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Ireland Facts

The Republic of Ireland is an island in northwestern Europe beside the Atlantic Ocean. It’s completely separated from the United Kingdom to the east by the Irish sea.

It has a variety of landscapes including interior lowlands of agriculture and coastal mountains. The country has many hills, bogs, and lakes.

Ireland is divided into two distinct areas:

Northern Ireland is the northeast portion and is part of the United Kingdom

Southern Ireland or ‘Eire’ which consists of 85% of the total area.

It is known as the ‘Emerald Isle’ because so much of the land is lush with green growth and forests.

Ireland-flag
Irish Flag

Ireland Facts for Kids

  • Capital: Dublin
  • Population: 4.9 million
  • Currency: Euro
  • Cities: Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Kilkenny
  • Languages: English, Irish Gaelic

How Big is Ireland

It covers an area of 32,595 square miles or 84,421 square KM

From North to South, it’s 302 miles (486 KM) long and 171 miles (275 KM) wide

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids

The beautiful coastline is 1,970 miles (3,172 KM) long, including the Wild Atlantic Way, a scenic route on the west coast of the country.

Ireland’s Regions

Ireland has four provinces

  • Leinster
  • Munster
  • Connacht
  • Ulster

Each province is further divided into 26 different counties

The Leinster Province is divided into 12 counties: Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford, Wicklow.

The Munster Province has 6 counties: Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford.

The Connacht Province has 5 counties: Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, and Sligo.

The Ulster Province has 3 southern Irish counties: Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan.

Ireland’s Counties

The Republic of Ireland has a shared border with Northern Ireland, which is under British rule.

The border is 304 miles long (490 Km), and it about five times smaller than the Republic.

Dublin

Dublin – Ha’penny Bridge across the River Liffey

Dublin is Ireland’s capital city and has so many things to see and do. The Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed park within any European capital city, is over 350 years old.

Trinity College is the oldest university in Ireland, founded by Queen Elizabeth way back in 1528. It’s a very prestigious university that also houses the Book of Kells in the Grand library with illustrations of the Christian Gospels dating from 800AD.

Dublin has transformed into a wonderful experience with museums, tourist attractions, wonderful dining, and friendly people.

Cork

Cork – River Lee

Cork is Ireland’s largest county. In 1588, Sir Walter Raleigh planted the first potato in Youghal. Over 200,000 people live in the county, which has gorgeous countryside and amazing seascapes.

Towns like Kinsale, Bantry, Cobh, Clonakilty are at the heart of Cork, in the South of Ireland.

The Titanic stopped in Cobh on its maiden voyage in 1912.

Locally it’s known as ‘The Rebel County’ because of a history of fighting for independence during invasions and the Irish War of Independence.

Kerry

Valentia Island

Kerry is also called the “Kingdom”, is a stunning part of Ireland with its beautiful scenery. The Ring of Kerry is a 179km-long circular route that takes you through verdant coastal landscapes and amazing seaside villages that make a trip to this part of the world worthwhile.

Killarney is the largest town and also has the Killarney National Park which is over 25,000 acres with lakes, rivers, mountains, and wonderful wildlife. The park had over 140 different species of birds, and salmon and brown trout are found swimming in its freshwaters.

The Torc Waterfall and Muckross House are just two of the many attractions in the park.

Other towns include Glenbeigh, Black Valley, Glencar, Kenmare, and Waterville

The actor Charlie Chaplin stayed with his family in Waterville the 60s and 70s

Geography Superlatives

Highest Mountain

Carrauntoohill

Carrauntoohill is Irelands highest mountain and is located in country Kerry. It’s 1,038 m/ 3,407 ft in height. It’s mixed among the highest mountain range, the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.

Longest River

River Shannon in Limerick

The longest river in Ireland is the River Shannon. It’s 350 km/ 224 miles long and begins in County Cavan and ends at the Shannon Estuary in County Limerick, and flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

It flows through 11 different counties: Cavan, Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Westmeath, Offaly, Tipperary, Galway, Clare, Limerick, and Kerry.

There are three main lakes on the Shannon Lough Allen, Lough Ree, and Lough Derg. Lough is the Irish word for ‘lake’.

The river moves slowly in most places, and it also quite shallow in parts.

Biggest Lake

Lough Corrib

The largest lake in the Republic of Ireland is Lough Corrib (remember Lough is the Irish word for ‘lake’).

It’s on the west coast of Ireland is considered to be one of the best fishing lakes in Europe.

It has over 300 islands and has an area of 68 sq miles/175 sq kilometers (44,000 acres).

Largest of the Irish isles

Achill Island

There are many islands on the coastline of Ireland. Achill Island in County Mayo is the largest of the Irish isles.

It’s believed that people first settled on the island way back in 3000BC

It’s 15 miles from east to west and 11 miles from north to south, and in total, about 57 square miles

You can cycle on the Great Western Greenway in Mayo, taking in the amazing scenery, and then cross Michael Davitt Bridge, a 200 yards long swing bridge connecting the island to Mayo.

The island had is the most mountainous island off Ireland. It has wonderful beaches where you can swim, surf and generally have an enjoyable time.

Best places in Ireland to visit

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

They are located on the west coast of Ireland in County Clare. The famous Wild Atlantic Way brings you right past them.

The views are stunning, as you can see from the photo. But, if you visit, do so on a nice day if it’s raining you won’t see much (I know from experience)

The Cliffs are named from a ruined promontory fort ‘Mothar’ – which unfortunately was destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s.

They are about 8km (5 miles) long and reach 214m (702 feet) in height at their highest point.

About 1.5 million people visit the cliffs every year for the stunning views.

On a clear day, you can see Galway Bay, the Aran Islands, and the Maum Turk mountains in Connemara.

Glendalough

Glendalough

The ancient monastic site of Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains is a stunning place to visit.

Glendalough, or the ‘Valley of Two Lakes,’ is nestled in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains.

It was founded by St Kevin. He was a 6th-century hermit. Glendalough is an ancient holy place.

The lush wooded lowlands attract lots of wildlife. The Upper Lake & Lower Lake bring you on a 2.6-mile loop and perfect for hiking, walking, and nature trips.

The Giant’s Causeway

The Giants Causeway is an extraordinary rock formation located in County Antrim on the coast, about 3 miles from the seaside town of Bushmills. You can take the cliff walk from Bushmills to the Giants Causeway for an added adventure.

According to the legend, the Irish giant Finn McCool created it. But, the reality was a volcanic fissure eruption nearly sixty million years ago.

Irish Economy

Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin

Ireland’s industry includes brewing, clothing, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and food products.

The Irish agriculture brings a wealth of barley, potatoes, turnips, sugar beets, and the raising of cattle.

Ireland exports computers, pharmaceuticals, machinery and equipment, chemicals, and live animals.

The tech industry in Ireland is big with many companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook with European headquarters in the country.

The Irish People

Irish music and dancing inspired the shows ‘Riverdance’ and ‘Lord of the Dance,’  but there is a lot more to Irish culture than dancing and music.

People love to talk, and you’ll find a friendly face in every town across the country.

Festivals are popular, sport is popular and generally having a good time.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a wonderful festival across Ireland, with parades happening on March 17th in most towns and villages.

The Pub culture with lively bars and lively conversation plays a lead role in driving the craic “Irish for fun.”

Animals in Ireland

Around the coast of Ireland, you’ll find a wonderful array of different species. You’ll find Basking Shark, Conger Eel, Ocean Sunfish, John Dory, and Angel Shark, for example.

Red squirrel, Pine marten, Lesser horseshoe bat, Irish hare, Fox, and Deer can be found wandering around the forests and lowlands.

Agriculture in Ireland is big, with over 7 million cows alone, that’s more cows than people.

You’ll find all the usual farm animals with about 3 million sheep and pigs making up the major part.

With an estimated 80,000 farms, there’s a lot of animals in the country

More Fun Facts about Ireland

  • The river Liffey is the main river in Dublin.
  • Over 1.2 million people live in Dublin.
  • The Phoenix Park is in the city where you will also find the zoo.
  • Religion: Roman Catholic, Protestant
  • Agriculture helps to drive the economy
  • Life expectancy in Ireland is currently 81 years.
  • The climate in Ireland is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. So, no extreme temperatures or fluctuations average temperature is 50°F.
  • The Band U2 are from Ireland.
  • Guinness is made in Ireland.
  • St. Patrick’s Day is March 17th
  • Ireland is one of the lowest users of plastic bags in Europe after the introduction of a plastic bag levy.
  • English is the main language spoken, many people will also speak Irish.
  • Due to the location of Ireland, it has been the subject of many invading cultures throughout its history. It is believed to have been inhabited by various groups for over 7,000 years.
  • The first groups to settle in Ireland were hunters and fishermen on the eastern coast of the island at around 6,000 B.C.
  • A Celtic-speaking people from the Western European area called Gaels arrived between 600 and 150 B.C. and took over the area from the people that lived there.
Map_of_Ireland_in_Europe.svg

History of Ireland

Nearing the time of Christ, Ireland was actually divided into five kingdoms called the ‘Five-Fifths of Ireland’ that eventually evolved into seven independent kingdoms by 400 AD.

Each kingdom had a king and they were all involved in raids and battles with the neighboring Britain that was conquered by Rome.

One of the raids involved the capture of a 16-year-old boy that was returned to Ireland and then later sold into slavery. During his time as a slave, the young boy became interested in religion and by the time he was 22 he escaped. He studied theology in the Roman Catholic Church and in 432 AD he returned to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity. The man was to become the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick.

The 9th and 10th centuries involved great attacks from Viking raiding groups. Monasteries were destroyed and some of the Vikings settled in the area. By 853, Ireland was invaded by the Danes and as they also became settlers, they adopted Christianity.

Upon the creation of the four ecclesiastical provinces (Ulster, Leinster, Meath and Munster), in 1152, it was elements of both the Irish and the Danish that assisted in forming a united Church. The reform was not accepted by many within the Irish church, especially Pope Adrian IV who was an Englishman.

By 1155, the Pope gave King Henry II of England the title of lordship over Ireland. The action was taken to assist in correcting some of the religious direction. It was in 1168 when the English invaded Ireland, taking lands away from the current owners and making changes to the social and political structures. This started the negative relations between Ireland and England that would last for centuries.

The migration of many Normans from England to Ireland occurred from the twelfth century to around 1400 AD; with many relocating to Dublin. The problems between the existing population and the new arrivals caused a 1367 law to keep the two groups apart.

King Henry VII of England extended English law over the entire country of Ireland in 1495 and took control over the existing parliament of Ireland. He was against the Roman Catholic church and since he had accomplished the dissolving of the church in England, he tried to do the same in Ireland. His attempts were in vain, as the Irish population rose up against the English king.

When Queen Elizabeth took the English throne, the Irish were already steadfastly linked with Roman Catholicism and they refused to accept any religious change. The English continued to try to dominate the Irish and by the 1560’s they succeeded in suppressing an Irish revolt. Queen Elizabeth took that opportunity to take all of the lands that were owned by Irish noblemen and their families and give them to Englishmen. It took until 1660 for the English to take over the area completely and for English law to govern.

King James I of England required that all Catholic schools are closed and that Irish children be instructed in Protestant schools. The prior terms of Anglo-Irish and English were then changed to the terms Protestant and Catholic. It was during this time period (1603-1625) that the start of Irish emigration began.

These actions were accentuated when Cromwell took over England and he took all of the remaining Catholic holdings. After Cromwell’s death, the Irish took back their lands and by 1690 they defeated the English and signed a treaty with London at Londonderry giving them back a number of rights. The treaty was then rejected by the Irish parliament that was dominated by Protestants.

The problems between the two religious groups widened and in 1727 Catholics were not allowed to participate in any public office and did not have any voting rights.

The 1798 Irish revolt started a series of events that eventually ended with the Irish relinquishing their own governing parliament. In 1801, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created, but this union was not popular with all of the people.

The Irish that lived in the farming communities were hit the hardest with the potato famine in the 1840s. With little or no food, the population decreased from 8.2 million to 6.6 million through disease, starvation, and emigration. Many of the Irish fled to the United States during this time.

The progress back to prosperity for the Catholic part of Ireland was slow but they gained higher affluence as they enjoyed some of the benefits of the industrialized British side. It was at this time that they demanded national self-government and they gained ‘home rule’ abilities that were separate from the Union parliament. While a bill was passed in 1914, it did not go into effect until after World War I.

By 1920 the ‘Government of Ireland Act’ was passed allowing both the north and south to have separate parliaments. In 1921 a treaty was signed with Britain to establish the Irish Free State as a self-governing entity within the British Commonwealth of Nations, effectively giving Northern Ireland the opportunity to take six of the northern counties out of the dominion. This was what started the civil war in Ireland as anti-treaty and pro-treaty people.

Although a 1937 constitution was created, it only lasted eleven years, and finally, in 1948, all ties were severed with the Commonwealth, allowing the creation of the Republic of Ireland.

The civil war continued for many years, but the basis of the war was the difference in religious beliefs and the continued interference of the British. Many of the troops of England would actively seek out members of the groups that they felt were Roman Catholic and causing problems and take them away to prisons.