Thinking of holidaying in Ireland and wondering what Ireland is known for? Read our list of the top 10 things associated with Ireland before you go!
1. St. Patrick of Ireland
Unless you have been living under a (sham)rock, chances are you have probably heard of St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint.
St. Patrick is believed to have travelled to Ireland from England in the 5th century, when he converted the country to Catholicism (and got rid of the snakes!)
On March 17th, people all over Ireland take to the streets for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.
The festivities were popularised in the United States by the Irish diaspora, and are celebrated in Australia, Dubai and South Korea!
Most people attend the parade wearing one or all of the colours of the Irish flag (green, white and gold). Many also don a painted shamrock (a symbol of Ireland) on their face, or a real one on their lapel!
The Irish parades are characterised by their elaborate performances and impressive floats. Macnas, an internationally renowned performance company based in Galway, are responsible for much of the spectacle.
Take a look at this video of a Macnas parade from last October (2019), which proves that the mystical atmosphere of St. Patrick’s Day can be found in Ireland all year round.
2. Ireland’s Green Landscape
Known as the ‘Emerald Isle’, Ireland boasts a truly breath-taking, green landscape. On a clear day, the window seat will give you a bird’s eye view of Ireland’s rolling green fields and hills as your plane descends.
Ireland is home to a number of less ‘typical’ but equally beautiful land formations:
- The Giant’s Causeway, Co. Antrim – the result of a volcanic fissure eruption, The Giant’s Causeway is made up of thousands of basalt columns. The site’s name is derived from the legend of Irish giant, Fionn mac Cumhaill, who supposedly built the causeway across the North Channel.
- The Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare – sea cliffs located at the southwest of the Burren region, an area renowned for its variation of flora and fauna, as well as its glaciated karst landscape. The cliffs reach a maximum height of 214 metres.
- Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry – built in 1932, Ireland’s first national park is home to sprawling woodlands, mountains, as well as the historic Muckross Estate.
No matter where you go in Ireland, you are sure to be treated to more than one aspect of its stunning and varied landscape.
If you wish to experience as much of Ireland’s landscape as possible, we recommend following the Wild Atlantic Way. Stretching all the way from County Donegal to County Cork, along the west coast, this tourism trail is home to 157 discovery points, 1,000 attractions and over 2,500 activities.
3. The Quiet Man
Perhaps one of the mains reasons that Ireland’s landscape is so well known, is John Ford’s 1952 film, The Quiet Man.
The Quiet Man stars John Wayne as an Irish-born American who travels back to his birthplace and falls in love with Mary-Kate Danaher, played by Irish-American Maureen O’Hara.
All of the film’s outdoor scenes were shot on location in Ireland, many around the village of Cong, County Mayo. Here, fans of the film can visit The Quiet Man Museum, as well as the pub, in which part of The Quiet Man was filmed (the building was actually a shop at the time).
Ireland maintains strong links with Hollywood. Other films entirely or partially shot in Ireland include Academy Award-winning Once and three-time Oscar-nominated Brooklyn. Many well-known actors hail from the island also (Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan and Cillian Murphy, to name a few!)
4. Sonia O’ Sullivan
Cork-born track and field athlete Sonia O’Sullivan is famous across the globe for her Olympic wins and for setting the 2000m world record in 1994 (which remained until 2017!)
Other internationally renowned Irish athletes include soccer-player and manager, Roy Keane, and Olympic gold medalist, Katie Taylor.
Ireland is a proud sporting nation, with much of the population avidly following provincial and national sporting teams.
As well as soccer, rugby, horseracing and boxing, Ireland is known for its Gaelic games (football, hurling and camogie). In 1884, The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was founded to promote these indigenous sports. Gaelic football and hurling matches continue to be the most attended sports events in the country. Known for their lively atmosphere, these matches are a must for tourists who desire to immerse themselves fully in Irish sporting culture.
Formed in a kitchen in 1976 by a group of Dublin schoolboys, U2 has gone on to become one of Ireland’s most successful exports, selling an estimated 150–170 million records worldwide.
Led by passionate frontman Bono, the band have enjoyed a successful career spanning over four decades.
Ireland is also responsible for The Cranberries, Sinéad O’ Connor and, more recently, The Script and Hozier, all of whom have enjoyed massive commercial success.
This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given Ireland’s rich musical history. Ireland’s official emblem is the harp, which is used in Irish folk music or ‘Irish trad’. Other Irish traditional instruments include the fiddle and the bodhrán. Another form of Irish traditional music is sean-nós singing, which is characterised by its unaccompanied and highly ornamented style.
Visitors to Ireland who wish to experience Irish traditional music first-hand are in luck, as many pubs hold live music events throughout the week. DeBarras Folk Club in Clonakilty (Co. Cork) is perhaps Ireland’s best location for live folk music, with famous faces from many genres passing through over the years!
One can’t mention Irish traditional music without a nod to Riverdance!
This international phenomenon originated as an interval performance act at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. After being expanded into a theatrical show, Riverdance has since visited over 450 venues worldwide and been seen by over 25 million people.
Riverdance continues to tour today, but if you are unable to catch a performance, many pubs in Temple Bar, Dublin hold live Irish dancing performances. If you are brave enough, you can even try your hand at an Irish jig by taking part in a Céili dance, which are most common in Ireland’s ‘Gaeltacht’ (Irish-speaking) areas.
Arthur Guinness began brewing his Irish dry stout in 1759 at St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin. He is said to have been so confident in the predicted success of Guinness, that he signed a 9,000-year contract for the drink! Not as ridiculous as it sounds when you consider Guinness’ worldwide success and the €2 billion worth of beer made by the brewery each year.
The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin is a must for lovers of the stout, who might also enjoy a taste of Murphy’s Irish Stout or Beamish.
Alternatively, whiskey lovers may enjoy a visit to the Jameson Distillery in Midleton, County Cork. Fun fact: in 1830, Irishman Aeneas Coffey introduced the first heat exchange device in the world, a significant development in whiskey distilling.
…and, of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to the pub without a Baileys Irish coffee!
8. Oscar Wilde
An Irish author poet and playwright, Wilde is responsible for a number of famous literary works, such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest.
Wilde is part of a long lineage of Irish literary giants, including W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen, Seamus Heaney and, in more recent years, Marian Keyes and Tana French.
Bookworms will be at home in Ireland, where the legacy of these writers is rooted in the culture. You can pay a visit to Wilde’s childhood home in Dublin, or Thoor Ballylee, a tower once inhabited by Yeats. Fans of Joyce may wish to take part in the annual Bloomsday Festival in June, as part of which they can explore Dublin on a tour around some key locations from Ulysses.
What is a discussion of Ireland without a mention of the humble potato?
Introduced to Ireland in the 16th century and partially responsible for the Great Famine of 1845-49, the potato has remained a staple of Irish cuisine, whether it be in an Irish stew or alongside bacon and cabbage.
In 1954, Joseph ‘Spud’ Murphy capitalized on the versatility of the potato by inventing the first flavoured crisp production process with Tayto Crisps, a method then sought by companies worldwide. Tayto is so popular in Ireland that in November 2010, Tayto opened their own theme park, Tayto Park, in County Meath. If rollercoasters aren’t your thing, a Tayto sandwich (bread + butter + Tayto crisps), will hit the spot.
Penneys (known outside of Ireland as Primark) opened its first store in Dublin in 1969. Ever since, it has been Ireland’s go-to clothes store. In Ireland, on any given day, on any given street, it is likely that most people will be wearing at least one item of Penneys clothing (even if it’s just their socks).
The success of Penneys in Ireland led to 27 stores in Europe across 9 countries, as well as the first U.S. store opening in Boston.
If you arrive at your hotel and realise you’ve forgotten to pack something, whether that be a toothbrush or a pair of shoes, a trip to Penneys will see you through!
So, there we have it: a list of the top 10 things associated with Ireland. Follow some or all of the tips and tricks in this list to make your visit to the Emerald Isle the ultimate Irish experience!
11. Bonus item – Skellig Michael
At almost 12km out into the Atlantic Ocean, Skellig Michael is really a diamond in the rough in terms of its rugged beauty and so a uniquely Irish gem. Between to sixth and 8th Centuries, a monastery was established on the crag and one can only guess at the hardship of the monks who spent time here in their quest for closeness to God.
The Skellig has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1996 and for both it’s archaeological and historical value as well as it’s importance as breeding colony for many diverse species of sea birds
Most recently, The Skellig reach world attention as it was a location used in the filming of Star Wars: A Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Nowadays, fans of the franchise are arriving in their droves to see this amazing rock out to see from Co. Kerry along The Wild Atlantic Way.
Recommended reading: Top 10 Points of Interest in Killarney, Co. Kerry.