10 Best: Shamrock shenanigans
Parades, potatoes and pyrotechnics — it has to be St Patrick’s Day, says Pól Ó Conghaile
Follow our patron’s footprints in Mayo
St Patrick wore down a fair whack of shoe leather converting Ireland to Christianity. You can trace some of his footsteps over the three-day Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail Walking Festival running from March 18-20. Covering 61km as it rambles from Balla to Ballintubber, Aghagower and Murrisk, the trail crosses bog, fields, famine villages and some of the oldest native woodland on the Atlantic Coast, offering up awesome views, unspoilt countryside and finally, the shoulder of Croagh Patrick itself. Best of all, villagers will be dishing up homemade cakes and scones as you go. Details: €15 per day. Tel: 094 936 6709; croaghpatrickheritage trail.com.
The parade to beat them all in Dublin
Dublin’s St Patrick’s Festival has long since spilled over from March 17 into several days of shenanigans. This year’s festival has a literary theme, with the parade based on Roddy Doyle’s new short story, ‘Brilliant’. The story urges the city to get its funny-bone back — something it could start at ‘Text in the City (€25), a comedy improv night during which the audience texts suggestions to a huge mobilephone screen on stage. Throw in free events such as the céilí, a literary treasure hunt and a boat race between Trinity College and UCD, and you’ve got the makings of several days out. Details: March 16-20. See stpatricksfestival.ie.
Go as Gaeilge in Carlow
Seachtain na Gaeilge finishes up on St Patrick’s Day, but Carlow is keeping the momentum going over the whole month of March. Don’t worry if you’ve got the cúpla focal or the céad míle fáilte either — the celebrations are open to everyone. This Wednesday is a fun No Béarla Day. Thursday sees a blessing of the shamrock and Mass in Irish at Carlow Cathedral, followed by a St Patrick’s Day parade and céilí. Other happenings organised by Glór Cheatharlach include bilingual table quizzes, lunchtime storytelling and an Irish-language production of Lady Gregory’s ‘Spreading the News’. Details: Tel: 059 915 8105; glorcheatharlach.ie.
Travel St Patrick’s trail in the North
Fed up of Paddy’s Day festivals? Why not take the holiday at your own pace by following a trail of saintly sights in Northern Ireland. St Patrick’s Trail is a 92-mile (148km) driving route taking in stops such as the Saul Church in Strangford (where Patrick began his mission), Down Cathedral (where he is buried) and the Holy Wells at Struell (erm, where he is said to have sung psalms all night while naked). Don’t miss the interpretive St Patrick’s Centre in Downpatrick or St Patrick’s Trian in Armagh, which takes a closer look at the saint through writings found in the 9th-century ‘Book of Armagh’. Details: NITB (1850 230 230) has a special offer of two nights’ B&B at the Marine Court Hotel in Bangor from £70/€83pps. See discovernorthernireland.com/ stpatrick.
Love your leprechauns in Louth Fancy a Paddy’s Day with a difference?
You’ll get it in Dundalk, where 100 leprechauns are preparing to abseil down the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Sounds nuts? That’s because it is. The 170 ft abseil is both a charity event and promotion for the National Leprechaun Hunt scheduled to take place on the Cooley Peninsula on March 27. Bizarrely, Carlingford appears to have been designated a Special Protection Area for Little People under the EU European Habitats Directive. “People love leprechauns,” says coordinator Kevin Woods. “They are just too embarrassed to admit it for some reason.” Details: A charity abseil costs €99. Tel: 042 937 3100; carlingford.ie
March to the beat on Limerick’s streets
Some 70,000 people are expected on the streets of Limerick on March 17, with floats, dancers and musicians uniting under a sporty theme for the parade on O’Connell Avenue. Other events? The Hunt Museum has arts, crafts and face-painting; street performers and tunes are scheduled for the Milk Market, and d’Unbelievables are at the University Concert Hall (€30). The festival wraps up on Sunday, with hundreds of marching musicians competing in an International Band Parade, followed by prizes and a free concert at Arthur’s Quay Park. And not a Rubberbandit in sight… yet. Details: The Clarion Hotel (061 444144; clarionhotellimerick. com) has a St Patrick’s Weekend offer bundling B&B and dinner from €60pps. See limerick.ie/ stpatricksfestival.
Go green with glass in Kerry
After the hellish few years we’ve endured at the hands of this recession, Ireland is entitled to blow its trumpet a bit over St Patrick’s Day. If you make the trip to Killarney, however, you could be blowing glass too. Glassblowing workshops are taking place from March 15-19 at Terrence McSweeney’s studio in Knockattagglemore, offering visitors the chance to learn about the process before blowing a bubble themselves. It’s a fantastically skilful craft, so don’t expect to achieve anything other than a lump of molten goo — just as well a professional will be on hand to show you how it’s done. Details: Tel: 064 664 3295; craftinireland.com.
Trad for toddlers in Clare
The Speks are a six-piece band playing traditional Irish music for children, and they’re anchoring an eclectic series of events at Glór, the arts and entertainment venue in Ennis, on March 17. The band’s music has been described as “Riverdance for toddlers”, and kids are encouraged to sing and dance along to nursery rhymes and songs. Grown-ups will find their toes tapping too. Other events on the day include a screening of ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’ (€5) and a Food Fair showcasing some of the best jams, cheeses, pickles and bread from the Banner County. Details: €5 (parents go free). Tel: 065 684 5370; glor.ie.
See the sky sizzle in Wexford
A massive 1.6 tonnes of fireworks, five tonnes of firing equipment and 6,000 pyrotechnic effects. Yes, folks, it’s Skyfest time, and this year the St Patrick’s Festival fireworks roadshow is coming to Wexford. A blazing display of tailed comets, umbrellas of light and a stunning 300m waterfall of cascading silver stars (the largest pyrotechnic waterfall ever to appear in Ireland) are all set to explode over a kilometre of celestial canvas above the River Slaney. The fireworks will be broadcast live on RTE, and the theme is ‘Making Magic Happen’. Details: March 19, 6.30pm- 8.30pm. See stpatricks festival.ie.