Ireland’s calendar is popping with big, cosy, quirky, arty, sporty, foodie festivals from January to December. Here are 30 to try.
Tradfest at Werburgh Street Church (Dublin city)
1. : Fiddles, flutes, bodhráns banjos, traditional pubs, the finest musicians and some of the finest traditional Irish music you’ll ever hear. TradFest, Dublin (January)
2. : Since 2003 the festival has welcomed the likes of Russell Crowe and Al Pacino and has premiered movies such as Once and In Bruges. Jameson Dublin Film Festival (February/March)
3. : Undoubtedly the biggest day of celebration on the island, expect parades, céilís, food festivals and LOTS of green. St Patrick’s Day, All Island (March)
4. : Verdant lakelands, hills, valleys, spongey bogs and grand estates make Fermanagh a walker’s wonderland. This festival proves it. Fermanagh Walking Festival, County Fermanagh (March & October)
5. : The heavenly sounds of a choral competition held everywhere from stunning cathedrals to town halls. What’s not to like? Cork International Choral Festival, Cork city (April-May)
6. : County Clare’s Burren is sublime all year round, but blooms particularly beautifully in spring. Burren in Bloom, County Clare (April-May)
7. : Five days coarse fishing in the beautiful local loughs of Leitrim’s lush lakelands. Lovely. Ballinamore Coarse Angling Festival, County Leitrim (May)
The Mourne Mountains, County Down
8. : A trip to the Sunny South East for a feast of succulent seafood, Wexford strawberries and some seriously tasty craft beers. Wexford Food and Wine Festival, County Wexford (May)
9. : Expect gigs galore, ‘more than one MASSIVE session’, masterclasses, workshops with even churches hosting live shows. Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, County Mayo (June)
10. : Arguably the island’s most visually stunning mountain range, there’s no better way to explore the original Narnia than by foot during the festival. Mourne International Walking Festival, County Down (June)
11. : Whether you’ve made it through the masterpiece that is Ulysses or not, Bloomsday is still barrels of craic. Joycean tours, readings at selected locations and meals straight from the book are the only way to celebrate James Joyce in his very city. Bloomsday, Dublin city (June)
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Bloomsday shenanigans, Dublin city
12. : Surf’s up (as always) in Bundoran along with live shows, beach volleyball, tag rugby, epic nights and more. Sea Sessions Surf and Music Festival, County Donegal (June)
13. : An arty party programme busting at the seams with literary events, theatre, classical music and some remarkable venues (Borris House, anyone?). Carlow Arts Festival, County Carlow (June)
14. : Did you know: Galway is one of five UNESCO Cities of Film? No surprise then, that its Film Fleadh is one of the friendliest yet edgiest film festivals of the year. Galway Film Fleadh, Galway city (July)
Hail King Puck!
16. : A more intimate, local version of Kerry's Rose of Tralee, this is small-town Ireland at its best. Friendly family fun with a few surprises. Mary from Dungloe International Festival, County Donegal (July)
17. : A warrior, a king and a hero – no other festival (or place) celebrates the legendary Brian Ború’s story with more passion. Féile Brian Ború, Counties Clare and Tipperary (July)
18. : Parades, horse fairs, live music, workshops and a goat being crowned king. No, really… Puck Fair, County Kerry (August)
19. : From the crowning of the King and Queen of ginger to most freckles per square inch, the Redhead Convention is a fun and fiery event for redheads everywhere. Irish Redhead Convention, County Cork (August)
20. : Hosted by Ireland’s ONLY remaining matchmaker and immortalised in song by Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, County Clare (August) Christy Moore, this is love with side-orders of craic, music, dancing and dining. Recently established LGBT offshoot, The Outing (October), is another romantic string to the festival’s bow bringing the glamour via club nights live music and some of the finest drag acts in Ireland.
Everyone should be in love, all their lives
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, Derry-Londonderry
21. : Held in a different location each year, the Fleadh Cheoil is traditional Irish music… but competitive. Don’t expect a tense atmosphere, but do expect live outdoor performances, exclusive shows, theatre and plenty of pub sessions. Fleadh Cheoil (August)
22. : Award-winning cheeses, hand-made chocolates, organic sausages, baked treats and a generous collection of Ireland’s finest chefs. Hungry? This is for you. Taste of Cavan, County Cavan (August)
23. : Family friendly combining a Teddy Bears’ Picnic, crab fishing, food stalls, dance classes, and, of course, oysters. Bonus: Carlingford is one of Ireland’s prettiest towns. Carlingford Oyster Festival, County Louth (August)
24. Dublin Festival Season, Dublin city (September-October): Dublin Fringe, Open House, Bram Stoker Festival and more. Two months and up to eight world-class festivals. Score!
25. : Storytelling is a typically Irish skill and hearing some of the finest myths on an isolated southern island is sure to send shivers down your back. Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival, Cape Clear Island, (September)
26. : Fright-night with a family-friendly edge in the walled city. Not dressing up? You’ll be the only one! Derry-Londonderry Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival, Derry-Londonderry city (October)
27. : Dingle was already perfect to begin with, but a food festival boasting epic eats in such a relaxed, typically charming Kerry atmosphere is the icing on the cake. Dingle Food Festival, County Kerry (October)
28. : An historically rich medieval city hosts an esoteric subtitle film festival? Yes. Please. Subtitle Film Festival, Kilkenny city (November)
29. : Belfast’s food scene is about the most exciting in Europe right now. It’s drink scene is right up there, too, as this deliciously different festival will testify. Belfast Beer and Cider Festival, Belfast city (November)
Newgrange Passage Tomb, County Meath
The solstice creates its own communal festival atmosphere, if one laced with a sense of purpose. Everyone present wishes to bask in a golden beam and feel that unique Solstice sun on their cold face.
30. : Pre-dating the pyramids, the sun-worshipping solstice at Newgrange is undoubtedly the oldest festival in Ireland. Only lottery winners will be ushered into the tomb's inner chamber for the organic lightshow. The Winter Solstice, County Meath (December) Enter here.
31. Christmas Horse Racing Festivals, Various Counties (December): Turkey eaten, pudding munched and presents played with. What next? Thrills, spills and a winner or two (hopefully) at one of the island’s countless Christmas horse racing events.
Come for the festival, stay for the cities!
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