Ireland is a land of luscious green mountains, flowing valleys and an island with an incredible history. Ireland is well known for its drinking culture, friendly people and our love of potatoes. But there is a lot more interesting and surprising facts about Ireland than you may think. Check out these surprising facts and let me know in the comments how many you were surprised by.
St. Patrick wasn’t Irish
St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday that is celebrated all over the globe. People come out in their droves on this day to celebrate all things Irish; shamrocks, mint McDonald milkshakes, Irish music legends, Riverdance, potatoes and of course drinking. Important buildings and rivers turn green in cities around the world such as Sydney, Paris, Chicago, Nairobi and Rio de Janeiro. I’ve taken part in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Tokyo several times with my Irish dancing group and it ceases to amaze me how many people love to celebrate this day.
Yet, St. Patrick actually wasn’t Irish, he was born in Britain sometime in the 4th century. Many people are surprised by this fact about Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick was kidnapped and sold into slavery, he eventually managed to escape to Ireland months later. St. Patrick travelled throughout Ireland, bringing tales of Christianity with him and as legend would have it, he drove the snakes out of Ireland. He died on the 17th of March and it has become known as St. Patrick’s Day ever since.
Barack Obama has a service station dedicated to him
In 2007, Barack Obama discovered that his great-great-great grandfather was from a tiny village called Moneygall in County Offaly. This discovery led to his 8th cousin, Henry Healy, inviting him to the town of Moneygall. In 2011, while on a presidential visit to Dublin, he went on to travel to the place of his heritage in Offaly. Obama was greeted by thousands of people along the streets of Moneygall. After this, he went into Ollie Hayes pub to pull a pint of the black stuff for himself and Michelle.
Secret tip: No real Guinness drinker would ever do this, but adding a drop of blackcurrant juice makes it more pleasant to drink.
Since Obama’s visit, a service station has opened up with a museum, lots of memorabilia and of course life-size cut-outs of Barack and Michelle Obama. On your travels throughout Ireland, you might be surprised to come across this service station dedicated to Obama. It almost feels like you’ve entered a tiny American town. You can get your picture taken with ‘the Obama’s’ if you like. You can also fill up your tank, eat some food and it is often a place of comfort for those not satisfied with the 2018 election result.
Newgrange is older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge
In County Meath, there is a beautiful passage tomb made of stone that hundreds of people flock to on the 21st December each year to witness the winter solstice. Newgrange was constructed about 5,200 years ago by farmers, which makes it older than the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and Stonehenge in Britain. Many tourists are often surprised by this Irish fact as Newgrange is a lot less known than its historic counterparts. It is quite small inside and there is a waiting list every year for the special winter solstice event.
It can be visited any other time of the year through the Brú na Boinne visitor centre. There are lots of other things to do in the area such as the Hill of Tara and Fairyground Horse-ground Race Track so it’s well worth a visit.
Halloween originated in Ireland
Hallowe’en is celebrated more and more around the world and the majority of people think that it originated in North America. I have asked this question for quite a few years now “where do you think Halloween started?” (I’m a school teacher!) The answer is always America. This isn’t true, it actually began as an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain in Ireland. They believed that on the 31st of October the world of the living and the dead crossed over. To protect themselves, they began lots of traditions such as bonfires and trick-or-treating. You can find out more about the history and traditions of Hallowe’en here.
Related: Unique and Unusual Things to do in Dublin on a Budget
Gaeilge is the national language, not English
While the vast majority of people in Ireland speak English and most of the country are native English speakers, our national language is in fact, Irish. If you visit Ireland, you will see it dotted around the place in the airport, on buses, road signs and on a designated Gaeilge TV station, TG4, It is also a compulsory school subject all the way up until you leave school.
Certain parts of Ireland are also Gaeltacht areas (Irish only speaking areas) and they are protected by the government to preserve the language. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the Gaeltacht in the Dingle Peninsula, there is so much to see and do there and I highly recommend a visit. The people, the landscape, the views of the Atlantic are second to none. And don’t worry, they can speak English too.
Ireland was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage
Ireland has long been thought of as a traditional, Catholic country and for good reason. The sale of contraception wasn’t easily available until the late 1980’s and getting pregnant outside marriage was forbidden. People in unhappy marriages could not divorce. This only became legalized in 1997.
However, in a staggeringly short amount of time, the country has become much more positive and forward-thinking. Referendums around same-sex marriage and access to reproductive health have proved this. In fact, in 2015, many people were shocked and surprised when Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by public referendum.
‘Happy Hour’ is against the law
You might be surprised to hear that Happy Hour is illegal in Ireland. Bars and restaurants are prohibited from selling alcohol at reduced rates. The availability of alcohol is limited to certain times too. You can purchase alcohol in supermarkets/off-licences up until 10 pm only and during the week most bars close at around 11:30 but you will find some clubs open until around 3 am at the weekend.
However, that’s not to say the Irish don’t like to party. All major life events such as weddings, birthdays, funerals, christenings and so on become one big party, usually with lots of alcohol and dancing thrown in. However, our biggest drink consumption is Irish tea – I know plenty of people who drink upwards of ten cups a day.
The biggest matchmaking event in Europe takes place in Ireland
Every year, during the month of September, a matchmaking festival takes place in Lisdoonvara, County Clare. It has become bigger and bigger every year with well-known country music acts performing, speed-dating and sessions with Ireland’s most famous matchmaker, Willy Daly.
Matchmaking itself is an old Irish tradition; when farmers had finished up the harvest season in August, they headed off to Lisdoonvara in search of a wife. To date, Willy has shockingly set up around 3,000 marriages. So if you’re looking for lurve, why not check out the festival here.
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Were you surprised by any of the facts about Ireland in this post? What fact surprised you the most? Please comment below!
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I have heard SO MUCH about the festivities in Ireland and never had a chance to visit. Here in Canada it’s a really big day too, there are parades and many events all along the major cities. Enjoy your weekend!
Yeah it’s amazing how many countries celebrate the day. I couldn’t believe it when I lived in Japan that they closed off whole streets for the parade! Thanks so much for your comment, Canada is high on my bucket list!
I loved this and I can’t wait to visit Ireland! But the Netherlands legalized same sex marriage in 2001- so long ago most people don’t remember. ☘️
Thanks so much for the comment! Are you planning to visit soon?
Ireland was the first country in the world to pass the law by public vote/referendum if that makes sense?
I want to go to Ireland so bad! Perfect post for today. Happy St. Pattys day!
I did not know any of these! Ireland has been on my Travel Bucket list for the longest time. Being a full redhead, I always wished I was Irish, LOL 🙂 Great post!
Thanks so much for your comment. I love your blog!! Come to Ireland, you’ll love it!
Thanks for this new facts. Surprised for the Happy hour.
Yeah surprising isn’t it? Our laws around drinking are pretty strict…not sure they work though.
I think I need to read more about that matchmaking… haha
Reading your post about Ireland made me feel strangely “in place”, maybe it’s because my spotify is playing a song by someone named “Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh” ❤
Haha – he’s apparently the best in the business! If you check it out let me know, i’d love to go to it and im not single ha!
Wow! What a different and informative article! Can’t believe I’ve went 23 years not knowing St Patrick was British not Irish, ha! Amazing. Also awesome how halloween was born in Ireland. Great and very different post 🙂 xx
Super interesting 🙂
Thank you, that means a lot!
Wow, this was so interesting!! I really want to go to Ireland and this makes me want to go more!
Aw thanks for your comment. I hope you get to visit Ireland soon.
So many facts that were completely new to me about Ireland (like Halloween!) and which were absolutely fascinating to discover!
Laura // afinnontheloose.com
Thanks Laura, yeah a lot of people are often surprised about the Halloween fact x
I live here and I didn’t even know some of these things!
Thank you for sharing 😀
I’m shook by the alcohol thing! I also had no idea Newgrange existed. Ireland is definitely on my bucket list now.
My great grandad was Irish and my mum hyped up Ireland a lot to me as a child. I was worried I would be disappointed when I finally visited. However, we stayed in a small place called Blacksod Bay and I loved it!
The signs were all in Irish and it was just as I was hoping it would be.
Good tip for the Guinness. I tried it whilst there, being told that it tastes better in Ireland. I still didn’t like it.
Thanks for sharing.