Festivals: Year-Round Fun
The Irish love a good party. You’ll meet locals and fellow travelers at crowd-pleasing festivals that celebrate, well, everything Irish. Here are some of the best to keep in mind:
- Temple Bar Tradfest - Based among the bars, pubs and boutiques of the picturesque Dublin neighborhood of Temple Bar (i.e., Dublin’s “party central”) this major music festival will introduce you to traditional music and also feature “artists from the worlds of folk, nu-folk, and even (whisper it) rock and roll!”
- St. Patrick’s Day - Need we say more? Dublin turns emerald mid-March as it celebrates its patron saint and all things Irish. The festivities include special exhibits, plays, music and dance, and of course lively (read: probably a bit raucous) parades.
- Cuirt International Festival of Literature - The Irish take their literature very seriously, and this important gathering draws thousands to Galway every April. You can certainly expect readings by top writers, poetry slams and theatrical performances.
- The Sky Cat Laughs Comedy Festival - This world-class Kilkenny festival in early June draws the best comedic talent from around Ireland and far beyond. Mark your calendar! The only sight more entertaining than that of the Irish drinking and singing is the Irish laughing.
- Bloomsday - Knowledge of James Joyce is helpful but definitely not required to enjoy Dublin’s annual festival that celebrates this famed writer’s life and his iconic modern novel, Ulysses. Expect readings, performances and pub crawls where Joyce lovers and literati join ordinary Dubliners who cheerfully admit they’ve never read Joyce, but who nonetheless revel in their literary history and love of language.
- Willie Clancy Irish Music Festival - One of the most important music festivals in Ireland, this mid-July fest features dances, singing and performances from hundreds of students attending the prestigious Willie Clancy Summer School program based in Miltown Malbay, County Clare. For lovers of Irish music and traditional Irish dance, this is definitely an event worth a trip to western Ireland.
- Galway Races - It’s all about horses, eating, drinking and Mat Hatters at this popular gathering in late July.
- Kilkenny Arts Festival - This historic city - an important tourist site in itself - simply buzzes during ten days in mid-August when tens of thousands of people gather to experience plays, movies, literary exhibits and visual arts galore.
- The Fleadh Down - It’s one of the biggest cultural events in Ireland: more than 400,000 people came to hear the finals of this Irish traditional music competition.
- Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival - The name says it all and serious foodies wouldn’t think of missing this respected annual feast that includes music, entertainment and lots of Guinness.