The Best Festivals in Ireland

Written by Victoria Philpott

One thing’s for sure about the Irish – they know how to party. There’s always some craic going on and when it comes to festival time there’s so much craic you have to have a pint of Guinness to calm down. There’s always some craic going on in Ireland, but these festivals are the chance to keep it all in one place. The Irish festival calendar is a hectic one, but here’s the top festivals in Ireland not to be missed.

Belfast Festival 
18 October-4 November 2013

The Belfast Festival started life as a university project for founder Michael Emerson who set up the then small event on the campus of Queen’s University, Belfast. Now it’s a huge music and theatre event attracting thousands of people every year. Past guests have included Jimi Hendrix, Dizzy Gillespie and Laurence Olivier.

The festival now takes place all over Belfast with events at the Botanic Gardens, Empire Music Hall, Ulster Museum and Mandela Hall among others. This year’s events include a talk about Tartan Noir by authors Ian Rankin and John Gordon Sinclair and a dance by iconic choreographer Michael Clark, with music by Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker. Tickets for the different events range from free to around £50.

Hostels in Belfast start at €7.65pppn.

Cork Jazz Festival
22-29 October 2013

Since 1979 the annual Cork Jazz Festival has attracted hundred of music and jazz fans to play and watch in the city. You can catch the Jazz Train from Dublin or the Jazz Boat from the UK to make travelling to the festival all the more fun. Over 40,000 people take the trip every year and noted musicians including Ella Fitzgerald, Turk Murphy, Cleo Laine, Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan have played. Last year Jean-Luc Ponty Quartet, Richard Galliano, Tim Minchin, the Harlem Gospel Choir, DJ Grandmaster Flash and the Bobby Watson All-Stars were just some of the musicians people were tapping their feet to.

The Cork Jazz Festival also has a monster food market in Patrick Street with live music and a circus show called Circus Squared where you can enjoy watching juggling, acrobatics and general circus style mayhem on the plaza.

There are lots of free events but some headline acts cost €30+ booking fee.

Book a hostel in Cork for just €11.20pppn. 

Galway Arts Festival
15-28 July 2013

With its riverside location Galway is a perfect setting for a cultural festival. There are 20,000 students at the city’s university ensuring there’s a youthful vibe in the city. But Galway still manages to retain its traditional charm with cobbled streets and narrow laneways. Last year more than 163,548 people attended and enjoyed at 160 performances, talks and exhibitions in 27 venues over 14 days. As well as the best of Ireland’s talent the festival features the best in international theatre, visual arts, dance, talks, discussion and comedy.

It’s a bit early for the 2013 lineup but previous years have seen David Byrne, Bon Iver, Blondie, Steppenwolf, Joni Mitchell and Henri Matisse take to the stage.

Hostels in Galway start at €9.99pppn.

Puck Fair, Kerry
August 10, 11, 12 2013

The Puck Fair in Kerry is Ireland’s oldest festival. This year the festival is celebrating its 400th birthday! It’s held without fail on the same days each year and gives locals and tourists hours of free entertainment every day.

There’s a lot of fun to be had over the three days, I’ll list a few but I’ll have to take a deep breath: horse fairs, pipe and drum workshops, street entertainment, puppets, dancers, circus workshops, pipe bands, music, queen coronation ceremonies, fireworks, stalls, storytelling workshops, bonny baby competitions, fire shows, fancy dress competitions…

There are always a few headline music acts performing on the open air stage each evening – previous acts have included The Joshua Tree, The Driftars and Reverse. And of course, there’s always plenty of drinking – the specially erected bars are open till 3am – there are also plenty of stalls to buy some genuine Irish souvenirs to take back home or even to wear at the festival.

Book a hostel in Kerry.

Thanks to UggBoy♥UggGirl [ PHOTO // WORLD // TRAVEL ] AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting. 

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