As the closest neighbours, the UK and Ireland have a long and fascinating history, from the spread of the Celtic culture to the invasion of the Norsemen and to the modern day. Being so close, elements of British and Irish cultures have been able to blend together in cities of both countries, but as you’d assume, the UK plays host to many more Irish-centric points of interest than Ireland does of British-focussed cultural touch points.
The ties between Ireland and particularly London once again came to the fore in January of this year, when the Hunterian Museum in the capital city agreed to remove a skeleton from its display. This skeleton belonged to Charles Byrne, otherwise known as the ‘Irish Giant,’ who measured 7’7’’, and it will now be removed from public display due to its purchase in 1783 being against the man’s wishes.
Even without the Irish Giant’s skeleton in the museum, London is still teeming with places to visit if you want a distinctly Irish experience or to see Irish heritage thriving in the UK’s capital.
Sports teams to Irish bars
One of the most prevalent staples of the Irish community planting roots in London is rugby union. Based in Brentford at the Gtech Community Stadium, the London Irish Rugby Football Club continues to compete in Premiership Rugby with an Irish Wolfhound, Digger, as the team’s mascot. The club was founded in 1898 for Irish countrymen to relax, enjoy sports, and gain education as a home away from home in London.
From a relatively simple concept of having a specialised Irish clubhouse to essentially taking over a portion of London, Kilburn is now recognised as the Irish capital of London. Nicknamed ‘County Kilburn,’ not only are there some great pubs to visit, such as the Sir Colin Campbell and McGlynns Bar, but the Kiln Theatre has also become home to many up-and-coming theatrical talents from across the Irish Sea. There’s even a grand tapestry documenting this slice of Irish history in London.
As alluded to above, one of the most famous sites of the Irish setting up shop anywhere in the world, from London to Andalucía, is the famous Irish pub. Serving dark ales against wooden décor, you know that you’ll get a friendly atmosphere and, usually, great music in an Irish pub. Between Mayfair and Holborn alone, you’ll find O’Neill’s, Waxy O’Connor’s, The Porterhouse, Philomena’s, and the Coach & Horses.
Is there much London in Ireland?
A big part of the history between Ireland and the modern UK is the Irish identity separating itself from the British, and being staunchly embedded in the nation’s own customs. It’s why they continue to benefit from being a part of the EU while the UK wallows in the quagmire of a post-Brexit landscape. So, there isn’t a whole lot of London or even particularly English spots to find in Irish cities.
However, plenty of the UK’s entertainment creations make it across the sea to the west. Directed and written by Brits Matthew Warchus and Dennis Kelly, respectively, Matilda the Musical only trailed Avatar: The Way of Water at the Irish box office by the seventh weekend of the year. In online entertainment, one of the biggest platforms for live casino gaming in the country has seen its London Roulette gain significant traction.
Produced by Evolution, London Roulette sets you in a distinctly British game, which you’d think wouldn’t have a whole lot of appeal in Ireland. However, it has managed to hold its own at the Ireland-only live casino, weighing in alongside the likes of Boom City, Dream Catcher, and Quantum Blackjack Live. Another Irish company, Algorithm, is also looking to further its futuristic offering with a London twist. In December 2022, it was reported that the company is seeking investment to develop its immersive Christmas Experience for Outernet London further.
Across London, you’re bound to find the distinct fingerprints of Irish culture, from sports clubs to bars and pubs, and while there’s not much going the other way, what is on offer delivers a little taste of the British capital.