Looking for a festival to complete your holiday? We’ve picked 25 of the best festivals around the island of Ireland to factor into your itinerary – or even plan a whole trip around.
As befitting a place with a lot of rain, the festival calendar tends to be concentrated in the summer months when it's (usually) drier. Don’t worry if that doesn’t suit though. There are countless other local festivities throughout the year, meaning you're likely to stumble across something whenever you travel.
Music festivals in Ireland to suit every taste
January: Temple Bar Tradfest, Dublin
A bright spot in what can be a gloomy month, expect an exciting schedule of traditional and folk artists playing gigs in venues all over the capital, including some unusual places like St Patrick’s Cathedral.
June: Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival, County Mayo
This intimate festival earns rave reviews from both locals and visitors, with acts often found jamming around the town during the day. The big names put on paid events in the evenings, but if you’re happy just to wander, you’ll find music for free in almost every pub in town.
August: All Together Now, Waterford
The new kid on the block already boasts a sell-out attendance and rave reviews from even the most seasoned festival-goers. The line-up is geared towards the late-20s-and-up crowd, making it a great choice for those who fear they’re ‘too old’ for the festival game.
August: Another Love Story, County Meath
The golden child of boutique festivals, you can spend a dreamy weekend enjoying a carefully curated programme of music, art and conversations in the idyllic surroundings of Killyon Manor and be back in Dublin in time for Sunday night.
August: Fleadh Cheoil
The world’s largest celebration of Irish music, language and dance is hosted in a different town every year and more than half a million people attend over the course of a week. There are musical contests and gigs on a jam-packed schedule or head to a céilí to see traditional Irish dancing.
December: Other Voices, County Kerry
This festival was once just a TV series showcasing artists before they became famous in the atmospheric surroundings of St James Church in Dingle. Now it’s turned into a sprawling boutique music festival, with most of the town’s tiny pubs transforming into venues. While it’s unticketed (and free), accommodation puts a natural limit on numbers so book your bed as early as possible.
March: St Patrick’s Festival, Dublin
Yes, it’s something of a cliche. Yes, locals do flee from the city centre come nightfall, leaving the visitors to their leprechaun hats. But Paddy’s Day in Dublin will always be something for your bucket list and with a little bit of local advice, you can have a great time.
June: Kilkenny Cat Laughs Comedy Festival
The ultimate weekend to see the very best of both Irish and international comedy acts in the relaxed atmosphere of Ireland’s medieval city. ‘Stray’ is a new fringe addition, where you can discover more off-the-wall podcast recordings, performance art and secret shows.
June: Cork Midsummer Festival
Take advantage of the longest days of the year to explore Cork city through an artistic lens. Definitely book in advance for one of the excellent site-specific theatre productions, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
July: Festival of Curiosity, Dublin
Celebrate all things to do with science with plenty of art, design and technology thrown in. While there are adult events, it’s a largely family-friendly programme full of play, audience participation and surprises.
July to August: Galway Races
Some of the best racing horses in the world are bred in Ireland so why not get a taste of the excitement over seven days of races. If you can only be there for one day, make it Thursday which is traditionally Ladies’ Day; if you get bored of the horses you can be entertained by the gamut of fashion on parade.
August: Cape Clear Island Storytelling Festival, County Cork
Gather in the country’s southernmost inhabited island to be captivated by the ancient but still vibrant art of storytelling. Even in August, you might have to brave some wild weather to walk between the main events but you’ll be rewarded with picturesque views and the cosy intimacy that can be achieved by a tall tale told in soft light.
August: Waterford Walls Street Art Festival
Waterford City’s regeneration in recent years has been helped in no small way by the team of artists responsible for bringing colour and creativity to the city on a large scale. Guided art trails and expert panel talks complement the vibrant artwork.
October: Halloween, Derry
While you’ll find celebrations of the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain all around the island, the city of Derry goes a step further with events for six entire days. An illuminated parade takes over the City Walls for three nights in the run-up to Halloween in an effort to banish the dark and supernatural.
Irish food festivals
May: Dublin Bay Prawn Festival
We’re all for a niche festival and this one showcases juicy, local seafood all the way from cod and chips to lobster – and, of course, prawns. Set in the atmospheric village of Howth, this is the perfect place for some al fresco fish.
May: Burren Slow Food Festival
This is one of the best festivals for the truly committed foodie. Full of talks and cooking demos, there’s also an emphasis on local produce, a surprising element in the barren surroundings of the Burren.
May/June: Bloom, Dublin
Although this is ostensibly a garden festival (and a beautiful one at that), there are only so many flowers you can admire on an empty stomach meaning for many the food is the real star of the show. As well as artisan stalls, you have the chance to meet Irish food producers and farmers.
August: The Big Grill, Dublin
Europe’s biggest barbecue and craft beer festival is based on a simple concept – good meat, vegetables and beer in the lush surroundings of Herbert Park. The one rule: all food must be cooked over a fire with only wood and natural charcoal.
September: A Taste of West Cork
Enjoy everything this foodie mecca has to offer over ten days in September. Local and organic are the two pillars of the festival, although plenty of guest chefs make the trip for workshops and special events.
September: Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival
Marking the beginning of Galway’s abundant oyster harvest, this event is responsible for introducing many foreign visitors to the joys of eating oysters from one hand with a creamy pint of stout in the other. As well as specialist seafood trails and accompanying entertainment, you’ll get a chance to peek into the World Oyster Opening Championship.
February: Ted Fest, Inis Mór, County Galway
Every weekend in dark February a group of priests, nuns and Elvises descend on the wild and wind-swept island of Inis Mór to celebrate all things related to the iconic sitcom Father Ted. Come armed with in-jokes and catchphrases or don’t come at all.
August: Puck Fair, County Kerry
Join the ancient revels as a wild mountain goat is crowned king of the village for one weekend only. The pubs are open almost 24 hours and live music, stalls and performances take over the streets.
August: Poc Fada, County Louth
‘The long puck’ is an annual tournament where the best hurling players in the country hit a sliotar (ball) up Annaverna Mountain and back, re-enacting a feat of mythological hero Cúchulainn. The final is in August but there are regional pucks earlier throughout the year.
September: Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, County Clare
Holding the dubious title of Europe’s largest singles festival, legend has it a meeting with traditional matchmaker Willie Daly will have you married within six months. While we can’t guarantee that, we can guarantee a lot of country music come nightfall and some crazy stories to take back home. An LGBT version called the Outing takes place the last weekend of September.
September: National Ploughing Championships
This may seem like another niche topic but, believe it or not, more than a quarter of a million people attend this agricultural show. Yes, you will see a ploughing contest and farming machinery stalls but there are also crafts, live music, sheep dog trials and a welly-throwing contest to enjoy too.