Top 10 things you didn’t know about Ireland

March 17 marks St Patrick’s Day. Happy St Paddy’s Day to all. We all know St Patrick was meant to have driven snakes from the Emerald Isle and that the biggest St Patrick’s Day parades are happen everywhere in the world except Ireland but here are ten facts you may not know about those blarney stone kissing people.

1. Leaping Leprechauns

Did you know there was a museum devoted to leprechauns? Whilst this character may be somewhat neglected in Irish Mythology, Dublin has opened The National Leprechaun Museum so visitors can truly get to know these tricksters of mythology. The museum is set out like a story book with 12 chapters. Each offers an interactive experience from a journey deep beneath the Giant’s Causeway through to a trip to the otherworld on fairy hill. You may even find your own pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

leprechaunmuseum.ie

Giant’s Causeway. ThinkStock

2. The marriage of Dracula’s creator

A visit to St Ann’s Church is a must for history buffs and philanthropists alike. This Georgian church has a Victorian exterior and a classical Georgian interior as it was refronted in 1868. It’s true lure lies in those who have been through its gates. Oscar Wilde was baptised within the current parish, Bram Stoker author of Dracula was married here in 1878 and philanthropist, Thomas Barnardo went to Sunday school here.

Yet even more intriguing are the loaves of bread upon the wooden shelves. Since 1723 the church has made daily bread available to those who choose to receive it because of a bequest of 13 pounds per year made by Lord Newton to provide fresh loaves for the poor. Even locals often buy bread and put it on the shelves, a great initiative, although not sure if it’s meant for poor backpackers.

stann.dublin.anglican.org

3. Dublin, is the city of Love

Dublin could be named the city of love as St Valentine, a rival for St Patrick for one of the world’s most famous Saints has his remains buried in Whitefriars Street Carmelite Church. They were discovered in the early 1800s in Rome before Pope Gregory XVI gve them to a Dublin priest. They are housed in a shrine at the church underneath a statue of St Valentine holding a crocus flower.

whitefriarstreetchurch.ie

4. Dine and stay with Irish aristocrats

Members of the lower classes can now see how the other half lives on an aristocrats tour of Ireland organised by Adams and Butler.

Step into the world of Desmond Guinness, nephew of Nancy Mitford, who scathingly referred to the lower classes as MIFs, or Milk In Firsts, through to Brendan Parsons, 7th Earle of Rosse and brother in law of Queen Elizabeth whose home at Birr Castle is filled with historical trinkets, secret passageways and revolving doors in book cases and fireplaces.

This thirteen day tour of how the other half live begins in Dublin and includes caviar companions such as The Earl of Erne at Crom Castle, Desmond Guinness at Lexlip Castle, Lord Rathdonnell, Countess Bernstorff at her home Berkley Forest as well as staying overnight in the homes of Lord and Lady Dunleath at Ballywalter Park, and the Earl of Carrick’s stately home Mount Juliet, now a hotel, overlooking the River Nore in Kilkenny.

One can join an itinerary or have their own tailor made.

irishluxury.com

5. Irish cheeses are going off

Ireland now has a blooming cheese making industry to rival that of its European cousins. Forty years ago Ireland lacked a living tradition of farmhouse cheese-making, although references to cheese-making could be found in early Irish literature. Cheese-making did not become a major industry in Ireland because farms focussed upon butter producing rather than cheese. Cheese-making took off in Ireland in the 70s and in 2012 185,000 tonnes of cheese was produced.

Visit the ultimate cheesemongers, Sheridans to sample the most delicious Irish Farmhouse cheeses, including Durrus, Clonmore, Coolea and Cooleeney Raw Milk Cheese.

sheridanscheesemongers.com

Newgrange. ThinkStock

6. The world’s most expensive cocktail served in Belfast

The Merchant Hotel, Belfast has already gone down in history as selling the world’s most expensive cocktail when it served and sold out of $1400 Mai Tais in 2007, making it into the Guinness book of records. In 2012 they again sold out of their $850 Mai Tais made from an extremely rare bottle of 50-year-old Jamaican rum barrelled in 1962 to celebrate Jamaica’s independence. The rum in question is Appleton Estate 50 Year Old fashioned. The Merchant Hotel bar has also won World’s Best Bar, World’s Best Drinks Selection and World’s Best Cocktail Menu.

themerchanthotel.com

7. A tomb older than the Pyramids

Forget the Giza Pyramids, and Stonehenge, County Meath boasts the Newgrange passage tomb which is 1000 years older than Stonehenge and 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids.

This tomb is more a temple than a tomb built around 3200 BC. It covers an area over one acre which is retained by 97 kerbstones some richly decorated . It is part of a group of monuments known as Brú na Bóinne built along the River Boyne in County Meath.

newgrange.com

8. Japanese Whalers banned from Ireland’s waters

You won’t find Japanese whaling ships in Irish waters, nor any Norwegian ones. In 1991 Ireland declared its waters to be a sanctuary for dolphins and whales which means they are ideal for whale watching. This industry is developing along the south west coast where you can see regular citings of Fin Whales which are smaller only to Blue Whales.

whalewatchwestcork.com

9. The most popular attraction in Ireland is beer!

Over 1 million visitors came to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin in 2012. There are seven floors in the Storehouse which offer a peek into the Guinness brand and company including standing at the bottom of the world’s largest pint glass which if full would hold 14.3 million pints of Guinness.

guinness-storehouse.com

Guinness Storehouse

10. St Patrick rates a mention

If you like looking at burial grounds of Saints then Down Cathedral is the ultimate to rival St Valentine’s remains. He is buried in the grave yard of Down Cathedral, a Church of Ireland cathedral which stands on the site of a Benedictine Monastery, built in 1183. The Cathedral itself is magnificent with its stain glass windows, box pews and organ.

downcathedral.org

More information Tourism Ireland: ireland.com/en-au

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