Best Festivals in Ireland Each Year- Part 1.

Festivals in Ireland – Arts- Agriculture- Books- Boats- Comedy  Gardens- Horses -Music-

Schull West Cork

Colourful villages and Towns

Ireland has a great range of festivals held mainly in the summer months. These include large weeklong festivals to small community festivals where people come together based on shared interest or activity. St Patrick’s Day, the national holiday, is celebrated the world over as well as in Ireland with marching bands, floats and street theatre throughout Ireland.  The majority of Irish festivals have been cancelled in 2020 due to Covid19, with a few like Cork Midsummer Festival going online in 2020. Here we remember the best music festivals of the year and give details of some of the many other festivals usually held.

Planning a holiday in Ireland it would be great to include a festival of interest close to your heart. For 2021 look at the festivals you might be interested in and book tickets to some events well in advance of your trip. Attending a festival helps you get to know Ireland, its people and landscape in a different way. Each listing has a link to the festival homepage for more details. When planning a holiday in Ireland let ActivityDays help you to arrange a bespoke holiday in Ireland.  Please advise us on a festival we may have forgotten.

We have listed festivals under 3 different related blogs. Get planning for 2-21

  • 1 Festivals with Special interests- There are so many festivals to choose from. Pre-book tickets for events you want to attend when booking flights to Ireland and build the holiday around the festival you choose.
  • 2 Festivals for Young Adults – present-day festivals you can include in a holiday in Ireland. Note the age group varies depending on the festival!
  • 3 History of Music Festivals in Ireland since the 1970s.

Dingle Food Festival

Dingle Food Festival








Festivals In Ireland – Part 1

These festivals have been listed by special interest and click on the links to find out more about each festival, so you can attend when visiting Ireland.

Type  of Festival

Details of Festival 

Agriculture Shows.

Cattle, sheep, poultry,  horses and horse riding, plants, cooking, crafts and even the babies were traditionally celebrated. These take place in different counties throughout the summer months.

Cork Summer Show in early June takes place near Cork city. There are show-jumping  competitors, cattle and sheep, as well as dog show, horticulture and cookery

Charleville Show in North Cork and Finn Valley Agricultural Show in Donegal at the end of June. 

Mullingar Show in Westmeath has been taking place for  180 years with competitions in traditional classes of agriculture with pedigree & commercial cattle and sheet showing. There are many stands selling produce which reflect all aspects of country life.

Ploughing Festival – This is the largest Festival in  Ireland, held each mid-week in 3rd week of September each year, is aimed at the farming and rural community. The national ploughing competitions take place to one side of the event, but many have no interest in this part of  the festival. Tracks are laid down in a field to make a very large centre for trade stands, sales of machinery, cattle competitions, entertainment tents and information from government departments as well as competitions. The winners of the smaller agricultural shows all feed into the Ploughing Championship.  Great fun for all age groups


  Arts Festival

Cork Midsummer Festival This June Festival has travelling theatre, walks, a long table picnic and music performances.

Errigal Arts Festival takes place during the month of July and is the main summer festival in Donegal.

Galway Arts Festival takes place in July in Galway city with talks, walks, concerts and much more throughout the month.

Kilkenny Arts Festival – takes place in the 2nd week of August. There are theatre performances, music, outdoor performances, music and various arts events.


Boats –

Cruinniú na mBád

Cruinniú na mBád takes place in Kinvara, Galway on the 2nd weekend of August. The Galway hooker is a wooden boat with red sails which traditionally took turf, grain and other supplies around Galway Bay.

There are 2 types of boats, the larger Hooker and the smaller Gleotóg. They are crewed by groups of local people and villages compete with one another in a spectacle which can be viewed all over Galway Bay.


Book Festivals

Listowel Writers’ Week – takes place at the end of May each year in the north Kerry town made famous by the writer John B Keane. The festival programme focuses on writing workshops for adults and children. It celebrates writing and the arts with competitions for writers of all ages.

Dalkey Book Festival – This takes place in a small seaside village in South Dublin in June each year. It features Irish and international writers take part with readings from their works. There is a large prize fund for the best books which helps attract writers. 

West Cork Literary Festival – Takes place in Bantry, West Cork on the 2nd Week of July in various venues throughout the town where people attend readings and meet authors in an intimate festival.


Comedy -Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival

On the June bank holiday weekend, the Kilkenny Cats Laugh comedy festival takes place,  where Ireland’s best comedians and some international comics come together for a weekend of fun and laughter all over the city of Kilkenny. Book tickets for events well in advance. 


Garden Festivals

There are many Garden Trails and Garden Festivals in Ireland. The largest Garden Festival in Ireland Bloom takes place in Dublin City’s Phonex Park at   start of  June (bank holiday weekend). This annual festival has spectacular gardens, garden designers, flower growers, plants, furniture, food and garden-related talks. We have the Tope 10 Garden in Ireland in a separate Blog. Here are few Garden Festivals and events here which could be of interest on your holiday.

Mount Altmont Garden – In early Spring Mount Altmont Co Carlow has the national collection of Snowdrops. IT is a Robinsonian garden with emphasis on natural landscape and planting. Guided Tours available in this garden owned by the state.

Wicklow Gardens – events in Gardens throughout the summer with large gardens at Powerscourt, Killruddery, National Botanic Gardens, Mount Usher with smaller private gardens as well.

West Cork Garden Trail – Due to the Gulf Stream making the area of      West Cork a temperate climate the planting in the area is sub-tropical with lush growth. There are 27 gardens to visit in June each year from the formal gardens of Bantry House to small private gardens owned passion plants people.

Donegal Garden Trail – Donegal at the northern end of Ireland has a very different climate to  West Cork and a different planting variety.


Food Festivals  7

Take a look at our blog on Food Festivals through the year and is Cork the Food Capitol of Ireland?

Dingle Food Festival – takes place on the first weekend of October, in the lovely fishing town located on the Wild Atlantic Way. The streets come alive, with food stalls, drink stalls and entertainment. International visitors and locals fill the streets during the widely renowned event.

There are over 50 stalls and the entertainment includes cooking demonstrations and workshops. Some of the best local produce is available for sample and for sale.   The atmosphere is lively and when the sun shines it’s hard to beat a stroll down the main street, food and drink in hand, enjoying the live  music playing in the background. You can buy a booklet of tokens which can be traded in against purchases at the stalls.  Blas na Éireann awards (Taste of Ireland) event  takes place in parallel with the festival and is geared towards food producers.

Halloween Festivals

In Galway the arts organisation Macnas makes giant puppets which patrol the streets during  Halloween and other festivals during the year, bringing fun to all. There are Halloween events all over Ireland at the end of October with the Bran Stoker Festival in Dublin being one of the newer festivals. Samhain Festival is held in Co Meath. 


Horses –

Dublin Horse Show.

Dublin International Horse Show focuses on showjumping events in the RDS, Dublin over five days in the middle of August. From Wednesday to Sunday there are horse riding and eventing competitions in the main arena for all age groups.  It includes showing, performance, national and international showjumping classes. In the afternoon and evenings, international competitions take place with the Aga Chan competition being the most important one. There are a wide variety of entertainments for all the family including food and food displays. The RDS hall, one of the largest venues in Dublin, is turned into a sales hall with clothing, books and lots for the horse lover on sale.

10 Matchmaking Festival – Lisdoonvarna On Lisdoonvarna Co Clare taking place over the month of September in this is a traditional festival of love and matchmaking. People used to come here to meet a partners, after the farm work was complete. A Matchmaker took details fo people looking for a partner for marriage and matched the most suitable people. The matchmaker is still in Lisdoonvarna but this festival is mostly for music and dancing each day. There are afternoon dancing, evening dancing and craic. Lots of people of all ages attend for fun in modern times
11 Music – Classical Music

Cork International Choral Festival

West Cork Chamber Music Festival – This 10 day Festival at the end of June in Bantry West Cork specialises in chamber music groups over 10 days of events. Workshops for students with international players are organised. Pre-book tickets to concerts as the venues are small

Wexford Opera Festival 

12 Music – Traditional Festivals

Willy Clancy Summer School Takes place in Miltown Malbay,  Co Clare over a week in early July. Willie Clancy was a famous uillean piper so this instrument is at the heart of the festival which also features music and song workshops, dance, lectures, recitals and céilí during the week.

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireannFleadh na hÉireann  is Ireland’s premier traditional music festival dating to 1951 and takes place in the first week of August. The venue changes annually and the 2020 Fleadh was due to take place in Mullingar. Throughout Ireland, students take part in classes all year and in the spring each area holds local competitions. The winners go to the county and then regional finals in the early summer.  It features street performances as well as competitions and nightly concerts and is a great expression of Irish culture.

Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Festival – takes place each August in the town of Ballyshannon in Donegal.

Music – Other

Doolin Folk Festival – takes place in June Co Clare. Traditional music played in pubs throughout the town with many well know traditional music players taking part. 

Look at  Cork Jazz Festival in Blog no 2  Festivals For Young Adults

Here are details of all the music Festivals in Ireland.

Garden Festivals in Ireland

Doolin Folk Festival








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