Ireland may well be a small island on the western fringes of Europe, but it has an identity all of its own. The native language may no longer be spoken widely but many words and phrases have been adopted into their version of the English language. The climate may not rival that of Florida or the Caribbean, but when the sun shines, it can be the most beautiful place on earth. It is steeped in as much culture and history as anywhere on the planet with monuments older than the pyramids and a civil war that pitted families against each other and ultimately led to peace. Hundreds of people might not tune into the country's biggest sporting event, but Ireland is home to the fastest field game in the world. There is Céad Míle Fáilte for every one who visits the shores.
Céad Míle Fáilte
Literally meaning "A Hundred Thousand Welcomes", this is what every tourist gets when he or she comes to Ireland. They certainly don't go for the weather (which is a conversation starter in Ireland), but every visitor does leave the country in love with the people and how well they were received. While the phrase, itself, is rarely used, the sentiment it carries has echoed throughout time and will continue to do so.
The climate of Ireland can be summed up as being mild, moist and changeable with abundant rainfall and a lack of temperature extremes. It is defined as a temperate oceanic climate, a classification it shares with most of northwest Europe. The country receives generally warm summers and mild winters, and is considerably warmer than other areas on its latitude. This is due to the fact it lies in the Atlantic Ocean, and as a result is warmed by the North Atlantic current all year. The influence of the North Atlantic current also ensures the coastline of Ireland remains ice-free throughout the winter. The climate in Ireland does not experience extreme weather, with tornadoes and similar weather features being rare.
In broad terms, Ireland is regarded as one of the Celtic nations of Europe. This puts it in the same class as nations like Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Mann and Brittany. But Ireland also comprises elements of the more recent Anglicisation and Americanisation as well as participation in a broader European culture. This combination of cultural influences is visible in the intricate designs termed Irish interlace or Celtic knotwork. Religion has played a significant role in the cultural life of the island since ancient times. Since the 17th century plantations, religion has been the focus of political identity and divisions on the island). Ireland's pre-Christian heritage fused with the Celtic Church following the missions of Saint Patrick in the 5th century.
The island of Ireland is located in the north-west of Europe, separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea and the North Channel. A ring of coastal mountains surrounds low plains at the centre ofthe island. The highest of these is Carrauntoohil in County Kerry, which rises to 1,038 m (3,406 ft) above sea level. Western areas can be mountainous and rocky with green panoramic vistas. The River Shannon, the island's longest river at 386 km (240 mi) long, rises in County Cavan in the north west and flows 113 kilometres (70 mi) to Limerick city in the mid west.
Ireland is a sport mad nation and punches well above its weight in terms of international sporting icons. The island of Ireland fields a single international team in most sports, excluding soccer. Ireland's rugby team is among the top eight in the world, while both soccer teams are usually on the cusp of qualification for major tournaments. Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland in terms of match attendance and community involvement, with about 2,600 clubs on the island. Swimming, golf, aerobics, soccer, cycling, Gaelic football and billiards/snooker are the sportingactivities with the highest levels of playing participation. In recent years, ice hockey has seen an increase in popularity, notably with the Belfast Giants ice hockey team in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has also produced two World Snooker Champions. Many other sports are also played and followed, including basketball, boxing, cricket, fishing, greyhound racing, handball, hockey, horse racing, motor sport, show jumping and tennis.