Sunday 15 September 2019

Need a break? Unique Irish festivals that you’ll love this autumn

There is always a festival happening in Ireland but you’ll find that some of the most interesting ones come out to play at this time of year.

We all love the big summer extravaganzas but it’s often the more niche or interesting festivals that throw up unforgettable moments and make for the best weekend breaks. With that in mind, we’ve looked at how you can soak up the sights, sounds and experiences at three upcoming Irish festivals.

The following unique festivals offer everything from outdoor movie screenings to immersive explorations of the dark arts. Fire up your imagination while watching stories come to life on the stage or see some animated magic bring a sketch to life – there’s no shortage of things to do. 

This simple guide will tell you what’s on, where to go and what to do at each of the following festivals to get the most from your break.

1. Bram Stoker Festival, Dublin

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What is it: Before there was Twilight or Buffy, the biggest vampire story in town was Dracula by our very own Bram Stoker. Having created one of the most iconic characters of all time, the Dublin author deserves his own festival in his home town and this year’s gothic programme of events runs from Friday, October 25, to Monday, October 28.

Movie fans can enjoy outdoor screenings of classic horror films in the Meeting House Square in Temple Bar, there’ll be a modern retelling of Dracula in St Ann’s Church in Dawson Street, and Wolfe Tone Square will play host to an intense séance experience that will test the nerves and psychology of 20 people at a time.

Where to stay: In keeping with the Dracula theme, a stay in a castle seems only fitting and we’d recommend Clontarf Castle in the author’s hometown. Alternatively, you should stay at the Shelbourne Hotel where Stoker met Henry Irving. Irving would later ask him to manage the Lyceum Theatre in London and it was there that he penned Dracula.

Where to eat/drink: Toners was a regular haunt of Stoker’s so this famous Dublin drinking hole is an obvious port of call for fans. You can also grab a bite in the Winding Stair Bookshop and Café, which seems like a good spot for lunch when paying tribute to one of our most famous authors. 

What to do: Visit Stoker’s old alma matter with a trip to Trinity College or take in his old place of work with a tour of Dublin Castle. Retrace Stoker’s steps by calling up to St Patrick’s Cathedral, which he often used to pass through on his way to Marsh’s Library.

2. Dublin Theatre Festival, Dublin

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What is it: This highlight of the Irish festival calendar features a packed programme of theatre, music and dance as well as artist talks, discussions, development programs and free events. This year’s programme will feature 10 world premieres and 14 international productions in multiple Dublin venues over three weeks from September 26 to October 13.

The 2019 programme includes classic works like Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World alongside new work by emerging Irish and international stars. This is your chance to catch the best in the business and up-and-coming talents strut their stuff on stages all across the capital.

Where to stay: Set in the heart of the city, Wynn’s Hotel has a longstanding connection to the Abbey Hotel and was a frequent meeting place for many of its actors over the years. Brooks Hotel is another central option that’s close to many of the festival’s venues and a great spot for a post-theatre nightcap. 

What to eat/drink: Treat yourself to a Michelin Star meal at Chapter One, sample some delicious Irish cuisine with a French twist from the pre-theatre menu at Le Bon Crubeen, or have a post-theatre drink at “Dublin’s most famous literary pub” Davy Brynes. 

What to do: Theatre fans should definitely try the backstage tour of the Abbey Theatre. Why not make a weekend of culture with a tour of the Dublin Writer’s Museum and a trip to the National Gallery of Ireland?

3. Kilkenny Animated, Kilkenny

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What is it: This is the second year of the Kilkenny Animated festival, which will celebrate visual storytelling from Friday, October 4, to Sunday, October 6. The result is a packed schedule of events that includes world premieres, insights from industry figures and entertainment that combines animation with live shows.

This year’s programme includes everything from a two-hour immersive projection called the Eye of the Dream to a screening of animated features with a live soundtrack by the inimitable Kíla. Fans of animation will love the talks with Irish and international guests, the stunning visual events and the chance to get expert advice from the best in the business.

Where to stay: The Pembroke Hotel offers four-star, boutique accommodation in Kilkenny city centre so you’re right in the centre of the action. Or you could add some luxury to your break with a weekend at the Lyrath Estate Hotel, a 17th century manor on the outskirts of Kilkenny.

Where to eat/drink: The Paris Texas Kilkenny offers a taste of the American South with a smokehouse menu that’s packed with flavour. If you want to soak up a bit of the area’s medieval past, Kytelers Inn dates back to 1263 and its cosy atmosphere is the perfect place to discuss the festive events that you’ve seen. 

What to do: The historic Kilkenny Castle has been based on its site in one form or another for 800 years. Take a guided tour, visit the tearoom or explore the great walks on its 50 acres of rolling parkland. If you’d rather a more relaxed visitor activity, pop into the Smithwicks Experience at the famous ale’s brewery in Kilkenny and sample a pint of this hometown brew.

From a jam-packed festival calendar to world-class food and drink events, there’s always something going on in Ireland. Find yourself at any one of dozens of festivals taking place around Ireland this year. Because a festival makes your break.

Discover the best of what’s on at the Discover Ireland website.

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