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What Is Ireland Known for & Famous For

Do you know Ireland beyond the jug of Guinness that you like to enjoy with your pals or its fun-loving culture and people? If that’s all you know about Ireland, you’re definitely missing out!

Ireland is known and famous for idyllic landscapes that provide the perfect backdrop to some of the most fascinating superstitions still held by Irish people today. The country is also known for its rich history, as the birthplace of literary giants, and for its lively music scene.

Let’s take a trip down to The Emerald Isle and discover some of the things that the country is most popular for around the world.

Landscape

One of the most endearing names for Ireland is “The Emerald Isle” due to the country’s abundance of lush green landscapes. Thanks to the rains that frequently pour on the land, its hills and fields are rich and fertile.

But aside from the green fields of Ireland, the country also has vast rugged terrains with large rock formations and steep cliffs that look down into the sea with waves crashing against large rocks. The rockiness of the Irish terrain is due to the land being completely covered by glaciers 15,000 years ago.

History

Scientists believe that the first settlers in Ireland arrived in 6000 B.C. Shortly afterward, settlers began to use stone tools for farming and agriculture, which brought about the beginning of the Stone Age.

Since then, the country has been invaded a number of times, including by the Celts and the Vikings. It was the Viking invaders, however, whose settlements still endure. One of the most important Viking settlements is what is now known as the capital Dublin. The name Dublin is a Gaelic word that literally means “black pool.”

Saint Patrick

Ireland is known as a devout Catholic society, and it is believed to be thanks to a 5th-century missionary named Saint Patrick who brought Christianity to the country. For his contribution in the spread of the Catholic faith, he is often called the “Apostle of Ireland” and is celebrated as a patron saint.

Every March 17, Irish people celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, although in recent years, celebrations have veered away from what used to be religious feasts into more secular festivals and gatherings.

Shamrocks

The shamrock is an Irish clover that, unlike most clovers, has three leaves instead of four. Because of its unique three leaves (said to represent the Trinity), it was considered a sacred plant. This led to its popularity among the Irish and its consequent recognition as the symbol of Ireland.

The shamrock, which literally means “summer plant,” has been identified by scientists as the white clover, which, in contrast with its status, is actually a type of weed that is commonly found in Ireland.

Newgrange

Archaeology fanatics will love Ireland’s Newgrange. It is an ancient passage tomb found in Boyne Valley in Ireland that is said to be over 5,000 years old. The massive Newgrange was built during the Neolithic Age, and inside were human bones together with remnants of offerings to the gods.

Though long believed to be a prehistoric passage tomb, many experts now say that the Newgrange was more important than that. They say that the Newgrange could have had a religious or spiritual significance.

Giant’s Causeway   NOT IN IRELAND IN NORTHERN IRELAND (UK) 

The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is nothing short of a natural wonder. So much so that Irish people call it the eighth wonder of the world. The famous causeway that can be seen in the Antrim Coastline is the magnificently laid out columns of basalt rock (40,000 columns in all) jutting out of the surface of the sea.

In fact, the Giant’s Causeway is the result of an eruption of basaltic lava about 6 million years ago. Because of the unusual appearance of the causeway, it has inspired many legends, particularly one where giants used the causeway to go over to Scotland.

Blarney Stone

Located in Cork, Ireland, the Blarney Stone can be found in Blarney Castle built in 1446. The Irish have a tradition of kissing the stone, believing those who did received the gift of eloquence and persuasive speech.

However, the traditional way was not to simply kiss the stone, but to be held up by your ankles and kiss the stone while you were upside down. While there are no reports of tourists falling while kissing the stone, some accidents have been reported to have occurred at the Blarney Castle.

Dun Aonghasa Fort

The Dun Aonghasa Fort is a prehistoric hill fort that stands in Galway, Ireland. Archaeologists who surveyed the fort discovered metalworking as well as houses and tombs inside the fort, evidence of an advanced civilization. It’s said that the fort is 3,000 years old.

Today, several areas of the fort have collapsed, although its defensive systems and walls remain largely intact.

According to Irish legend, a mythological race called the Fir Bolgs built the fort when they settled on the island during the first century C.E.

Ceide Fields

The Stone Age settlers in Ireland are said to have created the farming landscape Ceide Fields 5,000 years ago in West Ireland. The Ceide is known as the oldest field system in the world where archaeological remains of slaughtered cattle were found aged 3 to 4 years, which suggests that the ancient community utilized cattle for their meat and not their milk.

In the Ceide Fields, which literally means a “flat-topped hill,” also are remnants of ancient houses, burial places, and walls built by the Stone Age community.

Music

Music plays a huge role in almost every society and culture, but in Ireland, music is not only something to be enjoyed. Irish traditional music, which was passed on from the Celts, is used until today as a means of telling stories–stories about myths and legends, stories about the country’s history, as well as stories about the present time.

And one other thing about traditional Irish music? It’s largely played by ear, and repertoires have to be learned by listening over and over again until you memorize every bit.

Riverdance

Riverdance is arguably the most popular and most widely celebrated theatrical show in Ireland. Today, it’s a full-length show that features traditional Irish dance and music, but back in the 1990s, it was only a short theatrical act that gave the spotlight to Irish music and dance.

At the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, a brief theatrical act lasting only a mere seven minutes commanded the attention of the audience because of the engaging dance routine and music. The act was later dubbed Riverdance. Today, Riverdance performances are still being enjoyed in the country.

Leprechauns

Ever heard of leprechauns and wanted to see one? Well, the only place you could ever find one, as legend would have it, is Ireland. However, you may not be able to actually lay your eyes on one, because leprechauns are mythical creatures–tiny long-bearded men in green garb and always doing some sort of mischief.

While clearly not belonging to the realm of reality, leprechauns continue to be part of the supernatural and folklore-loving Irish culture. Although if you do happen to see one and catch it, you’re in luck, because you can trade its freedom for treasure! Or so they say.

Redheads

If you walk around Ireland, don’t be surprised if you see flashes of red everywhere. According to reports, Ireland has the most number of redheads in the world. While the hair color is considered quite rare, a whopping 10 to 30 percent of the total Irish population are actually redheaded.

Unfortunately for these redheads, however, there has been a longstanding superstition in Ireland that redheads should not be trusted and even bring bad luck! This negative association with the hair color is most likely due to the fact that the trait was brought about by Vikings who invaded the land long ago.

But don’t you think red hair actually looks enchanting?

Friendliness

Did you know that Ireland is always on the list of the friendliest nations? It ranks quite highly too!

We all saw it coming. Irish people are some of the kindest and nicest people on the planet. If you’re a foreigner sitting alone at a pub, don’t be surprised if someone buys you a pint or offers you a seat with their group!

Oscar Wilde

One of the most notable literary figures until today is Oscar Wilde, a poet and playwright born in Ireland. However, he spent most of his time away from the country and made a name for himself during his residence in London and Paris.

Despite this, Wilde was clearly proud of his being Irish and was even a supporter of Irish independence. He continues to be celebrated in the country today, with The Oscar Wilde House as well as monuments continue to be visited by tourists and fans of his work.

Alcohol

If you’re one to enjoy the drink, you won’t be out of place in Ireland. The country is known to have the highest binge drinking rate in the world, next to Austria. This excessive consumption of alcohol, however, is also the reason for most health issues experienced by Irish people today.

Also, while it’s the men who are the majority of alcohol drinkers in the country, did you know that beer brewing used to be done mainly by women and was seen as a woman’s job? Back in the day, these women were called “alewives.”

Guinness

The most popular beverage in Ireland is Guinness, a kind of draught beer that originated in the country. Guinness is popular all over the world and is actually consumed the most in the U.K., but experts say that Irish Guinness is the best. In Irish pubs, Guinness is made to flow continuously from the tap, so you never get a stale pint.

Called a “pint of gat” in Ireland, the beer has a deep ruby color that looks black in the jug.

Jameson

One of the most famous whiskey brands in Ireland is Jameson. It’s Irish whiskey distilled in oak barrels for three years. Many Irish like Jameson whiskey because of its mild taste and smooth sip. It also has floral and fruity hints, as well as a slightly woody taste from the barrels sourced from Spain and the U.S.

Jameson whiskey was founded by John Jameson in 1770 and continues to be a big part of Irish gatherings and social activities.

Kilkenny

Known as the “Marble Town,” Kilkenny is a medieval town in Ireland nicknamed because most of its roads and structures are made of black limestones. The town was granted cityhood in 1609 by King James I and is a famous tourist destination today because of its medieval castles and buildings.

There is another less-pleasant nickname for the town, though: The Cats. In the 1800s, soldiers mistreated cats by tying their tails together and hanging them in the air or making them fight.

Pubs

Going to pubs is one of the most common social activities in Ireland. And pubs are not just there for an alcohol fix. They are mostly for gatherings with friends, casual chitchats, and even special occasions. Many pubs in the country also hold live concerts and other social events.

And if you’re a foreigner who doesn’t know anybody in town, you can go into an Irish pub and expect to be welcomed as if you were an old friend. Irish people are very friendly and welcoming to foreigners.

Irish Stew

Irish stew, which is called “ballymaloe” in Irish, is the national dish of Ireland. This traditional dish was recognized way back in the 1800s, when it was commonly prepared and consumed by Irish peasants. And that’s mainly because the stew only has a few ingredients: Cuts of mutton or lamb and some root vegetables.

However humbly it came around, this rich and hearty dish is now a mainstay on the Irish table and is sure to fill you up with savory goodness.

Guinness Pie

It’s clear that the Irish love their Guinness. One of the most popular Irish dishes is Guinness pie, which is made of beef, root vegetables, and Guinness, as its name suggests. If you drop by any of the pubs, you will most likely find it on the menu, as it’s usually paired with a large glass of Guinness and some “steak chips.”

Some may say this pairing makes for the most Irish meal you can ever have. Only be sure to have ample space in your tummy, as this pie is filling.

Tea

If all this mention of Guinness is making you think that all the Irish drank beer, you’d be wrong. Actually, Irish people are also heavy tea drinkers. And when it comes to making tea, some people even say that a cup in Ireland is so much better than all the traditional tea in China.

This is because of the unique way the Irish make their tea, which accounts for the stronger taste, unlike most teas that can be pretty mild in flavor.

Cork

All the food lovers planning to go to Ireland must visit Cork, Ireland’s culinary capital. Here, people, locals and foreigners alike, are encouraged to have their fill of everything! And if that doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will!

In this part of Ireland, you will find artisan food shops and restaurants, where you can try Toonsbridge mozzarella, Scúp ice cream, Clonakilty black pudding, and more!

If you like cooking yourself, make sure to drop by the English Market and have a sampling of the fresh produce sold there.

Agriculture

Given how fertile Irish lands are, it’s no wonder that agriculture is a booming industry in the country. In fact, its agriculture is the largest industry in Ireland and makes for a huge chunk of its exporting contribution. Almost two-thirds of Ireland’s lands are suitable for agriculture, producing mainly wheat, barley, and oat.

Livestock production is also a major driving force in Ireland’s agriculture and food sector, with the majority of the farms being privately owned.

Dairy

Dairy is the agricultural product in Ireland, with cow’s milk consistently leading the list as the most highly exported product. And people love Irish milk not just because it tastes better, but due to the environment of the cows that they come from. Irish milk and other dairy products have a higher nutritional value than others.

Sure enough, the number of dairy cows being kept on farms across the country isn’t surprising, given the high demand for Irish milk and dairy products.

Sheep

But make no mistake–dairy cows are nowhere near the most numerous livestock in Ireland. Thanks to the country’s lush green landscape, with rolling hills and grasslands as far as the eye can see, sheep seem to have taken over Irish lands.

In fact, there are more sheep in Ireland than humans! Also, sheep are said to be an unofficial symbol for the country, because long before humans ever settled there, there were already sheep that found Ireland to be their habitat.

Cattle

But then again, if you thought sheep were the largest animal population in Ireland, you’d be wrong. Do you know that there are approximately a hundred thousand cattle farms and about 6 and a half million cattle in Ireland?

The most popular cattle breed is the Irish Moiled, which has a distinctive red coat, white streaks, and no horns. They are the ideal breed to raise because they produce good-quality milk and meats.

Other Irish breeds are Kerry, Dexter, and Droimeann.

Potatoes

From 1845 to 1849, Ireland sunk into a famine. This period in Irish history is known today as the Great Famine or the Irish Potato Famine, when potatoes became infected with a virus that was brought into the country from North America.

The virus caused large numbers of potatoes to rot, creating huge losses in agriculture and the food sector. Moreover, since the majority of the Irish population during the time relied on potatoes for their diet because they were cheap, sturdy, and easy to grow, this created huge food insecurity.

Sports

The Irish are an enthusiastic people, and when it comes to sports, they are all out! They are avid sports fans, and if they’re not out playing, you will often see them tuned in to the games in the pubs or at home.

Some of the most commonly played sports are rugby, boxing, horse racing, and soccer.

Rugby

The national sport of Ireland is Gaelic Football, more commonly known as rugby. One of the things that are interesting about the Irish national team is that they are not called by any nickname, as most sports teams are. However, many people say that the “shamrocks” would be the closest thing to a nickname for the team, since it’s the team emblem.

Horse Racing

Though rugby is Ireland’s national sport, horse racing is the one with the richest Irish history. In fact, steeplechasing originated in Ireland when the first horse race was held in 1752 in the town of Cork. 

The name steeplechasing came about because during the first race, church steeples were used to mark the start and end points of the race. They used steeples back then because they were the most visible landmarks in town.

Football

While Gaelic football holds the number spot when it comes to Irish sports, Association football or soccer is also popular among the Irish. Unlike other countries, however, Ireland has two national teams because they have two different football associations: one in Leinster and one in Ulster. This was due to a number of factors, but mainly political disputes.

Dublin

The capital city of Ireland, Dublin is not only a charming and idyllic city but also a UNESCO City of Literature, thanks to a number of literary greats that have come from the place. To name a few, there is James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, and Bram Stoker.

The city is also famous for its museums, historical sites, and–of course–pubs.

One of the least-known facts about Dublin is that hundreds of years ago, people here used to believe that witches did roam the streets and cast spells on their enemies. People feared anyone who was accused of witchcraft, even though there was little evidence to prove it.

And to purge the city of these plagues of society, Dubliners used to burn witches at the stake for everyone to see.

The Emerald Isle

Ireland is often dubbed The Emerald Isle because of the luscious emerald hues that you can see everywhere in the country. Its fertile soil and temperate climate make its grasslands lush all year round. And while there are rugged terrains here also, you’ll find that even rough landscapes such as steep cliffs are often covered in green.

The lushness of Irish soil also makes its lands the perfect pasture for cattle that have become associated with the country, due to their large population.

Gaelic

The Irish language, sometimes called “Gaelic”, is the official language of Ireland. And to keep their history and heritage alive, learning and speaking the language is required in all schools in the country. The language was passed on by the Celts and is closely related to the Gaelic spoken in Scotland.

Wild Atlantic Way

If you want to drive around Ireland to simply take in the beauty of its landscape and scenery, you should definitely go for a drive on the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,500-mile (2,414 kilometers) coastal road that offers stunning views of the sea, cliffs, and mountains. If you want, you can even go swimming.

Conclusion

Perhaps it’s only fitting that there are so many supernatural beliefs, magical stories, and mythical creatures in Ireland. The other-worldly beauty of this country can definitely inspire such stories. But before you get lost in the world of leprechauns and giants, make sure to first have a gulp of Guinness!

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