Ireland is springing into fall with a multitude of events for everyone, writes Rachael Shearer.
We'll have an Indian Summer, they said. It’s September and the skies are blue, birds are flapping and the sun is looking promising.
Perhaps my fears of the new academic year being bleak as I’m left out of the back-to-school rush were unnecessary. Perhaps this will be Ireland’s glory month.
In light of this new-found positivity, I have taken a look at what is going on around the country this month. September truly is festival season in Ireland with Electric Picnic kicking off the month in Stradbally with live acts such as Florence and the Machine, Grace Jones and Sam Smith.
However, when it comes to camping in a large field that smells of porta-loos and warm beer, I would rather gouge my own eyes out with something sharp and pointy. For any of you who are Ireland-bound this September and similarly inclined, or for those of you wishing to take a last minute excursion, here’s the skinny on the other fantastic festivals taking place in Ireland this month that don’t involve camping and are therefore massively superior to the aforementioned “picnic.”
If your top destination is Dublin, September is all about the arts with the country’s two biggest theater festivals dominating the city. Book your tickets fast and your accommodation faster!
There’s the Tiger Dublin Fringe Fest. Okay, so we’re not Edinburgh, but the Dublin Fringe is an incredibly fun week with a ton of new shows and exciting acts to behold. We also send a bunch of Irish folk over to Edinburgh every year and have an abundance of talent that stems from home. The Festival runs until the 20th with a range of comedy, music, dance, theater and film events -– all of which can be seen at www.fringefest.com.
My highest recommendations are for Irish comedian extraordinaire David O’Doherty, Our Island by Mirari Productions which is a topical tale of homosexuality in modern-day Ireland, and Oh! What a Lovely Rose by Tragic Spud Productions which is an absolutely hilarious spin on the Irish beauty pageant, The Rose of Tralee. A little later in the month, the Dublin Theatre Festival kicks off on September 24. This will bring a more international range of magic to our shores such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, as well as some local delights.
The world renowned Abbey Theatre will be presenting a stellar production of Oedipus, while Belfast’s Lyric will be presenting a traditional Brian Friel production of Dancing at Lughnasa. There’s also a wide range of fun, spectacular plays for children. All you’ll need to know is at www.dublintheatrefestival.com.
I find that when most people visit Ireland they tend not to visit Dublin exclusively, and often like to check out another area of the country too. So here’s some of the other happenings if you’re brain has been overly inundated with theater and you fancy a little escape.
Shout-out to my hometown of Waterford City where the harvest festival is taking place until the 13th. This festival is all about heritage, history and –- most importantly –- food. Markets and stalls line the streets with tons of tasty treats. There’ll be street performances and live music to entertain while you munch, and it is absolutely imperative that you try a blaa (soft, delicious floury bread ONLY available in Waterford and ultimately life-altering in its scrumptiousness).
Hang out until the following weekend where we’re also hosting the Irish Hot Air Balloon championships! Waterford has it all going on this September. There’s plenty of gorgeous seaside and city hotels, B&B’s and guesthouses where you can relax too. I’m not biased, I swear. If music is more your vibe, then you’ve got to head to Cork for the Clonakilty International Guitar Festival from September 17-20. Bring your guitar and join in the billion musical sessions taking place in a trail throughout the city. Whether you’re there to participate or simply watch, it’s a top destination for musical enthusiasts worldwide.
Cork is also a great city to holiday to, regardless of the music festival. Take an additional excursion to Baltimore in West Cork and take a little boating trip to some of the many islands along the coast. The sun is always shining down there and the fresh seafood will rock your world. Speaking of fresh seafood, a little further up the coast is another fantastic city for music and delicious coastal crustaceans. Galway’s International Oyster and Seafood festival takes place from September 24-27. This is one of Ireland’s longest running festivals and is believed to be one of the first food festivals in the world.
The main event is the Guinness World Oyster Opening Championship and of course, lots of oyster consumption. There’s also the general Galway hubbub of an obscene amount of live music — check out the infamous Roisin Dubh for guaranteed entertainment -– and plenty seafood trails with a variety of fishy friends if oysters aren’t your jam. Top tip is to rent a car and drive an hour north into Connemara and swim in the frothy freshness of the wild Atlantic after a hike in the rolling hills. Magical. I can’t leave out the National Ploughing Championships in Stradbally, Co. Laois (same scene of the Electric Picnic crime) which sounds completely ridiculous but is absolutely the biggest and most important event in rural Ireland every year.
The general idea is quite literally a ploughing competition featuring a large trade show with livestock, machinery, crafts, food and music, of course, and even fashion which could arguably be the most entertaining part. The biggest attraction is the horse-drawn ploughing competition because horses are magical, and the skill involved is genuinely very impressive.
This is not just for farmers and has gained international acclaim as a highly fun weekend for locals, tourists and families alike. It’s also about as Irish as you can get.
For one little country, you’ll have to agree that we put on quite a show.