Ah, Ireland. For such a small and unassuming island that you can find nestled between the UK and mainland Europe. It has gathered a pretty impressive reputation.
But, what is Ireland known and famous for? What is it about this emerald isle that has stolen the hearts of so many across our globe?
Is it the Irish people? Or perhaps it’s their homely Irish food, like the quintessential Irish stew or the hearty Irish soda bread.
Keep on reading to find out what makes Ireland unique and what Ireland is famous for.
* Although Ireland consists of two countries, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. For this article, we’re using the word Ireland to cover both countries.
#1 Epic Scenery
If there’s one thing that Ireland is famous for, it’s their famous landmarks. The rolling hills, towering mountains, and beautiful beaches. Ireland isn’t short on majestic scenery. Places like the Sliabh Liag cliffs in County Donegal are an important part of the Irish experience.
If you have heard of the saying ‘gift of the gab’, well, Blarney is where it came from. A stunning castle built almost 600 years ago in County Cork, Blarney castle is a world landmark and sees millions of visitors every single year.
But it is the Blarney Stone that many travellers come to see – and kiss!
Said to give you the talent of eloquence, as long as you bend over backwards and give it a smooch, the Blarney Stone has seen famous visitors such as Ronald Reagan, Mick Jagger, and even Winston Churchill.
One of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites dotted around Ireland, the Giants Causeway is one of Northern Ireland’s most famous landmarks. Thousands of basalt columns on this part of the Antrim coast have produced these unforgettable octagonal stepping stones that are visited by millions of tourists every single year.
Shrouded in mythology, it is thought that the Giants Causeway was originally a bridge built to connect Scotland and Ireland. However, the bridge was destroyed by the Scottish giant Benandonner to stop the Irish warrior, Finn Mac Cumhaill from reaching Scottish shores.
Star Wars fans will recognise the dramatic silhouette of Skellig Michael, a remote island on the Kerry coast. This unique island was used as the backdrop for some scenes in The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens.
However, long before Hollywood came to Skellig Michael and between the 6th and 8th centuries, this island was inhabited by a group of devout Christian monks looking for isolation. You can still see today the ruins of their homes, monastery and even the intricate stairways they built to access the entire island.
Over 5,200 years old, this stone age passage tomb, located in Boyne Valley, is one of the oldest landmarks in Ireland that you can still visit and enjoy in its entirety.
We do not know for sure what the purpose of Newgrange would have been for our ancient ancestors but it is commonly believed that it had something to do with the winter solstice thanks to its carefully placed windows that allow the rising winter solstice sun to illuminate the chamber.
This event is so special, that you can only enjoy it if you are lucky enough to win one of the tickets.
It would not be a list of Ireland’s famous places if I did not include the Guinness storehouse.
The home to Ireland’s most famous beer, the Guinness storehouse is located in the heart of Dublin City and visitors can take a tour around the old Guinness factory, experience a taste test of their unique stouts, and you can even learn how to pull the perfect pint.
The Guinness brand was founded in the storehouse in 1759 and, although it had a few dips in popularity, it still survives as one of the most popular drinks in Ireland today.
Cliffs of Moher
Situated on the West Clare Coast, the Cliffs of Mower are a spectacular sight. On one side is the sheer drop into the Atlantic Ocean and on the opposite side s the diverse and rugged Burren.
Formed over 320 million years ago, this famous natural landmark has inspired musicians, poets, and artists for generations.
The beauty of this place is that it does not matter when you visit, whether it is raining, snowing, or the sun is splitting the rocks. The Cliffs of Mother brings a unique perspective of the Irish coast with each visit.
Guinness is one of Ireland’s best exports. This heavy, creamy Irish beer is one tipple you need to wet your lips with if you visit the emerald isle.
However, there is one thing you may not know. Guinness doesn’t travel that well. At least that is what the Irish people will tell you. It doesn’t mean it is bad to drink in other countries. It just won’t have the same taste.
But how did this malted barley beverage become so famous?
Founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759 when he signed a 9,000-year lease for the St James Gate Brewery, Dublin, the popularity of Guinness has grown from strength to strength.
Over $2 billion of this Irish beer is brewed annually in over 50 different countries. Yet, nothing is quite like enjoying a Guinness in its country of birth.
The Guinness Storehouse, attached to the brewery, is one of the most visited tourist attractions. Since it opened its doors in 2000 it has seen over 20 million visitors.
Halloween may be a typically American holiday but did you know it began in Ireland?
Halloween has rich historical beginnings and was originally a holiday called Samhain (Sow-In). Celebrating the winter solstice at the end of October, this ancient pagan festival marked the coming darker days of the winter.
Many ancient Celts also believed that the lines between the living and the dead became a little blurred. So they would light bonfires to scare away evil spirits and wear costumes that helped provide them with protection so they could blend in with these evil forces.
As the years rolled by, Samhain became less about fear and began to be much more fun. Irish kids would go door to door for treats and carve turnips instead of pumpkins. Why? Because this vegetable was far more common in Ireland at the time.
An alternate theory suggests that the Irish people would go ‘trick or treating’ for food which they would then use as an offering to appease the spirits. While the carved pumpkin was supposed to scare away troublesome spirits.
Either way, Halloween has become far more Americanised these days with Irish kids roaming the streets in their costumes looking for treats.
#4 Traditional Irish Music
Irish musicians have dominated the modern music charts for decades. Some Irish musicians you may have heard of are U2, Sinead O’Conner, and The Cranberries. However, traditional Irish music is what Ireland is famous for.
Sometimes known as Irish folk music, traditional Irish music can be found in most Irish pubs at one time or another. Irish pub music has a unique warming sound thanks to their traditional instruments.
Some you may be familiar with, such as the fiddle and the tin whistles. Others you may be less familiar with, such as the Bodhrán. These are the ten songs we consider the best Irish drinking songs of all time
This traditional folk music also blends into the even more popular rebel songs. These Irish classics became more popular thanks to rebel bands such as The Dubliners and Wolfe Tones. However, they have been sung for decades, stemming from Ireland’s war-fraught history against its British oppressors.
#5 The Rain
One of the things Ireland is famous for is its weather. As beautiful as the country is, it’s also a very wet country. The west coast of Ireland experiences wilder weather fluctuations, where the Atlantic Ocean influences Ireland’s climate.
But don’t let that put you off. You can be sure to experience some rain during your visit but Ireland rarely gets colder than 7/8c during the day in Winter and when the sun shines, it’s as good as a day in Barbados.
Weather is more predictable in the bottom counties of Ireland if you are hoping for a drier experience but it’s always a good idea to bring a raincoat no matter where you are.
Look at it this way, if it were not for the level of rainfall, Ireland wouldn’t be nearly as lush and green as it is.
Thanks to the turbulent Atlantic Ocean, Ireland has become one of the most popular surfing destinations in recent years. It may not be the image you conjure up when thinking of hitting the waves. Yet the surfing community here is thriving. It is considered that Ireland has one of the most wave-rich coastlines in the world.
Many experienced surfers will come to Ireland to test their skills. Not only do they have to work with the wild Irish Sea, but they have to withstand the colder seas.
The pub culture also draws in many surfing enthusiasts. There’s nothing quite like stepping out of the chilly ocean and into a pub with a roaring fire.
However, surfing spots like Tullan Strand, Donegal and, Strandhill, Sligo are wedged with surfers of all abilities during the summer months. For newbie surfers, there are even many surfing schools, instructors, and camps that you can sign up for to get your feet wet.
#7 A Cup Of Tea
The humble Irish cup of tea is an unofficial part of Irish culture. From the Irish mammy’s that will force a warm cup of tae on you whether you like it or not to the battle of the best tea brand. The Irish people consume an average of 2.19kg of tea each year.
Just make sure that you make it properly. None of this microwave, milk first lark. Put the tea bag into your cup, pour in your boiling water, and once the water is a deep brown, remove the bag and add a wee drop of milk.
The Irish always drink their tea hot, and it is uncommon to find proper iced tea in Ireland. You can even find many Irish tea experiences in hotels and estates in Ireland. These usually include a delicious selection of cakes and sandwiches.
With Barry’s being the most popular tea brand in Ireland, that is the best one to try. Just don’t ask Irish people what the best brand is because you will get a different answer from everyone.
#8 Irish Whiskey
Although Guinness tops the polls for the world’s favourite Irish tipple, Irish Whiskey comes in second. Traditionally triple-distilled, Irish whiskey is much smoother than Scottish whisky and has an even higher alcohol content.
This triple distillation practice was pioneered by John Jameson. Yes, that Jameson of Jameson Irish Whiskey. The J-dog of the whiskey world is the most popular Irish whiskey brand, coming in at 41 on the top 100 most popular liquors.
Reading Suggestion: What is the legal drinking age in Ireland?
You may be surprised that, in 2021, Ireland exported a staggering 14 million cases of whiskey, and that number is expected to grow over the coming years.
If you hope to broaden your whiskey palate when you visit Ireland, here are four Irish whiskeys worth trying.
- Teeling Small Batch
- Knappogue Castle (16-year-old)
#9 Irish Dancing
One of the most important parts of Irish culture is the Irish dance. Thanks to ‘Riverdance’, Irish dancing has seen a global revival, but this cultural dance has always been popular in Ireland.
This folk dancing began with the ancient Celts and druids. Many of their pagan rituals involved dancing and music, especially around sacred trees.
Now, although Irish dance now is a far cry from the dancing performed by ancient Irish pagans, many formations still survive today.
In recent years, Irish dance has restored its popularity, with many Irish children taking part in dancing classes and even performing at a Feis (an event for competition and dance exams).
Those who show strong dancing skills may even go as far as taking part in the World Irish Dance Championships.
The WIDC sees thousands of Irish dancers from around the world. Who perform in both solo and ceil (group) competitions.
#10 Heritage Sites
Ireland is well known for its historical landmarks, from the Unesco World Heritage site of the Giants Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland to the famous Blarney Stone and Blarney Castle in County Cork. Ireland is chock-a-block with stunning heritage sites that will blow your mind.
Many of Ireland’s iconic landmarks see thousands of visitors every single year. Such as the steep and wild Cliffs of Moher, County Clare.
The famous Killarney National Park, County Kerry, spans 26,000 acres and includes the highest mountain range in Ireland, the McGillycuddy Reeks. Another popular site is Dublin Castle. This Irish castle was built in the 13th century and has been an important place throughout Irish history.
There are two popular routes you can take where you can enjoy many of these unique landmarks. Firstly, you can drive the Wild Atlantic Way along Ireland’s west coast. Secondly, you can travel around Ireland’s Ancient East.
Ireland is famous for its groundbreaking literature geniuses. Many authors, novelists, poets, and Nobel laureates that you may have heard of will have humble roots in Ireland.
Still to this day, Irish modernist writers continue to wow the world with their creativity and ability to think outside of the box.
It is impressive for such a small island that they have produced so many exceptional writers. Such as Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, and Bram Stoker, to name just a few. Dublin City is now a UNESCO City of Literature thanks to its incredible literary heritage.
Here are five Irish classics that you should read if you want to appreciate the creative heart of Ireland’s writers:
- Pygmalion – George Bernard Shaw
- Dubliners – James Joyce
- Dracula – Bram Stoker
- Murphy – Samuel Beckett
- A Star Called Henry – Roddy Doyle
#12 Saint Patrick’s Day
Saint Patricks Day is a holiday of booze and revelry. Every March 17th, it seems as though the entire world becomes Irish as they celebrate St Patricks Day.
Boston dyes its river green and festivals take over every corner of our globe. Even though this holiday isn’t much more than an excuse to drink a little extra, wear ‘kiss me I’m Irish’ badges and make the most of every dish pub these days. It does have a darker, religious meaning.
March 17th is the traditional death date of St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, and legend has it that he chased all of the snakes out of Ireland in 461 AD. Yet, there is a darker side to this tale.
Ireland was a Celtic pagan country up until Christianity arrived on its shores. The reality of friendly St. Paddy is that he didn’t drive the snakes from Ireland. However, there is a theory that he forced traditional Pagan beliefs from the emerald isle to may way for his beloved Christianity.
#13 Irish Coffee
Invented in 1943, Irish coffee is a classic mix of coffee, Irish whiskey, and brown sugar, topped with whipped cream.
It is believed that Limerick chef, Joe Sheridan, added Irish whiskey to the coffee to warm up weary travellers who had their flights delayed due to poor weather.
Although you will find Irish coffee in Most Irish pubs and eating establishments across Ireland, this popular drink is commonly drunk by the Irish over Christmas. Think of it as Irish eggnog.
#14 The Great Famine
From 1845 to 1849, Ireland was plagued by a terrible potato blight that caused The Great Famine. This disaster caused the deaths of almost 1 million people. Even more people fled Ireland for better lives in countries like America and England.
The potato blight wasn’t the only thing that spearheaded these four years of hunger. Ireland’s poor societal and political structures created an environment where the divide between the poor and the rich was so great that those without really did have nothing.
Much of this was down to Great Britain’s occupation of Ireland, which saw drastic cuts to relief funds, much of the available food being exported to the UK, and eventual discontinuation of food kitchens because they were afraid the poor would become reliant on Governmental interference.
#15 The Accent
The Irish accent regularly tops polls of the sexiest accents in the world and the world’s adoration for the accent isn’t going anywhere.
But what is it about the Irish accent people love so much?
It could be the way it warmly rolls off the tongue, or maybe it is the stereotypical expectation of how Irish men are charming, funny, and creatively gifted.
It may be the world’s exposure to the accent. Let’s be honest it is everywhere. From famous Irish people, its appearance in many movies and tv shows, and how many non-Irish people love to imitate the accent.
Whatever it is, Ireland is famous for its variety of regional accents. Some are harder to understand than others.
Ireland is a country filled with rich folklore history. From the mischievous Leprechauns to the screaming Banshees, Ireland is a country that still celebrates many of its mythical inhabitants. Although, they are not believed in as much as they once were.
Many of Ireland’s famous folklore stories connect to their varied landscapes. For example, the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland was supposed to have been created when Irish giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill tricked a rival Scottish giant.
Ireland even has its very own Romeo and Juliet. Grainne was betrothed to Fionn Mac Cumhaill but fell in love with one of his subjects, Diarmuid. They ran away together and never slept in one place for longer than one night. That was until their luck ran out.
#17 The Irish Pubs
If you have been wondering what is Ireland known for. Well, the simple answer is the great Irish pub. Every city, town, and village has at least one local pub – you can even find many an Irish pub nestled randomly on a quiet back road.
If you want to celebrate Irish pub culture when you visit Ireland, you can only do this by experiencing a real pub in Ireland.
Honestly, you never really know what to expect when you walk through the doors of an Irish pub. It could be quiet and relaxing, or loud and full of traditional music and dancing.
Regardless of your pub experience, you can be sure that you’ll have a good time and come away with some incredible memories.
#18 Curse Words
If there’s one thing every Irish person is good at, it’s throwing a curse word into every sentence. Although swearing is viewed as vulgar and bad manners in most parts of the world, in Ireland it’s as good as part of the culture.
What’s more, Ireland seems to have created their own unique curse words that only work in Ireland. Such as Eejit (idiot), Fecker (F*cker), and Gobshite (stupid person).
Don’t let our love for a good curse word put you off. Most of the time these naughty words are never spoken with a hint of malice or contempt. Curse words are an extension of how the Irish express themselves.
You may even be surprised that the older generations swear far more than the younger Irish person and if it feels as though every other word is a curse word. That’s because it probably is.
#19 Famous Irish People
Ireland may be a small, unassuming island but it has been the birthplace of many creatives over the years that have greatly influenced the global creative scene.
Colin Farrell has been an Irish sweetheart for decades but he has seen a sudden rise in fame once more with his role in the Oscar-winning movie The Banshees of Inisherin.
Born in 1975 in Castleknock, Dublin, Colin Farrell has starred in many Hollywood movies, including Minority Report, The Batman, Total Recall, In Bruges, and Horrible Bosses.
The creator of the famous novel Dracula, Abraham Stoker was born in Dublin in 1847.
In 1897 he published his world-famous novel, Dracula, but this was not his only impressive piece. Some other Bram Stoker novels that do not get nearly enough coverage are ‘The Lady of the Shorud’, ‘The Lair of the White Worm’, and ‘Mystery of the Sea’.
Another Hollywood actor with Irish roots is Liam Neeson. Known for movies such as Taken, Love Actually, Schindler’s list, and as the voice of Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia.
Liam Neeson was born in 1952 in Ballymena, County Antrim.
He did, however, meet some negative press in 2019 when he called the Me Too movement ‘a witch hunt’.
One of the most important men in Ireland’s history, Michael Collins was one of the head men of the IRA, an army that consisted of regular Irish men and was created to help fight back against crippling British rule.
He fought during the Easter Rising in 1916 and by the time he became the chief planner and coordinated of the Irish Republican Army, he had become famous all over Ireland.
He coordinated many attacks against the British and he headed the list of wanted men with a £10,000 bounty on his head.
Michael Collins was one of the men that signed the peace treaty in 1921 that gave the Republic of Ireland its independence but, only a year later in August 1922, Collins was shot to death by anti-treaty insurgents.
Most of the world has heard of the name Oscar Wilde. A poet and playwright, Wilde was born in 1854 in Dublin and went on to create a diverse literary career for himself. However, it is important to note he was a man of noble means from birth.
Some of his best-known works are ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’.
He died on 30th November 1900 from a brief battle against meningitis.
Known for his tomes Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake. James Joyce was born in 1882 to what could have been considered a fairly affluent family. He even attended the ‘Eton of Ireland’, Clongowes Wood College, at the age of six. However, his father was not one to manage his financial affairs very well and he sunk his family into poverty.
Yet that did not hold this Irish literary genius back. After years of travelling and trying out many different career paths, James Joyce began to write.
By 1922, Joyce had published his novel, Ulysses.
Serving as president of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, Mary Robinson was the first female president to ever hold office in Ireland.
She has been at the forefront of many important movements in Ireland including the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the legalisation of contraception, and the legalisation of divorce.
She truly transformed Ireland for the better of its people and these days she has settled at home and founded The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice.
The Irish have a passionate relationship with sports. We could talk about Irish rugby, football, or even how Ireland is one of the top golfing destinations in the world. However, it is Ireland’s traditional sports that this unassuming island is well known for.
Collectively known as the Gaelic sports, these sporting activities are far rougher than other sports. If you have ever watched a traditional Irish football match, you will know what we are talking about here. This sport is like a healthy mix of soccer and rugby – with a lot more rough and tumble and massive injuries.
Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland, with local and national teams all over the country. This sport has expanded beyond Ireland; there are now Gaelic football teams everywhere competing in World Championships.
Hurling is another popular Irish sport that could be the oldest sporting tradition in Ireland, with its first historical mention dating back to 1272 BC.
This stick and ball game share similarities with hockey but instead of a single goal net, hurling points are scored by getting the ball into the goal net or if it is shot over the net and in-between the high-rising bars.
One lesser-known Irish sport is Irish Road Bowling.
Irish road bowling can be traced back to the early 1600s when it was said that the Irish patriots stole English cannon balls and rolled them down a hill. Of course, this is all legend and who knows where it began.
I am a British-born copywriter who moved to Ireland over a decade ago and have been captivated by Irish culture, landscape and folklore. I enjoy sharing my passion for Ireland through my writing as a freelancer.