Swan song for cold days as summer swings in
SUMMER has finally kicked in – just in time for the bank holiday weekend.
With the official start of the summer season today, visitors attending a bumper crop of festivals, concerts and sporting events will enjoy balmy temperatures of 20C in some parts of the country.
Tourism initiative, The Gathering Ireland, said some 2,126 events are planned for the summer, with 165 taking place over this weekend.
Today is set to be the busiest day of The Gathering, with 79 events taking place around the country.
They include The Blue Jean Country Queen Gathering, which takes place in Athboy, Co Meath, and will see entrants from Denmark, Slovenia, Sweden and France vying for the coveted 2013 title; the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival in Donegal; while in Co Kerry, former employees of Valentia Island Coast Guard Radio Station, local lifeboats and the Transatlantic Cable Station will gather for a weekend of island life.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people will attend events in the capital.
Bloom in the Phoenix Park has already welcomed over 30,000 visitors so far and with fine weather forecast for the coming days, these numbers will swell considerably before the garden festival closes on Monday.
The Flora Women's Mini Marathon returns on Monday with 40,000 due to take part in temperatures of up to 20C, while landlubbers and seadogs alike will enjoy a host of family activities at Riverfest on Dublin's North Wall Quay where six majestic tall ships will drop anchor.
Elsewhere, 700 cub scouts will gather deep in the Dublin Mountains to celebrate 75 years of camping at Scouting Ireland's headquarters at Larch Hill, testing their fire-making skills and their gourmet talents with campfire cooking.
For music lovers, Kasabian and Primal Scream headline the Forbidden Fruit festival in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham tonight and tomorrow.
Met Eireann is forecasting a steady improvement in temperatures over the weekend, rising to 20C on Monday and even higher later next week.
Today will be a mixture of cloudy and sunny spells with some rain or drizzle and highest temperatures of between 13C and 16C. However, temperatures tomorrow will climb as high as 19C and by the bank holiday, they will reach 17C to 20C.
And in the best traditions of the Irish summer, the heat will really kick in to coincide with the start of the Leaving and Junior Cert exams, with temperatures reaching the low 20s by the middle of next week.
Transport services are bracing themselves for one of their busiest weekends.
Dublin Airport said an estimated 250,000 passengers will pass through its terminals over the long weekend, while Bus Eireann said it will transport a similar number over the next three days.
Irish Rail said 200,000 customers will use its inter-city services over the holiday weekend with tens of thousands more expected to use its commuter and Dart services.
And as thousands of people take to the roads this weekend, gardai have urged motorists to cut their speed and said they would continue to operate checkpoints nationwide under Operation Slowdown.
GoSafe speed cameras had checked 32,178 vehicles between 7am and 7pm yesterday, with 129 caught speeding.
Meanwhile, the Irish Coast Guard (ICG) urged revellers to only swim at locations where there was a lifeguard on duty.
"In the last week alone, we have had at least three incidents with swimmers getting into difficulty around the country. Unfortunately one person lost their life," said Declan Geoghegan, manager of the ICG.
"Every summer the Coast Guard responds to thousands of requests for assistance to those in difficulty while on the water, on cliff paths and coastal walks, enjoying water sports," he said.