Festivals of culture
As the Irish people have a genuine sense of fun, they invented a festival to celebrate all sorts of occasions – the least you can do is join in…
Always looking for a good excuse to have a festival, the Irish now celebrate everything from literary pursuits to a love of oysters
Here are a few of the highlights throughout the year...
- Londonderry boasts the biggest Halloween Festival in the world with around 30,000 celebrating the ancient Celtic New Year every October. Grab a dodgy mask and join the party!
- The Belfast Festival at Queen’s is Ireland’s biggest International Festival and boasts an eclectic mix of music, talks, comedy, exhibitions and film.
- The Galway Races, the Rose of Tralee Festival, Puck Fair in Killorglin, and the Oul’ Lammas Fair in Ballycastle are world famous and offer a great chance to enjoy life and laughs with the locals.
- Food festivals are now a big draw in Ireland with local produce scoring high among international foodies. Head to the famous oyster festivals in Clarenbridge in Galway, or Hillsborough, County Down.
- Tune in to a spot of music with the Open House Festival in Belfast, the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera, or the Feile an Phobail in west Belfast. Or grab a pint and tap your feet to some cool tunes at the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival.
- If you prefer your festivals small and intimate, try the harp festivals in Roscommon or the rough and ready horse and pony fairs from Cavan to Cork. Even today, the horses are priced in guineas, and bought and sold with a spit in the hand.
- At the other end of the scale lies the Wexford Opera Festival with full-scale opera productions, concerts, recitals, talks, cabaret, fireworks, and, of course, parties.
- For something a little different, try the Magnus Barelegs Festival in Downpatrick offering a slice of Viking life, or the Eagle Wing Festival in Groomsport, County Down, which celebrates Ireland’s cultural links with America.
- Thesps should head to Dublin for both the Dublin Theatre Festival and the excellent Dublin Fringe Festival, with wildly exciting performances taking place in fabulous venues.
- Around March 17, the country turns a shade of green for a host of St Patrick’s Festivals. All over the country, from the Saint’s hallowed burial place in Downpatrick to the more carnival atmosphere of parades and exceptional fireworks in Dublin and Belfast.
- Literary lovers should head to Dublin in June for the intriguing Bloomsday Festival, where fans of Joyce’s Gargantuan Ulysses dress up in traditional gear and scoff old Dublin food like “nutty gizzards” and “urine-soaked kidneys”. Alternatively, seek out the delights of the Aspects Literature Festival in Bangor in September, an annual celebration of Irish literature with lectures, discussion and music.