Ten Best: Spooky nights out
Don't sit at home waiting for things to go bump in the night -- Thomas Breathnach has tracked down the most ghoulish goings-on this Halloween, so prepare to be spooked...
Ballyhoura Spook, Limerick
Set in Limerick's most haunted forest, Ballyhoura's Halloween shindig will be pine-chilling. The Spook begins on the medieval streets of Kilmallock, where children receive a gift pack before a guided tour takes them through the village's haunted streets. Then, as witching hour draws near, it's all aboard the Spook Bus to Ballyhoura for a trail of terror through the woods.
Hot refreshments are on standby for anyone with the chills, and the evening wraps up with a series of interactive Halloween games.
Fashion will also play a critical role and this year it's all about organic. Children are encouraged to make their costumes with leaves and branches, creating a "woodland couture" worthy of the Haus of Gaga.
Details: October 30-31; see ballyhouracountry.com.
Belvedere House, Westmeath
Charles Howard-Bury may not be a household name, but in 1921 the former owner of Belvedere House led a terrifying expedition up Mount Everest, and documented the first-ever sighting of the abominable snowman.
It gets worse. Local legend has it that the intrepid explorer smuggled a young yeti back to Ireland and, as bad luck would have it, the magical monster can still be spotted every October knocking around Mullingar's leafy suburbs on Belvedere's Trick or Treat trail.
Little visitors are guided into the woodland, where they collect hidden goodies. Then it's off for a tram ride to the Forest of Fear to capture Bigfoot before he does more damage to the woodland.
Details: October 24-25; €4.75-€8.75; belvedere-house.ie.
Causey Farm, Meath
Take a pinch of Ballymourey, a dash of 'Glenroe' and just a hint of 'The Blair Witch Project' and you've a rough recipe of the creepy antics on offer this Halloween at Causey Farm in Navan.
From scary stories to broomstick-riding lessons, tots to teens will love these hair-raising happenings.
There's a Ghostbusters Disco and Spooks & Spells ( 5-15 years), which takes the brave through the eerie Clon Brehan, a haunted house where the wails of widow Mary Moore still echo through its walls.
If that isn't your cauldron of soup, why not risk Causey's adrenaline-pumping Farmophobia experience (teens and adults only) -- a chilling night in Bone Valley Graveyard and beyond. This is the place where screams come true.
Details: October 22-31; €5-€15pp; causey.ie.
Banks of the Foyle
It may be two years until Derry becomes the UK's City of Culture, but, already, all roads seem to be leading to the Maiden City. The Banks of the Foyle Carnival will be Europe's largest Halloween festival, with more than 30,000 people expected to throng Derry's walls.
From bobbing apples and pumpkin carving in Gransha Wood to movie viewings of 'The Twilight' Saga' and pirate cruises out to Culmore Bay, there's plenty on offer to keep everyone happy.
Be sure to stick around for the main event -- the spectacular Carnival of Light fireworks display which lights up the Derry sky.
Details: October 25-31; derrycity.gov.uk.
A place of crime, cruelty, exile and misery, Wicklow Gaol ranks high on the spook scale. Even 'Ghost Hunters International' have filmed here.
During the spooky season, daily tours with costumed actors will guide you through the phantom-filled cells, sharing its gruesome history.
This event is aimed at older children, so perfect for any brooding goths or emos in your clan. And there's a prize for best costume, so dress to impress ... and distress.
Details: October 31; €4.50-€7; wicklowshistoricgaol.com.
Watching elephants making squash out of pumpkins is just one of the attractions this Halloween at Dublin Zoo. The annual Boo at the Zoo sees the beastly behaviour of wolves, owls and all critters creepy taking centre stage.
There will be animal-themed face painting, a monster disco on the lawn and scary zookeeper talks.
The resident bats will be cheekier than ever, but an expert will be on hand to give advice about our own native species and to introduce some real live fruit-bats to little visitors.
Details: Workshops, October 27-28; Boo at the Zoo, October 31; €10.50-€15; dublinzoo.ie.
Lough Key Forest & Activity Park, Co Roscommon
The lush expanses of Lough Key near Boyle may well have a postcard setting, but come Halloween it's the just the kind of hellish haunt that would force Casper into therapy.
The park hosts a number of jaw-dropping activities, and Butler Igor and the Witch of Lough Key will set you through your paces in the haunted Rockingham tunnels and the forest Trail Blaze. Of note here is a shocking Swedish Boda Borg -- a 47-room, maze-like house which you'll hopefully escape during the Scares of the Dark challenge.
Keep in mind that Lough Key's campsite will also be open for Halloween week should you wish to overnight it -- just remember that things may go bump in the night.
Details: October 22-31; €13; loughkey.ie.
Spooky Express, Waterford
This shivery service, run by the Waterford & Suir Valley Railway in Kilmeadan, takes its courageous wee passengers from the home of Irish Cheddar to a cold sweat of terror, on a frightful ride of ghastly goings-on.
Sitting in a period train carriage, you'll grind along the abandoned tracks of the Waterford-Dungarvan railway line. The grisly jaunt is a veritable "who's who" of the undead, from Dracula to the Grim Reaper.
Brace yourself for a witches' coven along the fog-filled tunnels and swampy riverbanks of the Déise.
But be warned -- no train has ever returned to Kilmeadan station with the same number of people it set out with ... and go easy on the cheese before bedtime!
Details: October 30; €10-€12 (six departures, with daytime rides recommended for very small people); wsvrailway.ie.
Dragon of Shandon, Cork
Corkonians are taking a more traditional Celtic approach to Halloween this year. Slain by St Finbarr in the 7th century, the Dragon of Shandon will return to their city's streets for Samhain on his annual quest to escape the underworld and gate-crash the city's harvest festival.
Among 300 other participants, the 12m-long monster will be lofted through Shandon as its winding streets kindle with the glow of lanterns wielded by skeletons and ghouls.
Watch out also for the unique river parade taking place on the Lee, where traditional currachs will row down the river, and don't miss the afters -- a family-friendly Monster's Ball outside the Butter Museum.
Details: October 31; see dragonofshandon.com.
Thurles Halloween Arts Festival
Thurles is a town where a witch's preferred mode of transport is a hurley, and this year it's pulling out all the stops for All Hallows.
More than 100 events are lined up for the week's programme, which culiminates in a Halloween extravaganza next weekend. Puppet shows, street theatre and storytelling are on offer, and while your kids get down and boo-gey with the Thriller dance group, older rockers can chill out to Hot House Flowers and The Wolfe Tones.
Scarier still, there's a plan to enter the Guinness Book of Record's for the world's largest-ever gathering of zombies. Visit at your peril.
Details: October 22-31; thurlesartsfestival.com.