12 free things to do this Bank Holiday Weekend
Claire O'Mahony on the festivals, hooleys, lovely girls and... er, scarecrows on view throughout the country this weekend.
1. Take to the streets
Waterford's vibrant Spraoi International Festival of Street Arts is now in its 23rd year. All events happening over the three days are free as performers from all over the world showcase their many talents. Highlights include funk/disco/soul band Thank Funk on Saturday and the New York Brass Band on Sunday; an acrobatic comedy from Spanish company Capitan Maravilla who will perform Monkey A Monkey B over a specially customised Mini Cooper and mind reader Billy Kidd. There's more monkey business at the festival parade on Sunday with the theme being the Origin of the Species, featuring everything from monkeys with typewriters to King Kong.
31 July-2 August; www.spraoi.com
2. Go retro
Birr is exceptionally pretty and its Vintage Week is an excellent reason to visit this Georgian Heritage town. A definite highlight is Sunday's vintage parade including marching bands and pre-WW2 cars, tractors and bicycles. Throughout the course of the week, there are lots of events with a vintage flavour including a donkey derby, an artisan and crafts fair and pub entertainment. There's also a strong arts side to Vintage Week too, with a visual arts trail featuring 100 local and visiting artists.
31 July - 7 August; www.birrvintageweek.com
3. Meet the Marys
It's lovely girls galore at the Mary From Dungloe International Festival in Donegal and a good line-up of free events too, while others carry a small fee. Street entertainment includes Irish dancing displays and céilís on the main street, hurling blitzes, a duck derby, a shorefront water fight, a busking competition and a carnival parade. Sunday sees the victorious Mary crowned (televised for the first time on SKY191) and then welcomed on the main street stage later that evening. It's also an opportunity to visit this stunning part of the Donegal Gaeltacht and explore the beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Running until 3 August; www.maryfromdungloe.com
4. Supersize it
It's three for one in Enniscorthy at Rockin' Food Fest, which combines three festivals, the Vinegar Hill Battle Re-enactment, Enniscorthy Rock n' Roll Town and Enniscorthy Food Festival all in one. On the food side of things, there are over 50 exhibitors showcasing local products and crafts from Wexford and beyond. The rock element is a celebration of rock and roll, rockabilly and rhythm and blues music from the 1950s, with live performances while history buffs will enjoy the full-scale battle enactments of the Rebels capturing Enniscorthy Town and the Red Coats taking Vinegar Hill. Events and parking are free.
31 July - 3 August; enniscorthycastle.ie
5. Do a day at the museum
We're blessed with free museum entry in Ireland and certainly a visit to one is a nice way to spend a day, should the bank holiday weather not work out to be as good as we hope. Dublin's Chester Beatty Library is something of a gem. As well as its permanent exhibitions, including six hundred books from the ancient world, and an excellent eatery, the Silk Road Café, there are free events to enjoy. This Sunday you can meet artist Roxana Manouchehri and learn drawing techniques. No booking is required and materials are provided but you can bring your own sketchbook if you like.
6. Savour the seaside
Make an event of a day at the beach and not just any old beach. Choose one of the 81 beaches and five marinas that have been awarded Blue Flags, which this year for the first time includes Wexford's Ballinesker beach. Six of the 81 beaches were also given national Green Coast status for the first time, which means they're classified as exceptional places to visit, and this include Rosses Point in Donegal, Silver Strand in Galway and Portmarnock, Portrane and Donabate in Dublin. A frisbee, a picnic and a spot of sandcastle building will make your day complete, whatever the weather.
See www.blueflagireland.org for a list of Blue Flag beaches
7. Celebrate scarecrows
If you find scarecrows a little creepy and disconcerting, clearly the Durrow Scarecrow Festival isn't for you. However if you find them intriguing, head to this part of Laois at the weekend. Sunday's highlight is the announcement of the winner of the All Ireland Scarecrow Championships, as over 120 scarecrows from all around the country battle it out for the €3,000 prize. Other festivities include a teddy bear's picnic, arts and crafts demos, an outdoor country market and numerous exhibitions.
Running until 3 August; www.durrowscarecrowfestival.com
8. Have an urban picnic
The inaugural Temple Bar Food Festival, Fiestaval, is taking place in Meeting House Square this coming Sunday and Monday. It's celebrating some of the best food available in the area with restaurants including Klaw (seafood), Bar Pinxto (Spanish) and Monty's of Kathmandu (Nepalese) all participating. To give parents a chance to kick back and enjoy their food, children's entertainment will be provided in the form of giant Jenga, giant Connect 4 and giant chess, as well as face painting and a DJ. Entry to the square is free and you'll pay the stallholders for whatever food you buy.
2-3 August; templebarfiestaval.com
9. Listen up
Both a visual and musical treat awaits at the Hugh Lane Gallery on Saturday with its family fun concert, Pianomania. As part of the 2015 Dublin International Piano Festival, eight musicians will play a nine-foot Bluther piano at once, which is quite a thing to witness. Admission to the concert is free and afterwards you can have a wander through the gallery. The current exhibition, Hugh Lane (1875-1915): Dublin's Legacy and Loss presents the gallery founder's vision for visual arts in Ireland, before his drowning on board the Lusitania.
1pm, 1 August; www.pianofestival.ie
10. Go to garden heaven
Calling all nature lovers and garden growers. Carlow's Garden Festival is recognised as the country's premier gardening event and whatever your gardening skills are, it's the chance to get some expert advice via informative lectures and interesting work shops. It's taking place in a variety of locations in Carlow. Duckett's Grove country fair and teddy's bear picnic is happening on Sunday while Kitty Scully of RTÉ's How to Create a Garden, and Airfield's food gardener will be appearing at Rathvilly Garden Centre on Monday.
Running until 3 August; www.carlowgardentrail.com
11. Go to a festival less ordinary
The Muff Festival in Inishowen, Co Donegal is one of the quirkier ones on the festival calendar. There are more than 30 free (or very cheap) events over the four days including a craft fair, the Great Muff Bake Off, a lorry-pulling competition, pet show, battle of the bands, kids' sports and lots more. Don't leave without picking up a Muff Festival t-shirt, which proudly declare 'I love Muff' and have become almost cult items - a steal at €14.
31 July-3 August; www.mufffestival.com
12. Be a culture vulture
It's the 150th anniversary of the birthday of WB Yeats and Sligo's Tread Softly festival celebrates the life and work of the poet's family and the landscape that inspired them. There are many free events happening including Blue Raincoat Theatre's performance of all of Yeats's 26 plays in various locations around Sligo over two days. You can enjoy expert guided walks of areas such as the world-renowned megalithic Carrowmore Cemetery and Will & Jack's Tent of Tales, where performer John Carty and illustrator Wayne O'Connor will create an interactive performance for children 5+ with stories from William and Jack Yeats.
Running until 8 August; www.treadsoftly.ie