Ballygally Castle in County Antrim, currently a hotel owned by a major chain, is allegedly one of the most haunted places in the country. Lady Isobel Shaw, whose husband built the castle in 1625, is said to knock on doors at night and then disappear. While alive, Ms. Shaw was locked in her room by her husband and starved, until she leapt to her death from a window.
Ireland's top star in the sport of hurling is Sean Og O'Hailpin, who was born to an Irish father and Fijian mother on the tiny island of Rotuma, an isolated atoll about 400 miles north of Fiji. O'Hailpin, whose very Pacific appearance is a bit of an anomoly in Irish sports, has been declared "Hurler of the Year" and "Sports Personality of the Year" by RTE. He plays for the Cork County team.
A village known as "Dun Bleisce" recently won the right to change it's name back to an old-time local favorite. The town will now be called "Fort of the Harlot," as it was in the distant past. After a variety of names were used to describe the town over the years, the government christened it "An Dun," which translates simply into "The Fort," in 2003. But a recent petition by townspeople has prompted officials to put "the Harlot" back into the name. The historical harlot involved here may have simply been a powerful woman, and not a harlot in the modern sense of the word.
Late Show host David Letterman once described the uilleann pipes as "a sofa cushion hooked up to a stick."
On April 15th, Mike Morgan of County Donegal was crowned Irish National Surfing Champion after a two-day competition in the brutally cold waters off Easkey, County Sligo.
The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia, in County Galway.
An odd Irish birthday tradition is to lift the birthday child upside down and give his head a few gentle bumps on the floor for good luck. The number of bumps should allegedly correspond to the child’s age plus one.
So long paddy wacker. Wooden truncheons, which have been carried by Irish police since the 1800s, will finally be phased out this year, and replaced by lightweight retractable batons. The truncheons, with notches, fancy carvings and names cut into them, were often passed down generations of gardai.
The original Guinness Brewery in Dublin has a 9,000 year lease on it's property, at a perpetual rate of 45 Irish pounds per year.
IRELAND FACT: A ROUGH HANGOVER CURE...I’ll just take the hangover, thanks: One traditional Irish cure for a hangover was to be buried up to the neck in moist river sand.
The island of Montserrat is sometimes called "The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean," and has a shamrock carved above the door of the governor's home, areas called Cork and Kinsale, and people with names like O'Garra and Riley. This is because the island was originally settled in 1633 by Irish-Catholics, who came from the nearby island of St. Kitts. (After a major volcanic eruption from 1995 - 2003, Montserrat is now partially open to tourism again.)
IRELAND FACTS: HANDMADE GOLF COURSE...County Mayo's Carne Golf Links, which was built between 1987 and 1993, was constructed mainly by farmers using hand spades and rakes. Read "Carne, A Northwestern Gem"
Celtic rock group the Pogues were originally called "Pogue Mahone," which translates into "kiss my a**" in Gaelic.
The "Oscar" statuette handed out at the Academy Awards was designed by Cedric Gibbons, who was born in Dublin in 1823. Gibbons emigrated to the US, and was considered MGM’s top set designer from the twenties right on through the fifties, working on over 1,500 films. Besides designing the coveted prize, Mr. Gibbons managed to win a dozen of them himself.
The Irish Academy of Engineers has recommended that a tunnel be built under the sea linking Ireland and Wales. The IAE has offered a futuristic vision of trains running at speeds of 150 mph between Rosslare and Fishguard, Wales. Currently, there is no financial backer for such a project.
Couples in Ireland could marry legally on St. Brigid's Day (February 1st) in Teltown, County Meath, as recently as the 1920’s by simply walking towards each other. If the marriage failed, they could "divorce'" by walking away from each other at the same spot, on St. Brigid’s day the following year. The custom was a holdover from old Irish Brehon laws, which allowed temporary marriage contracts.
One of the most popular radio shows in rural Ireland is still the weekly broadcast of local obituaries.
An old legend says that, while Christ will judge all nations on judgment day, St. Patrick will be the judge of the Irish.
The last witch in Ireland was supposedly Dame Alice Kytler, born in Kilkenny in 1280. All four of her husbands died, and she was accused of poisioning them. Today you can dine at Kytler's Inn in Kilkenny, which operates in her old home.
The word quiz was allegedly invented in the 1830’s by a Dublin theater owner named Richard Daly, who made a bet that he could make a nonsense word known throughout the city in just 48 hours. Legend says that Daly gave his employees cards with the word “quiz” written on them, and told them to write it on walls all over the city. Some historians argue that the word was already in use at this time, but most agree that it did not acquire it’s current definition – "to question or interrogate" – until sometime in the 19th century.
The tune of the "Star Spangled Banner" was composed by the great blind harper Turlough O’Carolan, who died about 35 years before the American revolution.
Medieval laws in Ireland allowed a man to divorce his wife if she damaged his honor through infidelity, thieving or “making a mess of everything.”
“Tallaght” in Dublin is an old name that means “The Plague cemetery.”
Killyleagh Castle, in County Down, Northern Ireland, is the oldest occupied castle in Ireland. Built in the 13th century, it is still in use as a private home.
Temple Bar district in Dublin got its name from Sir William Temple, whose home and gardens were located there in the 17th century ("bar" happens to be a common Anglo-Saxon name for a gatehouse).
According to tradition, a wedding party should always take the longest road home from church.
Ernest Shackleton, famed for his participation in the 1901-1904 Antarctic expedition across the Ross Ice Shelf, was born in Kilkea, County Kildare.
The first American general to die in The Revolution was Richard Montgomery, who was born in Donegal.
Aran Island sweaters have a variety of "family weaves." These were developed because when a fisherman drowned, his sweater would often be the only thing washed up on shore. The distinctive weave would tell a family their loved one had been lost.
**For lots more offbeat, current facts and updates about Ireland's culture from all over the web, visit our Ireland Blog**
Many visitors rent authentic, quaint Ireland country cottages to experience the friendly side of Ireland, known for its lively people and wonderful spirit. Stay in a timeshare cottage like Kilarney Country Club in County Kerry. Here individual stone cottages reminiscent of a bygone era bring you close to fields of Heather. Or try the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel resort on the South Dublin Coast.