Hands up who loves a good festival! I do! There’s something to suit all tastes from music and arts to walking and food. You’re spoiled for choice. To plan your visit to Ireland with a festival I thought it would be a good idea to do a round-up of the must go to festivals. Whatever month you visit Ireland there’ll always be some festival on.
Temple Bar Tradfest runs from the end of January in different locations around Dublin City. It’s a wonderful festival showcasing the cream of both Irish and international trad and folk artists while also providing a stage to promote the next generation of Irish musicianship.
Not only is the Dublin International Film Festival Ireland’s most popular film festival, but it’s also one of the top ten film festivals in Europe. Presenting the best in emerging Irish and international film, the festival also includes Q&A sessions, workshops, talks, exhibitions, and awards. The festival usually runs from the end of February to the beginning of March.
St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin City is not only one of the best St Patrick’s Festivals in Ireland, but also the most well known worldwide. St. Patrick’s Day falls on March 17th annually, and the festival usually takes place across five days. Of course, if you can’t make it to Dublin each city, town, and village in Ireland put on their own St. Patrick’s Day festival and parade, so wherever you are in Ireland you won’t miss out on the celebrations.
The Dingle Walking Festival is a popular winter event held in the middle of March. The festival offers a variety of guided coastal and hill walks in the area around the bustling town of Dingle at the western end of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry.
The West Waterford Festival of Food has been going strong since 2008. It’s set in the picturesque harbour town of Dungarvan in Waterford. If driving from Dublin it’ll take you a little over two hours and twenty minutes to reach. One of the best food festivals in Ireland, West Waterford Festival of Food is a celebration of locally produced food and drink. From trails and tours to talks and tasting experiences, the festival is also a family-friendly experience with outdoor entertainment and food markets that take place in a number of landmark sites around the town – from the Farmers Market at Gratton Square, to Quayside Market at Davitt’s Quay.
The Dublin Dance Festival runs around mid-May. It’s the leading dance event on the Irish arts scene. The festival brings together dance artists and choreographers from across the world to share vibrant contemporary dance with audiences in Ireland.
The Mayo International Choral Festival runs around the last week of May. The festival takes the form of several international male/female adult choirs travelling to Mayo to partake on a competitive and non-competitive basis. Their visit includes a number of evening and daily performances county-wide, tours of Mayo and a gala concert on Saturday night. The theme of the festival is to allow choirs to meet with other choirs, relax and enjoy a great weekend in the beautiful West of Ireland.
Uisneach Bealtaine Fire Celebration, which is one of the most sacred festivals in Ireland, takes place on UNESCO World Heritage Site of The Hill of Uisneach each May. The Hill of Uisneach is considered to be one the most sacred and historical place in Ireland. It’s also known as the centre of Ireland, because at its heart lies the ‘Aill na Mireann’, or the ‘Stone of Divisions’. Also known as the ‘Cat Stone’ this was considered the point where the five provinces of Ireland met. The fifth province, being a province of magic, imagination, an ‘otherworld’ so to speak, was known as Mide.
Listowel Writers’ Week Literary Festival runs around the first week in June. It’s an internationally acclaimed literary festival devoted to bringing together writers and audiences at unique events. The programme content includes workshops, competitions, readings, lectures, art exhibitions, music, and literary and historical tours.
Forbidden Fruit is a unique Dublin city centre festival that combines music, art, fashion, and food. Held on the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the festival-goer has a choice of music set across four stages.
Seafest is Ireland’s largest maritime festival that takes place at the Cork City Quays. It runs from the Friday to the Sunday of the June Bank Holiday from 10am to 6pm, making it an ideal free family-friendly festival. Celebrating all things maritime, the festival includes interactive activities for all ages. From boarding vessels to sailing them. From learning about the sea and sea creatures to dining on them! There’s a dedicated Kids Zone and a Music Stage.
The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival runs around the June Bank Holiday weekend. This festival has grown from a small event to an internationally acclaimed festival showcasing the very best in Irish and international comedic talent. The festival attracts in excess of 30,000 visitors to Kilkenny.
Immrama Lismore Festival of Travel Writing runs from the middle of June. My heart skipped a beat when I discovered this festival as I had no clue that a travel writing festival existed here in Ireland. Immrama is held in Lismore, Co. Waterford and has been dedicated to the art of travel writing, good music, and fine entertainment since its beginning in 2003.
Sea Sessions runs from the end of June. Held in Bundoran, Co. Donegal, it claims to be the beach party weekend of the year.
Castlepalooza Music and Arts Festival runs from the first weekend in July 2016. Held in Charleville Castle; as well as listening to the music, ticket holders have exclusive daily access to the castle where there art and film exhibitions, workshops and some surprise performances.
Expect 5 days of over 150 street performances from jaw-dropping international talent, feel-good family health and wellness area with Laya Healthcare, a live music stage with bop-worthy bands, an even bigger Just Eat Street food market with delicious global cuisines from barbecue to bratwurst to burritos, football skills arena and football freestylers, an imaginative play universe for kids and hands-on lego model building, children’s storytelling and creative writing, vintage funfair rides and a plethora of free spectacular programming for all ages.
Galway International Arts Festival runs during the middle of July. It’s a creative collision of performance, music, visual art, theatre, and spectacle. As well as organised events, the cobbled streets of Galway are transformed where every turn offers the possibility of a new adventure; surreal giant puppets snaking through the streets, enchanting music, enthralling musicians and awe-inspiring street theatre.
Longitude runs from the middle of July in Dublin’s Marlay Park. It is a no-camping festival. With acts such as The Lumineers, The Coronas and The National, it’s one not to be missed.
The Kilkenny Arts Festival usually runs around the beginning of August. It has gathered many of the world’s finest musicians, performers, writers, and artists. The city’s churches, castle, courtyards, townhouses, and gardens provide a magical setting for these unique performances.
This festival runs from the middle of August. It’s well-known here in Ireland and abroad if you’re of Irish descent. The festival incorporates seven fun-filled days of live music, children’s entertainment, fashion shows, workshops, markets, a circus, a funfair, and the Rose parade; all culminating in the RTE Rose of Tralee TV show broadcast. The TV show, which is broadcast around the world, focuses on 28 or so women from all over the world who are Irish or of Irish descent and one is picked to be the Rose of Tralee. It’s considered a multi-faceted event, which celebrates the many attributes of the modern Irish woman.
The festival runs from the end of August. It’s a four-day celebration, held in Waterville, Co. Kerry, packed with really creative events, premiers, screenings, parades, talks, workshops, entertainment, award ceremonies, the arts, lots of parties 1920′s style and much more. The festival includes some truly unique venues and events being provided in partnership with entertainers who are also true Chaplin admirers.
Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival runs from the beginning of September to the beginning of October. It claims to be the biggest singles festival in Europe, so if you’re looking for love this is the place to go 😉 It’s an unusual festival, in that matchmaking has died out in Ireland (thankfully!) but not in Lisdoonvarna. There are a number of events running during the six weeks and you’ll get a chance to meet Willie Daly, a third-generation matchmaker and one of Ireland’s last traditional matchmakers.
Launched in 1954 the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival is one of the longest-running festivals in Ireland. It is known nationally as one of the best festivals in Ireland and has been referred to as one of the best festivals in Europe. Along with lots of oyster eating, the festival celebrates with musical performances, street performances, talks, walks and the renowned ‘Irish and World Oyster Opening Championships’ also known as ‘shucking’ for those in the know.
The Dublin Theatre Festival runs from the end of September to the middle of October. It’s 18 days of world-class theatre and entertainment from home and abroad. The festival programme incorporates theatre, music, dance, family events, artist talks, public discussions and artist development programmes.
Bram Stoker Festival runs around the October Bank Holiday Weekend in Dublin. This eerily exciting festival is inspired by the heritage of world-famous Dublin horror novelist Bram Stoker and his notorious novel Dracula.
Guinness Cork Jazz Festival runs around the October Bank Holiday Weekend. This is Ireland’s biggest and longest established jazz event and has taken place annually since 1978. Each year the festival attracts hundreds of musicians and many thousands of music fans to the city for a feast of jazz of all kinds.
Mayo Dark Skies Festival takes place along the Wild Atlantic Way in the towns of Newport, Mulranny and Ballycroy in County Mayo. This three-day festival includes talks, workshops, walks, and of course stargazing. From storytelling by torchlight in ‘Teepee an Seanchai’ (a Seanchai is a traditional Irish storyteller) to stargazing walks along the Great Western Greenway, Mayo Dark Skies Festival is about three communities coming together to educate, entertain and enliven the natural skies of the Wild Atlantic Way. Learn about astronomy, science and the environment. Witness the beauty of the natural dark skies of Mayo (there are over 15,000 hectares of it) and how to preserve them.
Sneem International Storytelling and Folklore Festival runs from the middle of November. It’s a weekend of storytelling and folklore with lectures, story swaps, walks, and concerts.
Subtitle European Film Festival runs from the end of November in Kilkenny. The festival showcases the most popular European films from recent years, and centres around actors and casting directors, closing with the Angela Awards on the final Sunday in The Set Theatre.
Winterval runs from the end of November to the day before Christmas Eve. It is a delightful Christmas festival for the young and young at heart and is packed with seasonal events and activities set in unique heritage sites around Waterford City. Winterval takes its inspiration from the enchanting Christmas markets throughout Europe, bringing the collective sights, sounds and festive charms to Ireland’s oldest city.
New Year’s Festival Dublin is made up of three celebratory events at Custom House Quay. These are all ticketed events. The Countdown Concert which takes place at Custom House Quay at 8pm has a limited number of tickets on sale. It usually features renowned Irish and international music acts. The Liffey Lights Midnight Moment Matinee takes place between 6pm and 7pm and is a build up to The Liffey Lights Midnight Moment. This takes place from 11.30pm. Both of these events are free but tickets are essential and must be booked in advance. If you’d like to ring in the new year in Dublin City illuminated then these Liffey Lights events should be on your list. Expect a spectacular display of lasers and aqua beams, DJs, musicians, aerial and aquatic acrobats – all performing and welcoming a new year on the waters of the River Liffey.
Have you been to any festivals in Ireland? What are your favourites?