What Is Ireland Known For?

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Green fields, rolling hills, cosy pubs, Guinness, Irish dancing and singing are the things that make me think about Ireland. However, Ireland has also had a sad and troubled past. In the 19th century, there was The Great Famine, and the 20th century brought about the rise of the IRA. But despite the problems, what Ireland is famous for is the friendliness of the people. So, don’t expect to go into an Irish pub and be left alone. Chances are that you will be warmly greeted by the locals and asked to join in the conversation.

Ireland is a popular destination despite its not-so-attractive weather. It has an oceanic climate, meaning that it is cool and wet throughout the year, with rare extremes of temperature. However, this doesn’t take away from the beauty of the island but what is Ireland famous for? Let’s take a look.

What Is Ireland Known For?

1- The Two Irelands

Republic Of Ireland And Northern Ireland Map
The Two Irelands (Republic and Northern) are what Ireland is known for.

Ireland is divided into two countries, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The Republic is a country in its own right and is in the European Union, while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom which isn’t in the European Union.

The Republic of Ireland takes up around 5/6th of the country and has a population of just over five million, while Northern Ireland has just under two million people.

The country was divided into two in 1920 by the UK government, the south being mainly Roman Catholic and the north, predominantly, Protestant.


Both were supposed to remain part of the UK but in 1922, the south became a separate country.

There were tensions between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland from the start which led to civil unrest and terrorism.

Luckily, this is all now in the past and Northern Ireland is becoming as popular a destination as the south.

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2- St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick’s Day is the festival Ireland is best known for.

St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland whose legacy is celebrated on 17 March every year, not only in Ireland but in many other countries throughout the world, such as the US, Australia, and New Zealand, mainly due to Irish immigrants and their descendants.

St. Patrick lived in the 5th century and was a missionary and later a bishop.

It is thought that he introduced Christianity to Ireland and there is also a legend saying that he banished snakes from the country but who knows if this is true? He died on 17 March 461, hence the date of his Saints Day.

St Patrick’s Day wasn’t celebrated that much in Ireland in the past, but this has changed and it is now a huge occasion.

In Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland, around 500,000 people turn out to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

In the countryside, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated less ostentatiously.

People generally go to church in the morning and gather later in pubs where there is traditional music and dancing.

3- Breathtaking Green Natural Scenery

Aerial View Of The Lagg Area And Parking Lot Five Fingers Strand
Breathtaking green landscapes are what Ireland is known for.

Ireland is called the Emerald Isle because it’s covered with green fields and rolling hills, which have made green the unofficial colour of Ireland.

Green has permeated other walks of life, such as the national football team’s shirts are green, and people dress in green for St Patrick’s Day when even drinks are dyed green.

The reason that Ireland is so green is that it has plenty of rainfall brought by Atlantic frontal systems.

It doesn’t get too cold because of the Gulf Stream, meaning that frosts are rare and these conditions allow the fields to stay green.

Towering above the Atlantic, Ireland is also famous for sheer cliffs, the most famous being the Cliffs of Moher formed around 300 million years ago.

These cliffs are a stunning natural landmark that draw visitors from all over the world.

4- Irish Dancing

Female Legs Of Three Irish Dancers
Irish dancing is what Ireland is known for.

Irish dancing is important in Irish culture, and it is a regular extracurricular activity for Irish children.

When I was a child in England, there were a lot of Irish families in the area and Irish dancing classes were arranged at school.

Believe me, it isn’t easy.

I didn’t progress past the first level!

There are three types of Irish dancing: set dancing, ceili dancing and sean-nos dancing.

What is common between them is that there is little upper-body movement but very quick foot movement.

Irish dancing is performed mainly at events and holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day.

Irish dancing came to international recognition with the show, Riverdance, which is still being performed today.

It all started with the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, which Ireland hosted.

In the interval between the songs and the voting, the host nation put on a show of music and dance.

It immediately became a hit and became a show of its own.

Riverdance was created by Michael Flatley who also performed in the show for a short period.

5- Food

Irish Stew Made With Beef, Potatoes, Carrots And Herbs
Irish stew is what food is Ireland is known for.

Many people think of Irish food as bland, however, it is far from this, and the country produces some of the best meat and seafood in the world.

Because the country is so green, it also produces lovely fresh vegetables.

The potato is the staple of the Irish diet, and it is used in interesting ways.

Colcannon is a traditional potato dish made from mashed potatoes, cabbage and pork.

A variation of colcannon is champ which has scallions, onions and chives added.

Another famous potato dish is boxty which is grated and fried potatoes, similar to a potato pancake.

Upmarket restaurants serve boxty with beef and a whisky sauce.

The Irish Fry is a very popular breakfast dish, similar to an English breakfast, but with a couple of variations.

If you stay at a B&B, you are likely to be offered an Irish Fry which will set you up for the day.

It usually includes black and white pudding, thick back bacon rashers, a fried egg, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, and occasionally, baked beans.

You won’t need lunch after such a feast.

Most people will have heard of Irish stew, and it is one of the national dishes of Ireland.

A traditional stew is made from meat, potatoes and whatever vegetables you want to add.

It is cooked slowly all day.

Another staple of Irish cuisine is bread.

As you can see, the Irish like their carbs! The two main breads they enjoy are brown bread and soda bread, which is an unleavened bread.

The bread is slathered with butter and the Irish produce some of the best kinds of butter in the world.

Most meals will be accompanied by bread and butter.

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6- Pubs

Temple Bar Street, Dublin, Ireland
Pubs are what Ireland is known for.

The pub is an institution in Ireland where locals gather to talk and drink.

They are so popular that Irish immigrants all over the world have opened Irish pubs in their new countries.

Irish pubs are laid back and many have music and dancing.

Here you can enjoy a Guinness or Irish whisky and sample Irish cuisine.

Try to get to a rural pub where you will get an authentic experience.

Some of the pubs in the bigger cities can be a bit touristy.

The oldest pub in Europe is in Ireland and is Sean’s Bar in County Westmeath.

It has been there since 900 AD so has had a lot of people pass through its doors.

Sean’s Bar is at 13 Main Street, Athlone and Big Meadow, County Westmeath, N37 DW76.

7- Literary Culture

For a country with so few people, Ireland has produced many literary geniuses.

It has even had four Nobel Prize Laureates.

These were W, B, Yeats in 1923, George Bernard Shaw in 1925, Samuel Beckett in 1969, and Seamus Heaney in 1995.

Yeats was a Senator of the Irish Free State and was one of the most influential poets of the 20th century.

George Bernard Shaw is most famous for his play, ‘Pygmalion’, which was turned into the film, ‘My Fair Lady’.

Beckett was a playwright whose most famous play was ‘Waiting for Godot’ and Heaney was a poet.

My favourite Irish writer is James Joyce who wrote Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.

Oscar Wilde was another famous Irish writer and so was Bram Stoker who penned Dracula.

In addition, Dublin has been named a UNESCO City of Literature.

8- Giant’s Causeway

The Giant's Causeway By Bushmills In Northern Ireland
The Giant Causeway is what Ireland is known for.

The Giant’s Causeway is in Northern Ireland and is along the Causeway Coastal Route, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an amazing sight.

If you stand on the cliffs and look down, you will see around 40,000 basalt stepping stones, which were created at least 60 million years ago and head towards the sea.

You can climb down the stones but remember that you have to get back up again.

There is a Visitor Centre where you can find out more about Giant’s Causeway and learn about the many legends surrounding its creation.

The most famous is that of an Irish giant, Fionnmac, who picked a fight with a Scottish giant, Benandonner.

Fionnmac built the stepping stones to reach Scotland, but Benandonner ripped them up and all the stones ended up in Ireland and are now the Giant’s Causeway.

9- Titanic Belfast

Sunset Over Belfast Titanic, Belfast, Northern Ireland
The Titanic Museum is what is Ireland is famous for.

Titanic Belfast is the largest Titanic exhibition in the world and is in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland.

It is in the shipyard where the Titanic was built and launched in 1911 when it had its fateful maiden voyage.

Titanic Belfast tells the story behind the Titanic on a self-guided tour through nine interpretive and interactive galleries or join an organised tour of both the Giant’s Causeway and Belfast Titanic.

You will also learn about shipbuilding in the early 1900s as well as about the city at that time.

The tour ends with a tour of the last remaining White Star ship, the SS Nomadic, which was the Titanic’s tender.

Titanic Belfast is at 1 Olympic Way, Belfast BT3 9EP.

10- Guinness

Beermat Drink Coaster
Guinness is what Ireland is known for producing.

Guinness is a dark, dry stout and is one of the most successful brands of beer in the world.

It was created by Arthur Guinness in St. James Gate Brewery in 1759.

Nowadays, it is produced in 50 countries and consumed in around 120.

It has become so popular that around 1 billion litres are sold each year.

The flavour of Guinness comes from a mixture of roasted unmalted barley and malted barley.

It is mixed with carbon dioxide and nitrogen, which gives it a creamy head.

A popular tourist spot is the Guinness Stonehouse which is on the site of the James Gate Brewery in Dublin.

It has received more than 20 million visitors since it opened in 2000.

The Guinness Stonehouse is on seven floors surrounding a glass atrium shaped like a pint of Guinness.

On the ground floor, you learn about the ingredients that go into making the beer.

On the other floors, you will find out about the history of Guinness, how it is advertised, and how to drink responsibly.

On the seventh floor, is the highlight, the Gravity Bar where you can enjoy a pint of Guinness with stunning views of the city.

The Guinness Stonehouse is at St. James’s Gate, Dublin 8, DO8 VF8H. Skip the lines and reserve your entry ticket here.

11- Irish Whisky

A Bottle Of Irish Whiskey And Lemon
Irish whiskey is what alcohol Ireland is known for.

Irish whisky is almost as popular and famous as Guinness.

It used to be the most popular spirit in the world, but it went into decline in the 20th century and from there being 30 distilleries at the beginning of the century, there were only two left in 1967.

However, the Irish whisky business has undergone a revival and now there are again more than 30 distilleries.

Irish whisky has a taste of its own.

Usually, it is triple distilled, slightly sweet, and smooth, giving you a warm feeling even after just one sip.

Brands of Irish whisky include Teeling, Redbreast, Green Spot, Jamesons and Bushmills.

Jamesons is the biggest seller the world over while Bushmills is made in the oldest distillery in the world.

12- The Blarney Stone

Blarney Castle Of Ireland
The Blarney Stone is what Ireland is best known for.

The Blarney Stone is a large block of limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, one of the many famous castles in Ireland.

It was built around 600 years ago and is partially in ruins.

So, why is the Blarney Stone famous and why do so many people flock to kiss it?

Legend has it that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you will be given the gift of the gab, in other words, you will be able to talk eloquently.

It isn’t that easy to kiss it.

You have to lean backwards while holding onto the handrail for the magic to work.

Luckily, there is a guide to help you.

There are many myths surrounding the origins of the stone.

Some say that it was a gift from the ancient goddess, Cliodhna.

Others say it was a reward for saving a drowning witch.

It has even been said that it was a part of the Scottish Stone of Destiny.

However, whatever its origins were, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland.

13- The IRA

The IRA, which stands for the Irish Republican Army, was a political party that wanted to end British rule in Northern Ireland and reunite it with the Republic of Ireland.

It resorted to terrorism and killed over 1,700 people, some of whom were in the British armed forces.

I remember being in London on 17th December 1983 when the IRA planted a bomb outside the department store, Harrods, killing six people.

I was meeting a friend and she had been in Harrods before the bomb went off.

It was a frightening thought of what could have happened.

The IRA dominated the news for 40 years, but, finally, in 1997, a cease-fire was agreed.

leading to the Good Friday Agreement the following year.

The Troubles, as they were called, ended and Northern Ireland is still part of the UK.

14- The Great Famine

The Great Famine, also called the Potato Famine, occurred between 1845 and 1849 and around a million people died while another million emigrated to find a better life.

The population fell by 25%.

The reason for the famine was the failure of the potato crops caused by a blight which destroyed the plant’s leaves and roots.

The potato was the staple food, so the Irish ended up with very little to eat, leading to starvation.

The UK government did little to help.

It was the start of mass emigration and even today, Irelan’s population is smaller than it was before the famine.

15- Filming Locations

Cliffs Of Moher, Ireland
Filming Locations what is Northern Ireland is known for.

Ireland is such a beautiful country that it has been used as the location in many films and TV shows over the years.

The series ‘Normal People’ was filmed mainly in Sligo, where the series is set.

The film ‘Braveheart’, although about the Scottish warrior, William Wallace, was shot in the countryside around Dublin.

The famous Omaha Beach scene in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was filmed on Curracloe Beach in County Wexford.

Game Of Thrones was shot in seven different locations in Northern Ireland.

In the Harry Potter film, ‘The Half Blood Prince’, the Skellig Islands and the Cliffs of Moher were featured.

More recently, ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ was filmed on Achill Island and the Aran Islands.

I could go on, but I think that this gives you an idea of how popular Ireland is as a film location.

16- Castles

Malahide Castle
Castles what is limerick Ireland is known for.

There is an impressive number of castles in Ireland, at least 30,000, most dating to the 12th to 16th centuries.

Some are still lived in, others are in ruins, but visiting even just a few will open the doors to the history of the country.

One of the oldest castles in the country is Kilkea Castle which dates to 1180 and is now a hotel.

It is set in 73 hectares (180 acres) of land, with woods, gardens, and a golf course.

Another interesting castle is Kilkenny which was built in the 13th century in the Nore Valley.

It has been rebuilt and now has a Victorian rose garden and a manmade lake.

You can take a guided tour which is fascinating as you will hear all sorts of stories about the history of the castle.

Bunratty Castle, built in 1425 and restored in 1954, is part of Bunratty Folk Park, a recreation of a mediaeval village with farmhouses and shops.

The castle is well worth visiting as it has some stunning art and tapestries from the 15th century.

Lismore Castle in County Waterford belongs to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and is one of the most beautiful castles in Ireland.

It is 800 years old but was largely rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 19th century.

It is open to the public and has an exhibition of contemporary art as well as stunning gardens.

  • Kilkea Castel is at Kilkea Demesne, Kilkea, County Kildare
  • Kilkenny Castle is at 10 The Parade, Kilkenny County Kilkenny R95 YRK1
  • Bunratty Castle is at Bunratty Village, County Clare
  • Lismore Castle is at Waterford and Tipperary Mountains, Lismore P51 EY68
World Map With Magnified Ireland

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Irena Nieslony
Irena Nieslony was born in Windsor, England but now lives on the island of Crete, Greece, in a small village called Modi near the city of Chania. She has visited 32 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa. Her favourite country is Tanzania as she loves wildlife and was lucky enough to see ‘The Big Five”. She also loves Egypt, as ancient history intrigues her, the southern states of the US and the cities of Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans for music. She has a B.A. Honours degree in English and Drama from Westfield College, University of London. She has been writing for over 13 years and has 13 novels, 7 short stories and thousands of articles published.