What is the National Symbol of Ireland? 

Every country has a national symbol and Ireland is no different.

National symbols are everywhere, and you’ll realise this with the Irish symbol as well. What starts hundreds or thousands of years before, eventually becomes intertwined with the everyday culture around us.

Let’s take a look at the history and meaning behind Irelands national symbol.

What is the National Symbol of Ireland?

The national symbol of Ireland is the harp.

The history of how the harp became the national symbol is interesting, with it beginning as early as 1185 following the Norman invasion of Ireland, and a visit through the country by Prince John and his royal clerk, Gerald of Wales.

Naturally, the newly arrived colonisers weren’t very complimentary about the native Irish they found here on the island, however, they were taken aback by their skilful harp playing, and from this point onwards Ireland became associated with the harp abroad. 

It is also said that during the 13th century, King Brian Boru led his army to battles carrying the harp before dying at the battle of Clontarf against the Vikings. 

Where Will You See the National Symbol of Ireland?

Nowadays, the most prominent and regularly seen location for the national symbol of Ireland is on the side of a Guinness pint glass!

That’s right, if you’re a regular drinker of a pint of the black stuff and hadn’t realised that symbol was the national symbol of Ireland, now you know.

The harp symbol also features on the Leinster flag (harp on green background), also known as the Naval Jack. This flag features as the Leinster flag, on the four provinces flag, and was also used by the United Irishmen in 1798.

You’ll also see the national symbol of Ireland appearing on Irish currency. 

What are the Other Symbols Associated with Ireland?

There are a few other Irish symbols that are associated with Ireland that shouldn’t be mixed up with the national symbol. 

Shamrock: this symbol is about as Irish as you can get but it isn’t the national symbol of Ireland. In short, this was used by Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, to teach the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the pagan population. 

Leprechaun: often said to be found at the end of a rainbow with a pot of gold nearby, the leprechaun is synonymous with Ireland, and this mysterious figure has been associated with the Emerald Isle for centuries. Nowadays the symbol can be considered offensive if used in the wrong context.

Claddagh Ring: this stunning piece of jewellery symbolises friendship and love and is often worn as a wedding ring. It originates from Claddagh, which is a small fishing village near Galway. 

Interesting Facts about Harps:

If the national symbol of Ireland fascinates you, you may wish to know some interesting facts about it. 

Did you know that:

  • Harps are considered to be one of the oldest instruments in the world, dating back to around 15,000BC
  • Harps range in size but can range from two and six feet in height
  • Harps can have as many as 90 strings
  • The three main parts of the harp are the neck, the sound box and the strings
  • Some harps have been carved from a single piece of wood 

What does a Harp Sound Like?

As a stringed instrument, the harp sounds similar to a guitar, but with many more strings, it has the ability to make high and low sounds. It is a very gentle and calming instrument that produces a mellow and laid-back sound.

The sound is generated by plucking the centre of the strings which causes them to vibrate which in turn generates the sound. 

The harp is synonymous with traditional Irish music, and specifically celtic music.

We hope you’ve found this interesting, and now you’ll think of our national symbol every time you reach for a pint of Guiness!