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Ireland's first settlers arrived about 9,000 years ago as small communities of hunters and gatherers, but the first large settlements only arose in the Neolithic period (around 3,000 BC), and a great many remnants survive of the cultures developed in this period. These include first and foremost a fascinating range of cairns and other ceremonial graves. Not least of these are the great megalithic tombs of the Boyne Valley (Newgrange), which are truly unique monuments of European history. Newgrange, which pre-dates the pyramids of Giza, is astonishingly sophisticated in its architectural structure and artistic expression, and is a must on any visit to Ireland.

History Of ireland


One of the characteristics of the Irish for many generations has been the devout respect which they have accorded the relics of the past. And it is largely thanks to this respect that so much has been preserved from long extinct historical eras.


The Bronze and Iron Ages left a rich heritage of dwellings of an abundance and fascination rare in modern Europe. There are no fewer than 120 dolmens to be found, and the remains of nearly 20,000 Celtic 'ring forts', some in an almost perfect state of preservation, dot the countryside. The Celts dominated the island around the time of Christ. They reinterpreted the remains of the past, and their mythology is still amazingly alive in many colourful epics that relate the story of the countryside.


The 'Golden Age' of Irish Celtic civilisation is without doubt that of the early Christian period, from the 5th to the 8th centuries. At this time Irish influence spread throughout Europe, bringing literacy and Christianity to many areas of Central Europe. This Golden Age came to an end with the attacks by the Vikings in the 8th and 9th centuries, and the Norman invasions which succeeded soon after. By the 14th century Ireland had settled down as a mixed Gaelic-Norman society, however, and was counted among the leading nations of Europe.


Gaelic Ireland declined thereafter, and the period from 1600 was one characterised by a process of dispossession and colonisation. For the native population this was a catastrophic period, reaching its zenith with the Great Famine of the 1840s. On the other hand, the settled colony of English and Scottish 'planters' developed a vibrant economy and culture in the East and North. By the end of the 18th century Dublin featured as the second great city of the British Empire, reflected in its magnificent Georgian architecture and vigorous cultural life. In the 19th century, Belfast emerged as a vibrant industrial and commercial city.


In the late 19th century, the twin issues of land reform and a desire for political self-rule led to the emergence of an independence movement in the South of the country. An independent Free State emerged from a bitter war of independence in 1922. The majority Protestant population in the North resisted this development and succeeded in retaining Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom (UK).