Weekend of fun, fire, mussels and lamb as country takes to the roads
WHETHER it's sampling mussels in Connemara, meeting up with some Jedi masters in Dublin or heading to Cork for a choral festival -- this weekend has something for the most discerning of culture vultures.
A bumper weekend is on the cards as thousands of commuters are expected to hit our roads, airports and railway stations for an out-of-town break for the bank holiday.
The bad news is the sun is unlikely to put in much of an appearance, but on the upside almost every county in the country is hosting a festival to banish the blues.
Choral fans will be heading south for the famous Cork International Choral Festival which will feature world-class choirs from around the globe.
If choirs aren't your thing, you could head further west for the annual Ballydehob Jazz Festival in west Cork, for some laid-back sounds featuring Paddy Cole and Camille O'Sullivan.
Alternatively, you could pack up the kids and head to Vantastival, set in the picturesque Bellurgan Park in Co Louth, which showcases the best of the Irish music scene.
This year the line-up includes Cathy Davey, God is an Astronaut and folk group I Draw Slow.
For something completely different you could head to the Roscommon Lamb Festival.
It is organised by a committee of local farmers and restaurant owners to highlight the quality of locally produced food.
In the Kingdom, the famous Feile na Bealtaine is under way in the Dingle peninsula. There will be street theatre, children's events, music, poetry recitals, art exhibitions, short films and comedy.
Meanwhile, in Kilkenny, the 15-year-old Smithwick's Rhythm and Roots Festival is continuing its mission of bringing new names to Irish audiences.
Organisers, who run the festival on a "tight budget", have increased the number of free events while managing to keep ticket prices at a maximum of €20.
Festival director John Cleere said the weekend had become "cutting edge" as more contemporary bands were being booked.
While people had less money in their pockets, the Roots Festival was almost completely sold out, he explained.
The Festival of the Fires will ignite once gain in Co Westmeath this weekend.
'Voice of Ireland' star Bressie, along with his winning act Pat Byrne, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and Choice music prize winner Jape are among the performers playing the festival today.
A rekindling of the ancient Celtic Bealtaine festival, it is set to attract 5,000 revellers at the Hill of Uisneach halfway between Mullingar and Athlone for a mix of music, fire performance, art, culture, heritage and pageantry.
Tickets are €39.50 which include a chill-out day tomorrow and are available from Ticketmaster.
For lovers of seafood, the Connemara Mussel Festival 2012 got into full swing yesterday and will continue all weekend in north Connemara.
It is still all systems go today for the Celtic Challenge, the longest rowing race in the world.
The race across the Irish Sea from Arklow, Co Wicklow, to Aberystwyth in Wales has attracted 22 boats, the biggest entry ever.
It's a huge endurance test for all teams, with the rowers having to battle against waves and winds for between 15 and 24 hours before they reach Aberystwyth tomorrow morning.
Arklow ladies, the two other women's teams and the mixed teams head off from the south beach at 1pm today, and will be followed by the men's teams at 3pm.
Heavy traffic is expected at times over the weekend with nearly a million people on the move and AA Roadwatch is urging drivers not to speed.
Last May bank holiday, four people were tragically killed and nine were seriously injured on our roads.
Gardai are appealing to motorists to reduce speed, never drink and drive, to always wear seatbelts and to be well rested before setting out on any journey.
Bus Eireann is expecting to carry up to 250,000 passengers on expressway and provincial services over the next few days.
Iarnrod Eireann said that the company was expecting to carry upwards of 150,000 people.