Category Archives: Festivals

Top 6 Christmas Markets in Ireland

Our Top 6 Recommended Christmas Markets to Visit in Ireland this Year

What else could we write about at this time of year but Christmas? One of the more recent traditions during the festive period here in Ireland is a visit to a Christmas market! So if you would like the opportunity to buy unique & authentic Irish gifts and taste some of Ireland’s best artisan food then look no further than one of the six markets that we have listed below.

Galway Continental Christmas Market

Galway Christmas Market - Top 6 Christmas Markets in Ireland
Galway Christmas Market in Eyre Square

The Galway Continental Market is one of Ireland’s most popular and longest running Christmas Markets.  The market usually runs from the middle of November until right before Christmas and spans all the ways from Eyre Square to the Spanish Arch. The market stalls are a mixture of both local & European products (hence the name). The German Bier Keller is one of the favourite tents to visit for many of the market goers and if you’re not afraid of heights you can try out the 32 metre high big wheel too.

Belfast Christmas Market

Belfast Christmas Market - Top 6 Christmas Markets in Ireland
Belfast Christmas Market with Belfast City Hall in the background

Regarded as one the best markets in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Christmas Market is configured of 90 wooden chalets representing 30 countries from all over the world.  The market usually runs from the middle of November until right before Christmas and is situated at the picturesque city hall. On offer are a variety of Christmas decorations, handmade jewellery and a food court which supplies both local and continental food. The mulled wine is highly recommended.

 Dublin Christmas Flea Market

Dublin - Top 6 Christmas Markets in Ireland
St Stephens Green Dublin at Christmas Time

As you can probably imagine, the capital city has no shortage of top quality Christmas markets so picking out just one is quite difficult but we have decided on the Christmas Flea Market.  Located at the Point Square right next to the 3Arena, the market usually takes place on the second weekend in December. No two stalls are the same with craftspeople, artists, collectors and designers showcasing there talent. So if you are looking to buy a more quirky and unique gift for someone then the Christmas flea market is definitely worth a visit.

 Milk Market (Limerick)

Milk Market - Top 6 Christmas Markets in Ireland
Milk Market in Limerick City

Located in Limerick’s historic Old Quarter, the Milk Market is run every weekend during the year however it takes on a Christmas theme as the festive period approaches. A renowned hot spot for food buffs, the Milk Market is well known for its locally produced quality food with a wide range of products available for you to sample. The themed stalls, choirs and Santa’s grotto will get you in the Christmas spirit in no time.

 Waterford Winterval

Waterford Winterval - Top 6 Christmas Markets in Ireland
Waterford Winterval

With over 60 market stalls bringing festive charms to Ireland’s oldest city, Winterval is one the premier Christmas markets in the south east of Ireland. Winterval usually runs from the end of November right up to Christmas and is spread across three different locations in Waterford City Centre. Make sure to check out the vintage ferris wheel, the storytelling in Reginald’s Tower and the Winterval Express train which takes you on a tour of all the festivals attractions.

Glow – A Cork Christmas Celebration

Glow Cork - Top 6 Christmas Markets in Ireland
The Glow festival held in Bishop Lucey Park, Cork City

For some merry entertainment in Ireland’s second city, look no further than Glow! Conveniently located in Bishop Lucey Park just off grand parade in Cork City Centre, the market runs every weekend in December, right up to Christmas! Glow lights up Cork with fantastic Christmas food markets, choral performances and a 30 metre high ferris wheel provides amazing views of the city. Just across the street from the park is the famous food market, The English Market, where you can try the famous spiced beef or some buttered eggs.

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Saint Brigid’s Day in Ireland

Saint Bridgid’s Cross

Saint Brigid is the Patroness of Ireland, also known as ‘Mary of the Gael’. Her feast day, Saint Brigid’s Day, is the 1st of February, the start of the Spring season. Traditionally Saint Brigid crosses like this one are made from rushes on her feast day and hung in the house for the rest of the year to ward off evil and danger from fire.

Saint Brigid’s Day is believed to have come from the pagan festival ‘Imbolc’ which literally beans ‘in the belly’ and celebrates spring and the arrival of longer days. In pagan mythology, Brigid was the goddess of fertility.

In some parts of Ireland St Brigid’s Day is celebrated with the ‘’Brideog’’, a handmade doll traditionally fashioned out of straw and dressed in white. The Brigeog is taken from house to house and usually at each house the visitors play traditional Irish music and dance.

The Brideog Doll (Image credit Doolin 2 Aran Ferries)
The Brideog Doll (Image credit Doolin 2 Aran Ferries)

Saint Brigid is associated with County Kildare and is sometimes referred to as ‘Brigid of Kildare’. According to legend Brigid founded a monastery at Kildare on the site of an older pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid, served by a group of young women who tended an eternal flame. In the 6th century, a monastery was erected on the same site. The original monastery no longer exists but a new Cathedral was built on the site during the 13th century. This Cathedral still stands and the sisters of St. Brigid (nuns) reside there.

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Irish Christmas Traditions

Christmas in Ireland really is a joyous occasion, a time when family members come to celebrate together, a time for tearful airport reunions, boozie parties, festive food, family gatherings and a time for making lasting memories. We’ve put together a selection of our favourite Irish Christmas Traditions purely for your festive enjoyment!

Christmas Markets

Galway Continental Christmas Market

It’s a relatively new tradition but for the past number of years, Ireland has had some great Christmas markets in the lead up to the Christmas period. Galway Continental Christmas Market is probably the longest running market and here you will find more than fifty traders from Ireland and further afield in Europe. The market is outdoors in the centre of Galway City, complete with Christmassy carousels, mulled wine and festive entertainment! It usually runs from the last week of November until the third week of December. In Northern Ireland, the Belfast Continental Christmas Market is also proving to be a very popular with numbers and support growing tremendously every year. This market runs from about the 15th  of November until the 21st of December.

Christmas Festivals

Two of Ireland’s biggest Christmas Festivals are Waterford Winterval & the Dublin Docklands Festival. Popular attractions in Waterford include a festive horse drawn carriage, a vintage Ferris wheel, a Christmas train ride through the city and the Exploration Dome which showcases 360 degree movies on snow creation, astronomy and more! The festival usually runs from the 21st of November to the 23rd of December. With Christmas Choirs, Brass Bands, Christmas Market Stalls and a Family Christmas Treasure hunt, the Dublin Docklands Christmas Festival has been running successfully for a number of years. It runs from December 12th to 23rd and many of its attractions are free.

The Annual Christmas Swim!

Christmas Swim Portrush ( Photocredit; IB Times )

In coastal towns across the country a freezing cold Atlantic Ocean swim is becoming an annual custom. This is usually done to collect money for local charities or clubs and it is certainly an experience given that the temperature in Ireland around December can drop below freezing point

Hot Port/Hot Whiskey & Enough Food to Feed a Small Army!

Spiced Beef, Christmas Dinner and Hot Whiskey

If there is one thing an Irish mammy knows how to do, it’s keep her family well fed at Christmas time! In many households around Ireland Hot Port & Hot Irish Whiskey is the Christmas Drink of choice. Of course we have the big Turkey dinner on Christmas day and at home in Cork where I hail from we have Spiced Beef on Christmas Eve.

The Wren Boys

The Wren Boys, North Cork

Hunting the Wren (pronounced ‘Ran’ in some places) is one of my personal favourite Irish Christmas Traditions. People have been doing this for hundreds of years in many places throughout Ireland. To hunt the wren, local musicians and dancers dress up and paint their faces, and travel from door to door singing, dancing and playing Irish music. ‘Wren Boys’ go around on Saint Stephen’s Day, the 26th December and money will be collected, usually for local clubs or charities. The original Wren Boys would have hunted and killed a wren in advance to take on parade with them but that’s not done anymore. Local legend tells us that the reason the wren is hunted is because of its involvement in the betrayal of St. Stephen. Another version of this tradition says it’s to celebrate the Wren as the King of all birds. Legend says the Wren is the king because once all the birds in Ireland had a race to see who could fly the highest. The eagle was winning but the clever wren jumped up on his shoulder and flew the final length beating all the other birds, including the eagle!

The Annual Roses Vs Quality Street Debate

Roses vs Quality Street

In an Irish household at Christmas you will find either one or the other of these types of sweets.  A point of constant debate is which one is better. Personally I go for the quality street every time!

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The 1916 Easter Rising: Places to Visit & 2016 Centenary Celebrations

By Orla Spencer

The 1916 Easter Rising was an armed rebellion in Ireland during Easter Week by members of the Irish Volunteers led by Irish activists Padraig Pearse & James Connolly. With far superior soldier numbers and weaponry, the British army quickly defeated the rising, and Pearse agreed to surrender on Saturday 29 April 1916. Many of the leaders were executed following the events and so the rebellion in one sense was a failure. It did however succeed in bringing republicanism back to the forefront of Irish politics and support for an independent Ireland continued to rise which eventually led to Ireland’s freedom after the war of Independence.

This year the people of Ireland are getting ready for the 100 year anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.  The Centenary celebrations will include a formal State celebration to remember the events and the people who made it possible. Some of the best places to visit in Dublin to find out more about the Easter Rising 1916 include;

Collins Barracks, The National Museum of Decorative Arts & History
Collins Barracks, The National Museum of Decorative Arts & History

The National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks: The National Museum of Ireland is a fantastic museum featuring decorative arts and Irish history.  Given that the museum is placed in a building that was a former Army Barracks, there is an emphasis on Irish Military History. The 1916 Rising is currently covered in the Soldiers and Chiefs Exhibition but in 2016 a brand new exhibition will open called Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising, this exhibition will mark the 100 year anniversary of the Rising and is due to open around the 3rd of March 2016.

Kilmainham Gaol - 1916 Easter Rising
Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol: Kilmainham Gaol is one of the biggest unoccupied gaols in Europe and played a central part in the events after the 1916 Rebellion. The Gaol had been closed at the time of the rising but was reopened especially to house the hundreds of men and women arrested for their part in the battle. In early May, fourteen of these prisoners including Padraig Pearse were executed in the stone breakers yard section of the grounds.  Nowadays, attractions at the museum include a major presentation detailing the political and penal history of the prison and its restoration. The museum have not yet released any information on their 1916 Centenary celebration events but it is expected that there will be events to commemorate the rising over the Easter period in 2016 and beyond.

The General Post Office (GPO):  The General Post Office (GPO) in the centre of Dublin’s O’Connell Street is now the headquarters of the Irish Postal Service, An Post. During the Easter Rising, the building was headquarters of the men and women that took part in the battle. At the moment there is a small virtual exhibition in the GPO about the rising but in March 2016 a new visitor centre dedicated to the 1916 Rising is due to be opened called GPO Witness History. The museum will feature special effects, soundscapes and stories of real Irish people.

The General Post Office, Dublin, 1916 Rising Places to Visit
The General Post Office, Dublin

The Royal College of Surgeons, Stephen’s Green & the Shelbourne Hotel: During the Easter Rising, Michael Malin and Countess Markievicz were assigned to Stephen’s Green, a 22 acre public park in the centre of the city. It turned out that St. Stephen’s Green was a vulnerable position as it was overlooked by the Shelbourne Hotel which was occupied by British forces. Seeing this, the Green was abandoned and the volunteers fled to the Royal College of Surgeons. St. Stephen’s Green is still open to the public, there are 3.5km of pathways to walk through and you will find a bust of Countess Markievicz to the South of the central garden.

The Four Courts, Dublin, Places to visit 1916 Rebellion
The Four Courts, Dublin

The Four Courts: The Four Courts is Ireland’s main court of Justice and houses the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Dublin Circuit Court; it is located on Inns Quay in the city centre.  The first battalion of the Dublin Brigade, led by Edward Daly, occupied this building and the surrounding streets during the rebellion.  The building survived the Rising, but was subsequently destroyed during the Civil War in 1922. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1932.

Glasnevin Cemetery: Many of the people that died in the 1916 rebellion and subsequent battles for freedom were interred at Glasnevin Cemetery. The Glasnevin Trust operates tours of the graveyard daily and in 2016 there is a yearlong program of events planned to commemorate the 1916 Rising including re-enactments and special tours.

Glasnevin Cemetery& Museum, 1916 Rising Places to visit
Glasnevin Cemetery & Museum

Dublin Castle & City Hall: The uprising began at Dublin Castle which was the centre of British Rule in Ireland. The rebellions failed to capture City Hall however they succeeded in occupying City Hall which is situated beside Dublin Castle.

City Hall, Dublin, Places to visit 1916 Easter Rebellion
City Hall, Dublin

City Hall is open to the public all year round and there is a permanent multi-media exhibition which traces the history of Dublin from 1170 to the present. There is also a new exhibition which tells the story of Dublin’s firefighters during the 1916 Rising.  In addition the original copy of the 1916 Proclamation which has been recently preserved will be on display at City Hall from Easter 2016.

Dublin Castle (View from Chester Beatty Library Roof), 1916 Easter Rising Places to See
Dublin Castle (View from Chester Beatty Library Roof)

The grounds of Dublin Castle are free to explore, as are the Chester Beatty Library and the Revenue Museum which are located within the grounds. Access to the State Apartments and the Chapel Royal are by guided tour only and tickets can be purchased on site.

The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham (The National Museum of Modern Art): The building which now houses the National Museum of Modern Art was at the time of the 1916 Rising, the headquarters of the British Army. Most exhibitions at the museum are free of charge, unless otherwise specified. Other facilities include a café, bookshop and free guided tours of the exhibitions.

The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham (The National Museum of Modern Art), 1916 Rising Places to Visit
The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham (The National Museum of Modern Art)

Would you like to explore the locations associated with the 1916 uprising yourself? Then get in touch with us today and we can handle all the arrangements!

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Bealtaine

By Orla Spencer

In Irish mythology there were four festival days to mark the start of a new season: spring was marked on the 1st of February with the pagan festival of ‘Imbolc’ (now St. Brigid’s Day), autumn was marked on the 1st of August with the festival of ‘Lúnasa’ and winter on the 1st of November with ‘Samhain’. Today, the 1st of May, the start of summer would have been celebrated with the festival of ‘Bealtaine’.

During Bealtaine our ancestors welcomed the summer, saying goodbye to the winter and harder times. Flowers, feasts, celebratory dancing and bonfires were a prominent feature of the celebrations. People also sought protection for themselves and their livestock against supernatural forces such as the Fairies.

There are many Irish traditions that stem from Bealtaine, in many parts of Ireland, flowers were picked the day before and placed on the windowsills of people’s houses or above the front door. It was believed that this bunch of flowers would protect the house and those inside it because fairies could not enter the home as they could not pass the sweet smell of the flowers. In a similar tradition the ‘May Bush’ outside people’s homes was decorated with ribbon and candles. The custom of erecting a May bush still survives in some places, particularly in the Midlands.

For more information on May festivals, visit the Museum of Country Life’s Website: http://www.museum.ie/en/list/topic-may-day.aspx

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Puck Fair

By Orla Spencer

Another mad Irish Fest!
It can be said that Ireland loves a festival with a bit of character (to put it mildly!), that’s probably why the Puck Fair Festival in Killorglin County Kerry has been going strong for more than 400 years!

Puck Fair queen kissing king goat
Puck Fair, Killorglin, Kerry

Every year a goat catcher makes their way up one of the Kerry Mountains to retrieve a wild goat. When the goat is brought back to the town a local young girl usually chosen from one of the national schools is named ‘Queen of Puck’ and crowns the goat ‘King Puck’. King Puck then spends three days on a high stand overlooking Killorglin town, to oversee the celebrations below and when the festival is ended he is safely returned from where he came. Festivities include live music, a live parade, workshops and street performers.

What’s the history behind Puck Fair? It’s going on so long that nobody really knows why but the most widely told story is one involving Oliver Cromwell who came to Ireland with armed forces in 1649 with the intention of carrying on ‘’the great work against the barbarous and blood-thirsty Irish’’. The story of Puck tells us that while Cromwell and his men were pillaging the countryside they rounded a heard of wild goats from the mountain. One of the goats then broke free and made his way to Killorglin town and alerted the townsfolk to Cromwell’s arrival giving them time to prepare themselves for defence. It is said that in gratitude for the service rendered by that goat that the people decided to put on a special festival in his honour and this festival has been held ever since.

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The Irish Red Head Convention

By Orla Spencer

Possibly the weirdest (but most craic) festival in Ireland!
The Irish Red Head convention takes place every year toward the end of August in Crosshaven County Cork. The festival is growing in numbers every year and this year the numbers surpassed 3000!

Irish Redhead Convention King & Queen
Irish Redhead Convention King & Queen

The festival is a true celebration of the red haired with the highlight of the weekend being the crowning of the new Ginger King & Queen! Other whacky activities at the convention include prizes for the best red eyebrows and the most freckles per square inch! The most recent festival goers enjoyed Ginger Speed Dating, Red-Head Pitch & Putt & the annual Carrot tossing pitch and Putt! One of the best things about the Irish Red Head convention is that by attending you are showing support and raising much needed funds for the Irish Cancer Society.

Irish Redhead Convention Celebrations
Irish Redhead Convention Celebrations

If you’ve got some red locks to show off, why not make it your business to attend the next Irish Red Head Convention!

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Dingle’s Best Festivals

By Orla Spencer

Galway is often referred to as Ireland’s festival City but Dingle has some great festivals also! Dingle Walking Festival

Dingle is a walker’s paradise due to its unspoilt landscape and breath-taking views. Dingle Walking Festival takes place in February and attendees have the opportunity to explore mountainous terrains as well as less strenuous but picturesque valleys.

Walking Image (Tourism Ireland)

 

Dingle Film Festival The Dingle Film Festival is home to the Gregory Peck award and recipients have included Stephen Frears, Jim Sheridan and one of Ireland’s most famous actors, Gabriel Byrne. The festival usually takes place mid-March.

Féile na Bealtaine Féile na Bealtaine is an arts and culture festival which takes place in May every year and has been doing so for more than 20 years. The festival typically includes music concerts of all types, children’s events, art exhibitions, short and full length films, street theatre, comedy and poetry. The festival has lots to offer and a favourite of many is the annual sheep-dog trials!

Brandon Regatta The last boat rowing contest of the summer, the Brandon Regatta takes place in late August every year. Enjoy watching boat racing from the pier whilst appreciating local music, song and festivities.

Dingle Races This festival is popular with locals and tourists alike and takes place at the end of August every year. It is the biggest of all flapper races in Ireland including many of the best horses from all over the country, and a variety of jockeys young and old.

Dingle Races by Barbara Walsh
Dingle Races by Barbara Walsh

Dingle Tradfest Dingle Trad Fest takes place in mid-September. The aim of the celebration is to promote Irish music in an exciting new and unique way. The festival features both national and internationally acclaimed artists showcasing modern and traditional talents. One of the highlights of the fest is the Saturday Night Trad-Disco!

Traditional Music Session
Traditional Music Session

Dingle Food Festival Dingle Food Festival takes place in the beginning of October each year and includes a taste trail of over 60 outlets. Festival attendees purchase a book of tickets and can use them to taste in various locations including, restaurants, pubs, shops, galleries and restaurants. This is a fantastic opportunity to sample some of the fresh seafood for which Ireland is famous for.

 

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