Five Facts You Might Not Know About Ireland
14 October 2019 -
To celebrate our October partnership with Tourism Ireland and all things Irish, we thought we’d see what interesting information we could uncover about this beautiful ‘Emerald Isle’!
Here are five facts about Ireland that you might not know - read on to find out more.
Saint Patrick Wasn't Irish...
St Patrick, Ireland’s most famous Christian missionary and bishop, was not actually Irish.
Whilst his exact birthplace and date are not known, it is believed he was born around 375AD in Scotland or Wales. He was abducted by Irish looters when he was 16 and kept in captivity as a slave for six years. After his escape, Patrick apparently experienced a revelation—an angel in a dream – telling him to return to Ireland as a missionary.
By the time of his death in 461 he had successfully established monasteries, churches, and schools. March 17th, the date of his death, is now celebrated annually as St Patrick’s Day all over the world.
The Shamrock Is Not Ireland's National Symbol
When you think of Ireland, what's the first emblem of quintessential Irishness that springs to mind? We’re betting it's not the harp, Ireland's official national symbol, but more likely the shamrock. This ultimate emblem of Ireland is synonymous with St. Patrick and his teaching of Christianity to the pagan Irish, using the three-leafed shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
However, don’t make the common mistake of confusing the shamrock with a four-leaf clover – they are not the same!
The Titanic's Interior Was Modelled On The Ritz
Titanic vs Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas
The Titanic was built at the Harland and Wolff Shipyards in Belfast in Northern Ireland in 1912, and a museum, Titanic Belfast, is based there now.
The interior of the Titanic was modelled after the Ritz Hotel, with first-class cabins finished in the Empire style. Aiming to convey the aura of a floating hotel, it was intended for passengers to forget they were on board ship, and feel as though they were in a hall of a great house onshore.
Interestingly, given that it was considered to be the largest man-made object ever built to float on water, in comparison to today’s monster cruise ships, the Titanic wasn’t really all that big. For instance, with a gross tonnage of 228,081, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is five times larger than the Titanic!
Hallowe'en originated from an Irish Pagan Festival
Samhain offering. Photo credit: Avia Venefica, Flickr
Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year. Traditionally, it was celebrated from 31 October to 1 November, and the Celts believed that on these days, the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred – and ghosts returned to earth. It’s known that Celtic priests built huge bonfires, practised divination rituals, and conducted rites to keep ghouls at bay, but since they didn’t keep written records, many of these practices remain shrouded in mystery.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III made November 1 a day to honour saints and martyrs. To keep the peace with the pagans, he made sure All Saints’ Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain.
The day before, October 31, became known as All Hallows’ Eve. Over time, this evolved into a secular event, the one we now know universally as Halloween.
The Oldest Pub In Europe Is In Ireland
Seán’s Bar on the west bank of the River Shannon in central Ireland, and originally known as "Luain's Inn", can lay claim to the title of the oldest pub in Ireland.
Based on the site where a tavern has kept people fed and watered since 900 AD, not only does its 1,115 years make it the oldest pub in Ireland, it’s also considered to be the oldest pub in the whole of Europe!
The bar holds records of nearly every owner since its inception. During renovations in 1970, the walls of the bar were found to be made of wattle and wicker, dating back to the tenth century. Old coins were also found and dated to this period. The walls and the coins are on display in the National Museum, though one section remains on display in the pub.
Now a pub as well as a popular tourist attraction, it is open to all and attracts huge crowds who want to admire its old-fashioned, and relatively unchanged, interior – and perhaps have a pint, or two.
Would you like to discover more facts about this fascinating country for yourself?
Why not check out our stunning range of Irish tours, from our ever-popular ‘Grand Tour of Ireland’ and ‘Mourne Mountains, Titanic & The Giant’s Causeway’ to our brand-new for 2020 tour, ‘Discover Donegal, Slieve League Cliff and the Wild Atlantic Way’.
See our full range of Ireland tours here.