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12 Facts About Ireland We Bet You Didn’t Know


Last Updated on November 14, 2023 by AIFS Abroad

Have you always wanted to explore Ireland? AIFS Abroad offers study abroad and international internship programs in cities like Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Maynooth. If you’re going to live and learn in Ireland, though, you might as well know a few facts about it.

The Emerland Isle has a rich and complex history, and you’ll learn all about it while you’re there. But before you jet off, here are some quick fun facts about Ireland:

1. St. Patrick Wasn’t Irish

Yup, the guy whose holiday is synonymous with being Irish… isn’t himself. St. Patrick was born in Great Britain (though historians are unsure if he was born in Wales, Scotland or England), but at the age of 16 was kidnapped by Irish pirates and was held as a slave for six years working as a sheepherder. It wasn’t until after that he went home to become ordained as a priest, only to return to Ireland and spread Christianity where he was once enslaved. 

2. The Harp 

Ireland is the only country in the world to have a musical instrument as its national symbol, which makes sense as music is so, well, instrumental to the culture. If you study or intern abroad in Dublin, you can see some of the oldest harps in the world at Trinity College. 

3. World’s First Country to Adopt Same-Sex Marriage 

In 2015, Ireland voted to ratify same-sex marriage by popular vote, making them the first in the world. If you end up studying abroad in Dublin during the summer, make sure you attend Dublin Pride, featuring a large, colorful parade down O’Connell Street, and other events that support the local LGBTQIA+ scene. 

4. There are Wallabies 

No, we’re not confusing Ireland with Australia. On a small rocky island on the Dublin coast called Lambay Island there’s a colony of over a hundred wallabies hopping around. The island’s owners, the Baring family, brought them over in the 1950s along with other non-native deer, cattle and seabirds. 

5. Ancient History

Near the eastern coast of Ireland is a large, man-made mound overlooks the River Boyne called Newgrange. Inside is a passage tomb built around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and even the Egyptian pyramids!

6. The First St. Patrick’s Day Parade Was Held in the U.S.

And it wasn’t even Americans marching! Though they celebrate it in Ireland now, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City in 1762, after Irish soldiers serving in the English army celebrated the day by marching the streets. Now it’s an official city event. 

7. Muckanaghederdauhaulia 

This is the name of a small village in Connemara in Co. Galway and it’s the longest place name in the English with 22 letters. Sure would hate to have to type that into Google Maps!

8. Eurovision Champs 

Ireland has won the Eurovision Song Contest seven times, more than any other country. 

9. Famous Cliffs 

The Cliffs of Moher on the country’s western coastline are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, perhaps because they’ve been featured in several major movies, including The Princess Bride (1987), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) and Leap Year (2009).

10. Samhain 

The first St. Patrick’s parade may have been in the U.S., but Ireland celebrated the first ever Halloween. To mark the end of harvest and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year, Celtic pagans would dress up in disguises so that the aos sí (spirits) wouldn’t recognize them. People would go door-to-door in costume reciting verses in exchange for food. What does that sound like to you? That’s right, the pagan version of trick-or-treating! 

11. You Can See The Northern Lights 

You don’t need to go to the North Pole to see the Aurora Borealis, just County Donegal. On a clear night in Ireland’s northernmost county, you need just look and see the natural spectacle, no snow boots needed.

12. The Oldest Pub  

There’s a long-standing debate over which pub is the oldest in Ireland, but according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s Sean’s Bar in Athlone, dating back 900 years. The Brazen Head in Dublin also claims to be the oldest. Established in 1178, it’s been frequented by historical Irish figures such as Michael Collins, James Joyce and Jonathan Swift. 

These fun facts about Ireland should be enough to get you started before you study or intern abroad there.

Here at AIFS Abroad, we offer incredible study abroad and international internship program options in Dublin, Galway, Maynooth and Limerick. With inclusions such as tuition, housing, insurance, excursions and activities, on-site staff, and emergency support, you’ll have a stress-free global education experience. Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the inviting Irish culture while earning college credits in between spring and fall semester. Are you ready?