As well as being a land of stunning scenery and outstanding natural beauty, Ireland is home to a whole host of famous sports people, singers and bands, culture, food and drink, history, and much more.
Let’s explore some of Ireland’s most prominent historical moments as well as the famous people who have helped bring the Emerald Isle to the world stage!
What is Ireland Known For?
Famous Irish People
For the size of the country, Ireland has produced its fair share of famous faces, from global sporting superstars, to world famous singers and bands. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Famous Irish Footballers:
Ireland has produced some world class footballers over the decades, but we start with arguably the best and most famous of them all – George Best. George Best hailed from Belfast, was admired across the world for his amazing skills and flamboyant personality and amazed crowds by performing all sorts of tricks on for Manchester United in the 1960s. Unfortunately, while Best was famous for being a footballer (and the “fifth” Beatle at one point), he was probably more infamous for his off-field antics, most notably his alcohol issues which plagued the majority of his life.
In more recent times, Roy Keane is another of Ireland’s most famous footballers, playing the majority of his career at Manchester United where he won the Premier League, European Cup and a whole host of other trophies under the imposing presence of Sir Alex Ferguson. Other players to make this list include, Damien Duff, Paul O’Leary, Robbie Keane (no relation to Roy), and Shay Given who have all had glittering football careers.
Famous Irish Golfers:
Ireland has also produced some superstar golfers with Rory McIlroy being the most famous in recent times. McIlroy has spent plenty of time as world number 1 golfer and has 4 Majors to his name. All together he has 23 PGA Tour wins. Not bad for a man from (the Irish) Holywood!
Ireland also has a history of producing world class golfers stretching back a generation with big names such as Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Peter Lawrie, Mark McNulty, and Padraig Harrington all achieving success in the sport.
Famous Irish Musicians
Arguably the most famous band to come out of Ireland are U2, which are fronted by Bono. The group have been going for nearly 50 years after forming in a Dublin kitchen way back in 1976! Over the years they have released 15 studio albums and enjoyed a career that has seen them travel the globe. During this time they have released 83 singles, with probably the most famous being the track named ‘With or Without You’ which was released in 1987.
Donegal’s Enya only loses the spot of being the number one selling Irish musical act to U2 and enjoyed a hugely successful career as a solo artist, after starting her early career as part of her family’s Celtic rock band Clannad. Enya, although hugely successful has always opted to keep her personal life private and focussed on her music.
Another of our most famous musical exports is Sinead O’Connor, one of the most famous female vocalists who has enjoyed success across the decades since launching her debut album in 1987. Her most successful song ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ was voted number one world single in 1990 by the Billboard Music Awards.
In more recent years Niall Horan rose to fame with the X-Factor boyband One Direction who despite finishing third in the singing competition enjoyed worldwide success and became one of the biggest ever boybands. Niall left One Direction in 2015 and has since pursued a successful solo career in the music and film industries, as well as launching a golf related business!
The stereotype linking the Irish and drinking is old and tired, as habits are changing among younger generations, but we do have traditions and famous exports to our name.
Guinness is easily our most famous drink, and has been produced here in Ireland since 1759. Today, Guinness is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in the world and is sold in over 120 countries. There is a fascinating history to Guinness, which can be explored at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.
Why is Guinness so iconic? It’s hard to say but the combination of the classic taste, the iconic black silhouette and some famous advertising campaigns, has made it hard to resist for many.
Bushmills and Jameson Whiskey
Ireland is also famous for its whiskey production and Bushmills and Jameson come in at the top of the list. The Bushmills distillery is located in County Antrim, Northern Ireland and is one of the worlds oldest distilleries, with a Royal Licence originally being declared to distill whiskey way back in 1608!
Jameson Whiskey is now brewed in County Cork and the distillery was originally founded by John Jameson in 1780. It’s arguably more famous than Bushmills, and is well-known as mixing well with Lime.
Irish Culture & History
As with every nation, the culture and history of Ireland is deep, multi-layered and rich in variety but here are just a few small reasons why Ireland is famous, both good and bad:
The Wild Atlantic Way
The Emerald Isle is famed for being, well incredibly green, but also for boasting a landscape that’s both romantic and rugged. The Wild Atlantic Way, probably the most famous of the natural settings here in Ireland, runs down the whole of the West coast of Ireland at a total distance of 1600 miles (2600km) and is one of the longest coastal routes in the world. The Wild Atlantic Way is home to some unbelievable sights, including Fanad Head, Baltimore Beacon, the Ring of Kerry and The Cliffs of Moher. A truly breath-taking spectacle which you could spend an entire holiday exploring!
The Irish Famine
Every country has a low point, and despite Ireland having many, the Irish Famine is up there as one of our nations lowest ebbs. The Potato Famine, also known as The Great Hunger, ran from 1845 until 1852 and it is estimated that it caused 2 million refugees and 1 million deaths. It’s also estimated that it reduced the size of the population by as much as 25% and only now is the country nearing pre-famine levels in terms of population.
This might arguably be the main reason Ireland is so famous, because we exported so many people to other parts of the world only for them to constantly talk about “home” and “the old country”.
Ireland has seen periods of mass immigration, especially during times of hardship such as the Irish Famine. Immigration to America in particular existed for hundreds of years but started to increase in the 18th and 19th centuries. Similarly, Irish people sought to move to Canada and between 1825 and 1845 it is estimated that 60% of all immigration into Canada was Irish people!
Australia was also a top choice for Irish people, however the movement to Australia was later and it was estimated that there was 228,000 Irish settlers in Australia in 1891.
That tradition has continued today, for both good and bad reasons, with many young Irish travelling to all corners of the globe, but still with a particular preference for English speaking nations like the US, Canada and Australia.
This is just a tiny, tiny insight into some of the reasons why Ireland punches well above our weight on a global stage.
For a whole host of reasons, the Emerald Isle is famous beyond its natural reach. Long may it continue!