thus marking the beginning of winter.

15. St. Valentine’s ashes are buried in Ireland

River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland

The ashes of St. Valentine, believe it or not, have found their final resting place in a shrine inside Whitefriar Street Church, in Dublin city centre. Brought here from Rome by an Irish Carmelite known for his work with the poor, the ashes were a token gift from Pope Gregory XVI. Many couples visit the shrine inside this small Irish church, to ask St. Valentine to watch over them and pray for a long life together.

Here are 7 of the Best Romantic Restaurants in Dublin City for 2019! Start planning for your best romantic dining experience. 

16. Ireland is home to the oldest Yacht Club in the world

The Royal Cork Yacht Club, founded in 1720, is widely recognised as the world’s oldest yacht club. The club plays host to Cork Week, Ireland’s largest and most prestigious sailing event. It is held every two years and attracts boats and sailors from around the world. There is still a very strong tradition of sailing in many of our coastal towns, and you can either hire small sailing boats for your own use or sign up to sailing courses in towns such as Schull and Baltimore.

*Revised June 2019. Information correct at the time of publication and is subject to change and/or availability.

16 surprising facts about Ireland you probably didn’t know

1. Being drunk in public is an offence
2. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish
3. Nigerians drink more Guinness than the Irish
4. There were never any snakes in Ireland
5. More Irish live outside of Ireland than in
6. English is not the first language of Ireland
7. Ireland was the Titanic’s last port of call
8. Gay marriage is legal in Ireland
9. Wild Atlantic Way is the longest coastal driving route in the world
10. Argentina’s Navy was founded by an Irishman
11. The Irish flag was inspired by the French
12. The shamrock is not the national symbol of Ireland
13. Wet summers are no myth
14. Halloween originated in Ireland
15. St. Valentine’s ashes are buried in Ireland
16. Ireland is home to the oldest Yacht Club in the world
Ross Castle, Ireland

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