Ireland is an astonishing island in the farthest west of Europe. A visit to Ireland is a visit to the history, to the traditions and to the rich culture of a country which once was a centre of learning and civilization. The history of Ireland brings to our minds the Celts, mystical kings, Druids and religious figures like Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.
The island is composed by two main territories: Northern Ireland also known as Ulster and the Republic of Ireland called in ancient Gaelic Eire. Both parts have separate governments with a strong cooperation to keep the island as a united entity.
After years of political tension and religious differences Ireland is nowadays a modern country that looks to the future with the energy of young generations, full of ideas and inspiration.
Ireland has an amazing landscape with high cliffs, wild shores and green hills for which it is known as the emerald island. The beauty of Ireland’s scenery and the legends linked to its history are the origin of some of the world’s greatest literature and music.
There are two official languages in Ireland, English which is the language commonly used in large cities and know in all the country and Irish or Gaelic. The traditional Irish language (Gaelic) is still in use in villages in the west of the country and in many small communities. Gaelic is still taught in school but in cities like Dublin you will hardly hear people speaking it.
The Irish territory has two capital cities, Belfast in Northern Ireland and Dublin, capital city of the republic of Ireland.
The top tourist destinations in Ireland are Dublin, Belfast and Galway. You will find more information for visiting these and other destinations in Ireland in our travel guides for Irish cities.
Ireland is traditionally divided in four ancient provinces which were once kingdoms: Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster. Each of these four main Irish provinces contains several counties. The origins of the four provinces are linked to the first settlers of the emerald island and their names refer to the original tribes which occupied the territory hundreds of years ago.
The name of the province of Connacht comes from Connachta, the dominant tribe which settled in the north and west of the island.
Leinster comes from Laughin, one of the ancient Celtic tribes which arrived in Ireland and settled in the South and east of the territory.
The province of Munster derives from Mumbain which refers to the pre-Christian goddess Muma.
The name of the region of Ulster comes from the ancient land of Ulaidh.
Around 6 million people live in Ireland, most in the main cities: Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Derry and Galway as the Irish countryside is scarcely populated.