The Emerald Isle has long been one of the world’s most alluring tourist destinations, thanks in no small part to its lush green landscapes, stunning coastlines, historic castles, and much, much more. It may already be on your bucket list, or perhaps you’ve visited Ireland before, but there’s still much to discover about this European island nation. From its national emblem to its tallest mountains, discover eight fascinating facts you might not know about Ireland. 

Ireland Is Home to the World’s Longest Coastal Driving Route 

Image of the Wild Atlantic Way coastal driving route in Ireland

Stretching approximately 1,600 miles, the Wild Atlantic Way is the longest uninterrupted coastal driving route in the world. It extends from the north of the country on the Inishowen Peninsula and continues along the western side of the Emerald Isle, ending in the colorful sea port town of Kinsale. It should take drivers about two to three weeks do the entire route justice, but the trip is broken into 14 stages, allowing those with limited time to pick and complete the portion they want to see the most. Along the way you’ll find plenty of charming Irish villages and sweeping sea views, along with famous natural landmarks like the Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions.

Ireland Is Home to Over 30,000 Castles and Ruins

Castle ruins on cliff overlooking the sea in Ireland

Though exact counts differ, what we know for certain is that Ireland has plenty of sites for anyone searching for medieval ambience. Some of the more well-known include Blarney Castle — home of the famed Blarney stone — and Dunluce Castle, an abandoned fortress that made an appearance in Game of Thrones. While many of these places have either preserved their original interior or fallen into ruin, others, like Ashford Castle, have been converted into hotels and other luxury properties, so you can sleep in a castle when you visit as well.

Its National Symbol Is the Harp

Rows of colorful homes along the water in Cobh, Ireland

While you might guess the shamrock to be Ireland’s official icon, it is in fact the harp, making Ireland the only nation with a musical instrument as its national symbol. The instrument’s heritage in the country extends back over 1,000 years to when harpists enjoyed a privileged status in the Celtic culture, and today it is often called either a Celtic harp, a Gaelic harp, or a cláirseach. Whether you were familiar with its importance or not, you’ve likely seen the patriotic emblem before, on anything from Guinness labels to Ryanair planes to Irish passports.

The Oldest Pub in Ireland Is Over 1,000 Years Old

Pubs on street corner in Dublin, Ireland

Sean’s Bar, in the city of Athlone in central Ireland, dates back to A.D. 900 when it was established to take advantage of the local traffic at the nearby river crossing. Today, Sean’s is considered the oldest pub in the country — and in all of Europe. Visitors to the area can stop by on their way between Dublin and Galway for a pint, a traditional whiskey, or just a taste of history complete with live music and plenty of traditional features, including the pub’s characteristic sloping floors, which were originally designed to prevent flooding.

An Ancient Irish Festival Gave Us Halloween

Stone arch bridge over small river in rocky green valley in Ireland

If jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating are your favorite parts of autumn, you can thank the Irish. All the spooky fun of Halloween originated with an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, which celebrated the harvest season. Communities lit bonfires, and locals wore costumes to prevent being carried off by ghosts or spirits. Over the years, the pagan festival merged with the religious All Saints Day, celebrated on November 1, to become the diverse and ubiquitous holiday we know today.

More Residents Speak Polish at Home Than Irish

Aerial view of bright green pastures in Ireland

Although Irish and English are the two official languages of Ireland, they are not the two most commonly spoken. Irish is an obligatory language in school, but a 2011 census showed that more residents — about 30,000 more, to be precise — speak Polish outside of school than speak Irish. If you’re planning to visit, though, you’ll likely be happy to know that virtually everyone in Ireland speaks English. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun trying out native words like sláinte, meaning “Cheers,” or Muckanaghederdauhaulia, the longest town name in the country.

The Guinness Brewery in Dublin Has a 9,000-Year Lease on Its Land

Road leading to Dublin, Ireland

In 1959, a thirty-four-year-old brewer named Arthur Guinness signed a lease on a run-down brewery at St. James’s Gate in Dublin. The lease had a term of 9,000 years, requiring a rent of just 45 pounds per month. Today, Guinness still cooks up its signature brews at the St. James’s Gate location, where you can visit for tastings, tours, and more — and where it continues to pay 45 pounds in rent.

MacGillycuddy’s Reeks Are Ireland’s Tallest Mountain Range

Rolling green hills and mountains in Ireland

With arguably one of the most fun mountain range names, MacGillycuddy’s Reeks are far from being the tallest mountains in the world. In fact, only three of the peaks stand taller than 1000 meters, but they’re undeniably beautiful in their emerald way. The tallest is Carrauntoohil, which stands 1039 meters tall, and, while it isn’t a walk in the park, it can nonetheless be climbed in a day if you’re looking for some physical activity, beautiful views, and local nature during your visit.

Article Courtesy of the Daily Passport

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