How Well Do You Know Ireland?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Ireland, the Emerald Isle ... A large number of Americans, Canadians, and Australians claim at least partial ancestry from this storied country (maybe more than actually have any Irish blood, frankly!) More than that, Ireland is a perpetually popular vacation destination, with visitors eager to see its medieval castles, green countryside, and homey pubs. 

Ireland has given the world some of its most extraordinarily talented artists, painters, actors, and musicians. It's also given us Bushmills whiskey and Guinness beer, clog dancing, and more specifically, "Riverdance." (Not all of us were grateful for that last one, tbh). But there are also misconceptions about Ireland. Is corned beef and cabbage really an Irish dish? What about shepherd's pie? Is your favorite "Irish" actor really Irish, or secretly British or Welsh?  Are there really no snakes on the Emerald Isle? Was Finn MacCool a real person? 

To help you get to the bottom of these misconceptions, or to prove your Irish savvy, we've created a quiz on the geography of Ireland, its history, its culture, and its famous people. So pour yourself a pint of Guinness, and settle in! (Note: this quiz is about the island overall. So in a question involving Irish cities, for example, an answer choice should not be rejected because it lies in Northern Ireland, not the Republic of Ireland).

What is the name of the Irish language?

Don't let them hear you say there's no Irish language! Gaelic, like many of the world's indigenous languages, was in danger of dying out. But today, it's mandatory to study in Irish schools.


What is the Gaelic name for Ireland?

Not surprisingly, the correct choice is "Eire." "Alba" and "Scotia" are alternate names for Scotland, while "Cymru" is Wales in the Welsh language.


Which of these is NOT a city in Ireland?

Cardiff is the capital of Wales. Waterford, meanwhile, is home to the famous type of crystal.


Which of these is the capital of the Republic of Ireland?

Dublin was actually founded by Viking invaders, and has been in foreign hands for much of its history. Nonetheless, it is the center of the Republic's civic life and culture.


How many provinces does Ireland have?

The most famous province is Ulster, because of the strife in Northern Ireland. The other three are Munster, Leinster and Connaught. The provinces are now cultural entities, not actual political ones. Think of "the South" and "the Midwest" in America.


What makes up the crust on a shepherd's pie?

A shepherd's pie is a pot pie with mashed or whipped potatoes smoothed over the top. This replaces the traditional pie crust made from wheat.


From what people are the Irish descended?

The Celts originated in continental Europe, not the British Isles. But they're now overwhelmingly associated with the Isles, and Ireland particularly. Just witness the "Celtic music" section of your local music store.


Which of these animals does Ireland not have?

Many people know the legend of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland. Lesser known is that wolves are now extinct there. Hunting was the cause of that.


The Irish bred the world's _______ dog.

Ireland gave the world the Irish wolfhound. As the name suggests, it was bred to hunt wolves -- and its size was necessary for that task.


Which of these separates Ireland from the rest of the UK?

The body of water between Ireland and the mainland UK changes names as you go south, from "the North Channel" to "the Irish Sea" to "St. George's Channel." But there is no "Aran Sea."


The "Great Famine" of 1845 - 1849 was caused by the failure of which crop?

The "Great Famine" is known outside Ireland as the "Irish Potato Famine," because a main cause was potato blight. Many rural families were dependent on the potato as a cheap food source, and were unprepared to survive without it.


By what name was the 1916 rebellion called?

Ireland recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Rising. The festivities were complete with such tourist items as "Choclamation" bars (a play on the "Easter Proclamation," the manifesto that accompanied the rebellion).


What event happened in 1921?

To say "north and south" doesn't quite express it -- geographically, Northern Ireland is quite small compared to the Republic. And the Republic of Ireland is a sovereign nation, whereas Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.


Which of these is NOT a traditional Irish food?

That's right, corned beef and cabbage is actually an Irish-American creation. In that sense, it's like pizza, which is often mistaken for Italian food.


What is Sinn Fein?

Sinn Fein was founded in 1905, and survived a split in 1970 (with a large number of members leaving to become the Workers' Party of Ireland). Sinn Fein is known for its left-wing politics and affiliation with the Irish Republican Army.


What does the name "Sinn Fein" mean?

Sinn Fein's name reflected the desire for self-rule that was achieved with the founding of the Republic.


Who was president of Sinn Fein from 1983 to early 2018?

Gerry Adams was a longtime power broker in Irish politics, even surviving an assassination attempt in 1984. He was replaced as Sinn Fein's president by Mary McDonald in February 2018.


Which of these Irish cities is furthest north?

Derry is a city in Northern Ireland, at a latitude of 55 degrees north. It's farther north even than the Northern Irish capital of Belfast.


How many counties make up Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland comprises only four counties. This is as opposed to 26 in the Republic of Ireland, which is substantially bigger.


"Rashers" is the Irish word for what?

Yup, if you order "bacon" in an Irish diner, you might get a blank stare from the waitress. It's worth knowing what's what on Irish menus, so you don't end up with something you didn't mean to order.


What are Dail Eireann and Seanad Eireann?

These are the lower and upper houses, respectively, of the parliament of the Republic. The parliament overall is called the "Oireachtas" in Gaelic.


Technically, what kind of beer is Guinness?

Light beer? Bite your tongue. Guinness is a dark, full-bodied stout. No word on whether it's actually "good for you," as its posters claimed.


Which of these celebrities is NOT Irish?

Mikkelsen is Danish. O'Connor is an Irish singer and Neeson an actor, while Seamus Heaney was the well-known poet who gave the world a new translation of "Beowulf" in 1999.


In legend, who was Finn Mac Cool?

Finn Mac Cool is a simpler spelling of Fionn Mac Cumhiall. This epic figure in Irish folklore is said to now sleep in a cave, waiting to awaken in Ireland's hour of greatest need. (Oh yeah? Where was he when Michael Flatley inflicted "Riverdance" on the world?)


Which of these cities is farthest south?

All of these cities are in the Republic of Ireland. Waterford, a port city, is located in the southeast.


When was Bushmills Whiskey founded?

All the above dates are important: the date of the granting of its first license, the date the distillery in Antrim County was built, and the date the existing distillery was rebuilt after a fire. Naturally, Bushmills puts the 1608 date on its labels. Any way you slice it, it's a venerable old business, and more than 100,000 people tour the distillery every year.


Off which coast would you find the Aran Islands?

The Aran Islands are west of Galway Bay. Their names are Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.


What is the name of the conflict in Northern Ireland from about 1969 to 1997?

"The Troubles" was the somewhat euphemistic name for the clash between North Ireland's loyalists (mostly Protestant) and those who supported a united independent Ireland (mostly Catholic). The Troubles came to an end with the passage of the Belfast Agreement, which included the decommissioning of paramilitary groups on both sides.


Which of these is the most successful Irish music act of all time?

U2 is the heavyweight here, as measured in sales of recorded music and concert tickets. They're not done making music yet, either.


What is the difference between white pudding and black pudding?

Yes, this is where tourists' claims to want "an authentic Irish dining experience" usually stop -- at black pudding. It's made from pork, pig's blood and oats.


Which of these ingredients does not belong in coddle?

Of course, people do experiment in the kitchen, particularly in the days of fusion cuisine. But this Irish comfort food is traditionally made with bacon, sausage, potatoes and onion.


Which of these writers wrote Finnegans Wake, The Dubliners and Ulysses?

Joyce was a giant in the modernist movement. He spent much of his adult life in continental Europe, but wrote mostly about the city of Dublin.


Maud Gonne was the muse of which Irish poet?

Yeats proposed to Gonne several times, and was always rejected. The sticking point between them was that he was not as committed to the cause of Irish independence as she was.


Dublin stands at the mouth of which river?

If you're visiting Dublin, you can cross the Liffey on the Samuel Beckett Bridge. It's named for one of Ireland's more prominent poet-playwrights.


Which of these universities would you find in Dublin?

This can be a little confusing, as there's also a Trinity College as part of Cambridge University in England. In a similar fashion, the University of Dublin established a college, Trinity College -- but since no other colleges were founded there, "Trinity College" and "University of Dublin" mean the same thing.


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