10 Fascinating Facts about Ireland & the Irish…

Sure, Ireland is extremely famous the world over for its Guinness, ultra-warm and welcoming people, the Blarney Stone and its wild stunning green landscapes. But how much do you really know about the place and its citizens? Let me brighten your day with 10 fascinating facts about Ireland and the Irish. Are you ready…?

#1: Ireland has won the Eurovision Song Contest an incredible SEVEN times!

OK… so perhaps this isn’t something to be overly proud of but all the same…Ireland has won this high quality singing competition an amazing seven times in 1970, 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996… GO IRELAND!!!!

#2: Halloween is Irish!

Did you know that Halloween actually has Irish roots? It’s derived from a Celtic pagan festival called Samhain which celebrates the Celtic New Year, the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. This is the time when the dead rise from their graves…ooooh spooky!

#3: Ireland boasts the oldest pub in the world!

If you’re a fan of history (and like drinking too!) you have to pay a visit to Sean’s Bar on your next visit to Ireland. Opened in 900AD, it’s Ireland’s oldest pub (possibly oldest in the world) and is located in Athlone, next to the River Shannon.

#4: Irish literature rocks!

Irish literature is among the best in the world. Classic novelists such as Bram Stoker, James Joyce and Jonathan Swift all came from this emerald isle. And that’s not even including the masses of other excellent fiction and non-fiction written by the Irish and about Ireland. (Check out this list of 10 awesome books on Irish literature if you’re looking for inspiration).

#5: Ireland has some really strange traditions….

Such as holding children upside down and bumping their heads on the floor when it’s their birthday (seven bumps for 7th birthday, eight for 8th, and so on.)! This is supposed to bring good luck. Apparently. But seriously, it’s all done in fun!

#6: Only 9% of the Irish actually have red hair

Forget all those tales you’ve heard about of beautiful red-haired Celtic maidens and fierce handsome red-haired Celtic warriors- only 9% of the Irish have red hair. Sorry.

#7: St Patrick wasn’t even Irish!!!

Ireland’s patron saint St Patrick (you know, the one we celebrate on 17th March who legend says cast snakes out of Ireland for all eternity) was actually English! He was the son of Romans living in England and was kidnapped by pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland. Poor guy!

#8: Ireland is 100% snake-free!

And whilst we’re on the topic of snakes, you should know that the stories are true- Ireland really is a snake-free island. But not for the reasons you think! If they ever existed here (unlikely as we are an island), the Ice Age probably killed them all off.

#9: Ireland was the first in the world to tax plastic bags and ban smoking in public!

That’s right- we’re one of the most forward thinking, environmentally-friendly isles in the world! We fought back against plastic pollution by taxing plastic bags way back in 2002, banned public smoking in 2004 and set a great example to the rest of the world!

#10: There are more people living outside of Ireland than inside!!

The Irish have always emigrated to countries near and far, but the number has really boomed over the last few years. According to some sources, 17.5% of all Irish citizens over 15 years old now live abroad. Wow!

Ireland is a fascinating place filled with fascinating people, as you can now see. We’ve got old stuff, spooky festivals, strange traditions and some really awesome books. But if you’re looking for red-heads and snakes you’ve come to the wrong place!