A Very Short History of Ireland

Gaelic Ireland had emerged by the 1st century AD. The island was Christianised from the fifth century onwards. Following the 12th century Anglo-Norman invasion, England claimed sovereignty. From then on, the politics of Ireland are extremely complex and I'm not even going to attempt to explain them. Read Wikipedia - which may or may not give accurate information.

Ireland was partitioned by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, creating the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (the six northeastern counties), which became part of the United Kingdom with a devolved government.

Some 'Irish' Facts and Factoids

  • Ériu (today more commonly known as Éire) is the Irish name for Ireland – it's the name of a powerful female goddess, a modern day personification of the country.
  • Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, because of its parks and agricultural heritage. The term was probably coined by William Drennan in his 1795 poem When Erin First Rose, (Erin is a Hiberno-English word for Ireland originating from the Irish word "Éirinn". Erin was often used, in English, as a romantic name for Ireland.(Erin's Isle).
  • 88% of Irish citizens are nominally Roman Catholic. The Republic of Ireland has one of the highest rates of church attendance in the Western World.
  • The ancestral language of the Irish people is Irish Gaelic.
  • Many Irish family names start with "Mac" or "O'...", which means respectively "son of ..." and "grandson of ..." in Gaelic.
  • The three most famous symbols of Ireland are the green shamrock, the harp, and the Celtic cross. The official symbol is the harp. The one found on Irish passports points in the opposite direction to the harp on a Guinness glass.
  • Ireland ranks sixth worldwide in the average consumption of beer per person - and third for the consumption of tea!
  • 10 million pints of Guinness are produced in Dublin every day. (But more Guinness is sold in Nigeria than in Ireland.)
  • Ireland's Patron Saint St. Patrick was probably Welsh, but at least he lived in Ireland
  • Halloween was derived from an Irish festival called Samhain
  • The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia (a small town in county Galway)
  • Irish traditional sports – Hurling and Gaelic Football - go back 3000 years
  • Ireland has won the Eurovision Song Contest more often than any other country - seven times.

Where to Go in Ireland?

Ireland is all gorgeous. The first time I went, I was on a circular tour with Don:

  • Ireland almost doesn’t happen. It was, in any case a last minute replacement for Tibet, which, was cancelled: too much rain and too many avalanches on the road from Nepal. And it takes far longer to drive to the port of Holyhead on Anglesey than I could possibly have imagined. I fondly imagined that the drive through Wales would be scenic. It probably is, but it’s very busy and winding and I’m too busy panicking to notice. We’re practically  doing one of those French Connection car chase leaps up the ramp to get onto the ferry.
  • Dublin, at the mouth of the Liffey has some quaint houses, a cathedral and lots of pubs. Don feels he has an obligation to try the Guinness in all of them.
  • We wander west and round the edge of Northern Ireland to Donegal. Back south to Sligo, the mossy crags of Ben Bulben Rock filling the horizon and W.B. Yeats' tranquil Lake Isle of Innisfree. The scenery everywhere stunning, the roads peaceful, the breakfasts huge, tweed shops ubiquitous. Its almost obligatory to buy a cloth cap and walking stick.
  • Next, County Mayo. Coincidentally, I’m reading Year of the French, which is hugely evocative in terms of scenery and atmosphere. Now, the loden green peak of Croagh Patrick towers above us.
  • South, along the west coast through Connemara. For me the best part of the journey – wild and wonderful, even if Don does nothing but sit and fish.
  • The coastal route continues to be glorious, moving south. County Clare and the towering Cliffs of Moher. Through Limerick and onto County Kerry with the Dingle Peninsula and its wide sandy beaches- Ryan’s Daughter was filmed here. Emerald (naturally), pasture filled with brown and white cattle. (It is where the butter comes from after all). It’s gorgeous in a pretty-pretty kind of way, but others think so too. The roads are throttled by tourists in ‘gypsy’ caravans.
  • Now east again., along the south coast Cork is the second largest city in Ireland and has one of the largest natural harbours in the world. It was originally a monastic settlement expanded by the Vikings. The remnants of the medieval city walls are still to be found.
  • Blarney is about 5 miles from Cork and the Blarney Stone is a block of carboniferous limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab. I decide not to kiss The Stone. I might live to regret it, passing up on the gift of eloquence,  but I shudder to think how many bugs are residing on that bit of rock. And you have to be a contortionist to get your head to the right place anyway.
  • Continuing our circular tour, now north up the east coast. Waterford, has a lovely harbour, but its famous for its glass making and is unsurprisingly jammed with crystal shops. Waterford is also known as the starting point for Ryanair's first flight, a 14-seat Embraer that went to Gatwick.
  • Back to Dublin. And home.

My last trip to Ireland was to Dublin.

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