Travel Ireland

Friday 27 April 2018

Ireland's top thirty festivals for all the family

Children at Electric Picnic
Children at Electric Picnic
Waterford harvest festival
Galway races
Vodafone comedy festival
Fleadh Ceoil
Flower festival
Spraoi festival Waterford
Mairead Buicke at Loughcrew Opera Festival

Fran Power

From acrobats in Waterford to ukuleles in Dublin, the summer festival season has something for everyone

1 Hollow Sounds

If you're in Kilkenny today, catch day two of a new offering, a brief fling of music, food and no doubt larks set in Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre outside Kilkenny. Music from Choice Music Prizewinner Jape, alt-pop duo Slow Skies, Sails and more followed by an after-party with DJ sets by Jape and Taste DJs back in Kilkenny.

Where Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre, Kilmanagh, Co Kilkenny

When July 4

Tickets €38.50; from

Essentials Buses run from Kilkenny, €8.50 return

2 Groove Festival

Lovely Killruddery House on the slopes of Bray Head is the venue for one of the summer's most laid-back family festivals. This year sees The Darkness, Wallis Bird, The Riptide Movement, Delorentos, Christy Moore and Kíla do their thang on stage, while ice-cream vans, food trucks, a 9m-high climbing wall, aqua-sphering, drama workshops and yoga absorb the kids' attention off stage. Heaven.

Where Kilruddery House, Bray, Co Wicklow

When July 4-5

Tickets Day, €49.50 (+€4 booking fee), weekend, €69.50 (+€5 booking fee); 4-15-year-olds, day, €14.50 (+€2 booking fee), weekend, €20 (+€2.50 booking fee); under-4s free,

Essentials No need to make sambos, food and drink on-site

3 Loughcrew Opera Festival

If you fancy yourself as a Glyndebourne sort, then pack the hamper and chill the champagne, Loughcrew Opera festival is for you. Starring Irish soprano Maireád Buicke (left), The Puccini Scandal is a new opera drama about Puccini's tempestuous life - the scandals, love life and writer's block - and features music from La Bohème, Madame Butterfly, Tosca and Turandot. Picnic time in the lovely gardens is scheduled into performances.

Where Loughcrew House, Oldcastle, Co Meath, (049) 854-1356;

When July 4-5

Tickets Performance - €49; Puccini picnic box available at €30 for two

Essentials Visit the nearby Loughcrew cairns afterwards

4 Galway Film Fleadh

Galway brings its own brand of western sass to the week-long creative hum of the Fleadh. Expect movie gems - don't miss new Irish features Traders and The Survivalist - as well as the chance to rub shoulders in Neachtain's with the usual mix of moguls and makers (like actor John C Reilly who's in town to give a masterclass). Mad fun, altogether.

Where Various venues, Galway, (091) 562 200;

When July 7-12

Tickets From €10

Essentials Bag somewhere to stay NOW, everywhere books out

5 Valentia Isle Festival

This boutique festival is a genre-buster with swing, dance, trad and reggae performers from Daddy G of Massive Attack, Norman Jay, Natty Wailer to The Hot Sprockets pulling in the fans. Conor McGregor's World Championship fight will also be screened in a massive circus tent. Oh, and the King Scallop festival is on just down the road. Dinner sorted, so.

Where Valentia Island, Co Kerry, 087 465 0219;

When July 10-12

Tickets Day, €50, weekend €89, including camping; kids welcome

Essentials Campsite free

6 Earagail Arts Festival

A two-week jamboree as Gaeilge agus Béarla that stretches along the Wild Atlantic Way from Letterkenny to Inishowen with a light-filled sculptural show among the sand dunes of Magheraroarty, music trail, drive-in movie in Ards Forest Park, mini-litfest, comedy from Neil Delamere, and more sessions than you can shake a bodhrán at. Phew, this is one big moma of a festival!

Where Along the Wild Atlantic Way, Co Donegal, (074) 912 0777;

When July 10-26

Tickets From €5

Essentials Leave time to surf at Dunfanaghy, climb Mount Errigal and explore Glenveagh National Park

7 Laya city spectacular

Celebrating its 10th year, Ireland's craziest festival showcases the unusual talents of street performers and circus artists from home and abroad. Highlights include contortionist Bendy Em, who can fit her whole body through a 16in box, and Belgian trampoline act Cirqu'lation Locale.

Where Merrion Square, Dublin, and Fitzgerald Park, Cork

When July 10-11 (Dublin), 18-19 (Cork)

Tickets Free

Essentials Don't miss the Learn it Lego workshops

8 West Cork Literary Festival

A library's worth of talent hits West Cork for this literary heavy-weight of a festival with a mix of big-name authors such as David Nicholls, and bright new talent such as Colin Barrett and Lisa McInerney, while Cork's own Graham Norton adds wit and sparkle. Aspiring writers can sharpen their pens with workshops and there's plenty to keep little 'uns amused with reading and drawing events.

Where Bantry, Co Cork, (027) 527-88/9;

When July 12-18

Tickets From €10

Essentials Head to Ma Murphy's or the Maritime Hotel for post-event analysis and chat

9 Festival of Curiosity

For the past two years this hybrid of science and art has been a sell-out. By day, expect tons of free family events to fill the streets with the Curiosity Carnival, a hands-on science playground, while night time brings on films, installations and lots of scientific interactions.

Where Venues across Dublin;

When July 23-26

Tickets Prices vary

Essentials Bring an open mind

10 The Galway Races

The Galway Races is the queen of festivals with a seven-day dizzying whirl of champagne, frocks, fascinators and, oh, yes, racing. Ladies' day is stiff with glamour, and sees the biggest National Hunt prize in the country with the €250,000 Galway Guinness Hurdle Handicap, while Sunday is family day with music, face painting, games and more for young race-goers. Traditionalists might like to slip away to the Omey Island races for the day (Sunday, August 2; to hear the thud of hooves at low tide on the sands.

Where Ballybrit, Co Galway;

When July 27 to August 2

Tickets From €20 a day, €130 for the week; under-12s free

Essentials Shuttle buses run between Galway city and the races (; you can rent binoculars at the rear of the Millennium Stand

11 Vodafone Comedy Festival

It's partly the great venue, a walled city centre park, and partly the guaranteed belly laughs that make the Comedy Festival one of the year's highlights. Eighty laugh-meisters from the four corners of the earth appear alongside home-grown comedy kings such as Tommy Tiernan, David O'Doherty, Panti, and funny ladies Maeve Higgins, Eleanor Tiernan and Deirdre O'Kane, while sideshow treats of street performers, grog and music make for a buzzing hangout pre- and post-performance.

Where Iveagh Gardens, Clonmel Street, Dublin 2;

When July 23-26

Tickets Per show from €20

Essentials You'll want to stick around for the post-show fun

12 Carlow Garden Festival

The great and the good of gardening get together for this blooming brilliant event. TV green-fingered folk such as BBC's Monty Don, Dermot O'Neill and Kitty Scully of Airfield and country house gardeners June Blake and Neil Porteous (Mount Stewart) join forces with plants man Seamus O'Brien (Kilmacurragh) at various Carlow gardens and estates to lead walks, garden tours, workshops and treasure hunts.

Where Beautiful gardens throughout Co Carlow, (059) 913 0411;

When July 25 to August 3

Tickets Many events free, others from €5

Essentials Parents, don't miss the treasure hunt and teddy bear picnic

13 Spraoi International Festival of Street Arts

Pyrotechnics, acrobatic comedy on a highwire, a street cabaret where the audience decides what happens next, and a boom-tastic finale of a parade make Spraoi's annual festival a great weekend show. It's offspring SprÓg, a series of events for kids run at Garter Lane Arts Centre, stretches their imagination with space cupcakes, a pop-up planetarium and plenty more. 

Where Waterford City, (051) 841 808;

When July 31 to August 2

Tickets It's all free

Essentials If you're out for the day, sun cream is a must

14 Castlepalooza 2015

This festival's setting in front of a 17th-century castle surrounded by an oak wood makes it magical. That and the amazing line-up for 2015, including Of Montreal, Hercules & Love Affair, Aeroplane, Alex Metric, Fight Like Apes, Jape, DJ sets from blogger Nialler9. The Ballroom hosts a selection of short films and there will be fighting talk from poets, and comics.

Where Charleville Castle, Tullamore, Co Offaly;

When July 31 to August 2

Tickets Three days, €75; and with castle camping, €95; under-12s free (with adult)

Essentials It's hardly in the spirit of festival life but Castlepalooza Concierge service offers Fastpass lines for bar queues and access to camping

15 A Country under Wave

Sligo is alive all summer long with celebrations of WB Yeats's 150th anniversary - there are lectures, seminars and poetry readings run by the annual Yeats International Summer School (July 26 to August 7; 071 914 2693;, while the Blue Raincoat Theatre Company has pulled together 26 productions of Yeats' plays to be performed outdoors on the mountains and beaches that inspired him.

Where Various locations, check for details

When August 1-2

Tickets Free

Essentials Performances are weather dependent, so check the website before you climb Ben Bulben

16 Feakle Festival

For those who play trad themselves, Feakle Festival in Clare is the place to head. World-class tutors such as magical fiddler Martin Hayes, guitarist Dennis Cahill or concertina players Edel Fox and Cormac Begley share their skills, alongside sean nós singing and dancing workshops. There are nightly concerts and, of course, sessions popping up all over town.

Where Various venues,

When August 5-10

Tickets From €7 for concerts, workshops €20 a day, €50 for three days, €10 for set dancing/sean nós, €25 for three days

Essentials Campsite nearby, €10 per night, booking advised or B&Bs

17 Shakespeare in the Park

It may be more an event than a festival but Shakespeare in the Park is one of the summer's great delights. Expect an eccentric version of the original Taming of the Shrew from Fortune's Fool Productions at Iveagh Gardens. Where Iveagh Gardens, Clonmel Street, Dublin 2;

Tickets Free

When August 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14, 7pm, and August 8, 9, 15 & 16, 3pm

Essentials Pack a picnic with a rug and hope for sunny weather

18 Kilkenny Arts Festival

Classical music has always been at the heart of this cross-cultural fest and this year there's open-air Shakespeare and a smattering of Yeats, and if you think that's too high falutin', check out the luminarium (giant inflatable space), craft and design workshops and family fun popping up all over medieval town.

Where Churches, theatre, galleries and streets of Kilkenny City, Co Kilkenny, (056) 776 3663;

When August 7-16

Tickets From €5

Essentials Bring an empty belly and follow the Taste of Kilkenny Food Trail (map available online)

19 Stendhal Festival of Art

This wee event is now five years old and comes of age with folk legend Donovan as this year's headline act. Also performing are Join me in the Pines, Kíla, Kerbdog and 20 more crooners, DJs and bands. Stendhal Syndrome? It causes fainting and confusion when you're faced with a work of art. Ah.

Where Ballmully Cottage Farm, Limavady, Co Derry, (048) 7834 163;

When August 7-8

Tickets Saturday only £40; weekend £45 including camping; family weekend £75 including camping

Essentials For those not so inclined to camp there's a range of local accomodation to choose from

20 Fleadh Cheoil Sligo

This mammoth week-long seisiún is a competition for amateur musicians, a giant celebration for the old hands, and a party for everyone. Sign up for Scoil Eigse and pick up a tune no matter what your skill, or take a historical tour, a seminar or see a movie, but always, always seek out a session to end the day.

Where Everywhere in Sligo town, (071) 911 1444;

When August 9-16

Tickets Concerts various prices; sessions are free

Essentials Can't sing? Try lilting or whistling instead, sign up for Scoil Eigse classes

21 The Big Grill BBQ & Craft Beer Festival

The folks behind this meaty fest wanted to recreate a laid-back BBQ party with fun sideshows. Cue eating competitions (chilli, anyone?), grill-offs, demos from chefs, pit masters, butchers, banter with Jim Carroll, children's pizza-making, whole animal cooks and so much more, including a bevvy of craft beers.

Where Herbert Park, Dublin 4;

When August 13-16

Tickets Entry €10, vouchers from €6.66

Essentials Sunday is family day, make a beeline for the Littler Grillers area

22 Another Love Story

Year two of this little beaut of a festival, and it's staying small at just 400 tickets. Expect to hear the best of new acts from electronic, bluegrass to folk and singer/songwriter set in Killyon Manor's ballroom, then chill in the library, wander the grounds, try al fresco yoga or movies or just mooch around.

Where Killyon Manor, Kinnegad, Co Meath;

When August 21-23

Tickets Tickets, €110 for weekend, under-12s free

Essentials Accommodation includes glamping and camping

23 Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival

Make the Guinness Book of Records along with (hopefully) the largest group of people dressed as Charlie Chaplin for the fifth outing of this film festival. Or enjoy comedy, music (Frankie Gavin, The Wolfe Tones and Après Match), and movies all in memory of Mr Chaplin who used to holiday in Waterville.

Where Waterville, Co Kerry, (066) 947 8818;

When August 20-23

Tickets Mostly free, big shows, €25

Essentials Stick on moustaches, bow-ties and bowler hats all welcome!

24 Ukulele Hooley by the Sea

Time was, you'd have been embarrassed to admit to your ukulele habit. Not any more. Head to Dún Laoghaire to the annual jam for workshops, open-mic sessions, and general mayhem. Best. Fun. Ever.

Where People's Park, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin;

When August 22-23

Tickets To be confirmed

Essentials Travel by DART to avoid traffic jams

25 Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival

In the Matchmaker Bar in Ennistymon sits Willie Daly, the man who pairs singletons (3,000 marriages and counting) for a small fee. Set dancing, trad music and pints help oil the wheels of romance and an LGBT weekend makes for a grand finale of the love fest.

Where Hydro Hotel and Imperial Hotel, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, (065) 707 4005;

When August 28 to October 4

Tickets Willie charges €10-15 to find a match

Essentials Bring dancing shoes and stamina

26 Tiger Dublin Fringe 2015

The Dublin Fringe is the perfect curtain-raiser for the more sedate Dublin Theatre Festival (September 24 to October 11; which follows. It always provides fresh, thought-provoking performance whether it's a seven-hour walkabout on Dublin's streets or an opera about furniture, Flatpäck.

Where Various venues in Dublin, (01) 670 6106;

When September 1-30

Tickets Various prices

Essentials See a full list of venues with an interactive map online

27 Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival

Just a hundred people live on Cape Clear, a tiny island off Cork, the perfect setting for the old Irish tradition of storytelling. There's also a boat trip, set dancing, story swap and international storytellers to stir it up.

Where Cape Clear Island, Co Cork, 086 844 3067;

When September 4-6

Tickets Full weekend €75; individual events from €12; children must be 6+ (with adults)

Essentials There is no ATM on the island; camping, yurts, hostel and B&B available. See

28 Burren Peaks Weekend of Walking Festival 2015

Stretch out those calves with a weekend of guided treks over the flagged limestone of the fantastical Burren landscape. Walks range from an easy stroll to a strenuous, eight-hour hike.

Where Ballyvaughan, Co Clare;

When September 11-13

Tickets From €5

Essentials Don't miss the one-man play Hats off to Clare performed by Gerry Howard on Saturday night

29 Harvest Festival

Waterford's artisan producers take to the streets for this tasty weekend, but look out for GIY's GROW Fest - a crop of talks, demos and food tastings all aimed at getting us planting. Don't miss Darina Allen and Lilly Higgins too.

Where Waterford City, Co Waterford; and

When September 11-13

Tickets Weekend ticket to GROW Fest, €35

Essentials Your notebook to scrawl down useful tips

30 7th Irish Bog Snorkeling Championships

The much-loved sport of bog snorkeling goes like this - goggles on, flippers on, hop into the thick, dark waters of a Monaghan bog hole and swim, against the clock 60 metres to the other end. Why not!

Where Alice's Loft and Cottages Self Catering, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan;

When September 12

Tickets €20, all proceeds to charity; children welcome (with adults)

Essentials Goggles and mouthpiece

Irish Independent

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