Ireland is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, located west of Great Britain. It has a surface area of 84.421 km², making it the third largest island in Europe, and the 20th largest on Earth. It is named after Ériu, a goddess in Irish mythology. The island is divided between the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign nation that takes up around 80% of the island and Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom.
Ireland is known for its green plains and is often nicknamed the Emerald Isle. The central plains are surrounded by mountainous areas. The coasts of Ireland tend to consist of rocky cliffs and beaches.
Historians believe that the first people settled Ireland around 6000 B.C to 3500 B.C. Only around 700 B.C. did the Celts, a diverse and technologically advanced culture coming from central Europe begin to settle the island, where they remained for 2000 years. The Romans called the island Hibernia.
The island was converted to Christianity in the 5th century, with Saint Patrick as the central figure. The island was invaded by the Vikings in the 9th century, and later became part of England in the 16th and 17th century. Only in 1949 did a part of Ireland become fully independent from the United Kingdom. North Ireland remaining as part of the UK has caused for political tension, and the future of North Ireland is still unknown.
Culturally, both parts of Ireland are pretty similar, with the Irish rugby team containing players from both the north and south. Gaelic football is the most popular sport on the whole island. The languages spoken on the island are English and Irish, also known as Gaelic.
The island has three World Heritage Sites: the Brú na Bóinne, an important prehistoric landscape with passage graves; Skellig Michael a twin-pinnacled crag with a Gaelic monastery founded between the 6th and 8th centuries; and the Giant’s Causeway, an area of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns.