Festivals and events
Ireland has a plethora of annual festivals, ranging from small local affairs to major international occasions and significant events in the sporting calendar.
Feb, March and April
Tedfest w. More than a week of wackiness, celebrating the characters and storylines of the hugely popular sitcom Father Ted and based in the Aran Islands over the end of February and beginning of March.
St Patrick’s Day March 17; w. Almost every Irish town and village commemorates the national patron saint’s day, though the most significant celebration is the week-long festival held in Dublin.
Irish Grand National w. The biggest event of the National Hunt horse-racing season takes place at Fairyhouse, Co. Meath, on Easter Monday.
Wicklow Gardens Festival w. A host of gardens, both large and small, on view across County Wicklow from Easter to September.
Cork International Choral Festival w. Featuring many choirs and the Fleischmann International Trophy competition over five days in early May.
North West 200 wnorthwest200.org. Major international motorcycle road-racing event held in Portstewart, Co. Derry, in the middle of the month.
Fleadh Nua w. One of the country’s biggest traditional-music festivals, held in Ennis, Co. Clare, over more than a week in late May.
The Cat Laughs w. Five-day comedy festival featuring an array of renowned and lesser-known acts, staged in Kilkenny in early June.
Bloomsday w. A week of Dublin-based James Joyce-related events leading up to June 16, the day on which his masterwork Ulysses is set.
Irish Derby w. The major event in the Irish flat-racing season, held at the Curragh, Co. Kildare, late in the month.
Willie Clancy Summer School w. Hugely popular, more than week-long traditional-music event with a host of pub sessions and several concerts, hosted in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, at the beginning of July.
Galway Film Fleadh w. New Irish and international releases shown in the city during six days in early July.
Oxegen woxegen.ie. Ireland’s biggest rock, pop and electronica, featuring major international names held over three days at Punchestown Racecourse mid-month.
Orange Order Parades July 12. Unionists and Loyalists commemorate the Battle of the Boyne and close down much of Northern Ireland in the process.
Galway International Arts Festival w. Massive festival of music, drama and general revelry over a fortnight from the middle of the month.
Mary from Dungloe w. Ten days of entertainment in Co. Donegal, often featuring Daniel O’Donnell and culminating in a beauty contest (where one of the prizes is sometimes a date with the man himself); runs from late July.
Yeats International Summer School w. Sligo-based late-July to August literary festival focusing on the life of the poet.
Galway Races w. The west of Ireland’s biggest horse-racing event, long celebrated in the song of the same name; starts at the end of the month; a second festival takes place over the August holiday weekend.
Irish Open Golf Championship w. Traditionally the major golf tournament, held at the end of the month.
Kilkenny Arts Festival w. All manner of musical and literary events, recitals and exhibitions staged in the city over ten days in mid-August.
Puck Fair w. Three days of mayhem in Killorglin, Co. Kerry, culminating in the crowning of a goat as King Puck; takes place in the middle of the month.
Rose of Tralee International Festival w. Tremendously popular event, focused on a beauty contest, but offering an enormous range of other entertainment; late August.
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann w. Competitive traditional-music festival, drawing hundreds of participants and big crowds – different towns bid for the mid- to late-August event each year.
Ould Lammas Fair More than 400 years old, Ballycastle’s traditional market fair remains a huge draw, featuring livestock sales, and bucket-loads of music, dancing and entertainment on the last Monday and Tuesday of the month.
Electric Picnic w. Hugely popular rock and dance festival held at Stradbally Hall, Laois over the first weekend.
All-Ireland Senior Hurling and Football Finals w. The zenith of the sporting year for Gaelic games with its two major finals, held on two Sundays a fortnight apart, in Dublin.
Open House Folk and Traditional Music Festival w. Major traditional-music festival running for six days or so in Belfast at the end of the month.
Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival w. A month-long date-athon which attracts hopeful suitors from all over the world, and there’s plenty of traditional entertainment too.
Dublin Fringe Festival w. Lively programme of theatre, dance, performance arts and comedy, featuring more than 300 events spread over more than a fortnight.
Dublin Theatre Festival w. Major drama festival encompassing around 30 productions, commencing late in the month and running for more than a fortnight.
Wexford Opera Festival w. Prestigious and massively popular international festival now lasting for more than a fortnight commencing in mid-October.
Belfast Festival at Queen’s w. Major arts festival, Ireland’s equivalent to Edinburgh, nowadays complete with its very own Fringe and running for two weeks from the middle of the month.
Cork Jazz Festival wguinnessjazzfestival.com. Four days of jazz in all its forms at the end of the month.
Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival wderrycity.gov.uk/halloween. Street theatre, music and mayhem, especially during the fireworks display on October 31.
Cork Film Festival w. Established in 1956 and still going strong with a broad-ranging programme of big-budget and international cinema staged over a week early in the month.
Foyle Film Festival w. The best of new Irish and international film in Derry, over a week at the end of the month.
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