Fact 1: There’s time, and then there’s Irish time
Think time moves slower in Ireland? It once did. The Statutes (Definition of Time) Act 1880 defined Dublin Mean Time as the legal time in Ireland until 1916. This was set at Dunsink Observatory outside Dublin, and was 25 minutes 21 seconds behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
So when we say we like to take things at our own pace here in Ireland, we really mean it!
Fact 2: The Vanishing Lake
Loughareema is definitely a rather peculiar lake. Located in the heather-strewn hummocks outside Ballycastle in County Antrim, tales of phantom carriages and the ghost of a restless colonel date back to 1898. But even stranger HAS to be how the lake vanishes and reappears on its own.
We think it's magic, but the deception is actually geological: a hidden plug-hole fills and drains with peat and rain water. Now you see it…
Fact 3: Saint Patrick and his Snakes
We all know the legend of Saint Patrick: slave-turned-saint sees God on Slemish Mountain in County Antrim and banishes the snakes from Ireland. Or did he?
According to scientists, it was the Ice Age and not divine intervention that rid the island of these cold-blooded serpents. The real likelihood is that snakes were symbolic of Patrick divesting Ireland of pagan rituals and beliefs. When it comes to St Patrick, we're not short of a legend or two. In Clonmel, County Tipperary, seek out St Patrick's Well. Filled with water, it apparently NEVER freezes over! But that's another story...
Fact 4: The Magic Road
Roll up, roll up! Ireland has back-roads and then it has roll-up-backwards-roads. This bizarre phenomenon sees vehicles moving themselves uphill backwards. The Comeragh Mountains in County Waterford and the Cooley Peninsula in County Louth host two of the enchanted spots.
Why does this happen? Some put it down to natural magnets in the earth, others believe it to be a matter of perspective, and there are those who cite fairies as the cause. Not quite sure what to believe, actor Andrew McCarthy went on a quest to find the Magic Road.
Fact 5: Fairy Forts
Banshees, leprechauns and vampires are regular characters in Irish lore but it’s the fairies, above most, who left their mark on the landscape.
Fairy forts, such as that at Dooneva in County Clare, are circular earthen mounds, which tradition claims are imbued with Druid’s magic. And woe is you if you ever disturb them. Legend has it that the leader of a group of men working to level earth at Dooneeva fell ill and died. His wife, a wise woman, brought him back to life magically.
Spoiler alert: In truth, these mounds are remnants of ancient dwellings from the late Iron Age so are less to do with the winged creatures and more to do with ancient civilisation! And that fellow at Dooneeva? Maybe it was a bad dose of man flu?
Fact 6: Guinness Bubbles
Guinness is special in more ways than one. The beloved black stout takes exactly 199.50 seconds to pour the perfect pint and has been brewed in Dublin since 1759.
But perhaps its most unique characteristic is that its bubbles sink rather than rise. The reason for this lies in the shape of the glass, which causes the bubbles to rise in the centre and a downward vacuum at the sides. We’ll just let that sink in…
Fact 7: Irish guillotine
While the world may be more familiar with the guillotine as, ahem, a tool created by our Gallic neighbours, it actually made an appearance in Ireland long before the French Revolution.
This notorious beheading device was used in 1307 to execute a man named Murcod Ballagh near Merton in County Galway – over 500 years earlier than in France. Immortalized in a woodcut (an old printing technique) in 1577, it’s recognized as one of the earliest examples of a guillotine ever seen.
Less French Revolution, more Irish invention, perhaps?