Ireland’s history doesn’t start in the Middle Ages or with the invasions of the Normans, but goes back several millennia.
The first known human settlements on the Emerald Isle date from around 8,000 BC. That marked the start of prehistoric Ireland, a period that lasted until about 500 AD, when Gaelic Ireland emerged and Christianity arrived. In other parts of Europe, official historic record keeping started with the invasion of the Romans, but because they never set foot in Ireland, Irish historic records don’t start until the start of the sixth century and the beginning of Irish Christianity.
Remains of prehistoric Ireland can still be seen all over the country in the form of burial mounds, stone circles, ring forts and tombs.
The history of “modern” Ireland began in the 12th century with the Norman invasion, which was backed by Pope Adrian IV, the only English Pope in history. The invasion was meant to strengthen Roman control of the Irish Church and was carried out by King Henry II, who at the time ruled England, Wales, Brittany, Normandy and Flanders.
Henry II was responsible for building several castles and strongholds, in addition to the numerous castles, formerly owned by local lords and kings, that were already there.
This was the beginning of seven centuries of English rule in Ireland, a period that ended in 1922 when the independent Irish Free State was established.
The wealth of Irish heritage is what attracts many visitors to the country every year. Ireland is a country of legends, leprechauns and fairy tales, which all date from prehistoric Ireland, and also of powerful castles, beautiful palaces and ancient ruins. As one of the oldest Christian nations in the world, Ireland is dotted with abbeys, monasteries, churches and cathedrals as well; some are ruins standing somewhere in a rural field, others are still very much in use.
May the following ten photos of the beautiful and fascinating Irish heritage inspire you to visit this ancient and friendly country!
10 Irish Heritage Photos
There’s only one proper way to explore Ireland and that’s by car hire or motorhome rental.