By the time ye are reading this I will already have relished at least one evening above in the place we call The Spa an hour away from home in Killaloe.

I will have enjoyed a drink and a chat in Curtin's Roadside Tavern across the road from the tastiest special spring water in town, and will probably have had a laugh with my old friends Willie Daly and the inimitable Paddy Hynes from Carron on the top of the baldy Burren. And I will be in such good form I will probably join in a pub singsong before the night is over.
You see, it is a fact that many in the wider world think that the Irish summer craic is over once the ember days come sliding in, the children head back to school, the Galway Races and Puck Fair are over and the Rose of Tralee is crowned below in Kerry. And the swallows fly away to warmer climes.

Those folk are very wrong. The reality is that the craic is only getting going properly if you know where to go to find it.

And for all of September, and indeed the beginning of October, the place to be is the matchmaking spa town of Lisdoonvarna.

The All-Ireland Fleadh in Ennis was special for its week towards the end of August.  But it is a merry reality that Lisdoonvarna has pumped vitality and joy and romance indeed not the west for more than a century now. Going stronger than ever.
In the beginning the little spa town was a place where bachelor farmers came shyly enough to seek wives once the hay was saved, the turf cut and the traditional old matchmakers readily available to make the deals between the two families.

Peter Curtin's lovely late mother told me years ago how families from the region would meet in the bar, the parameters of rural romance fully discussed -- such as the size and nature of the dowry the bride would bring with her -- and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, because the expectations on both sides were commonsensical, good solid loving marriages resulted. And a good time was had by all before September ended.
It is a different kind of matchmaking festival in 2016 for sure, but the core of the spirit of fun and frolic is, if anything, even stronger now.

It is not just bachelor farmers who come nowadays.  Tens of thousands of merrymakers travel from all over the world to join in the fun. And if boy finds girl and girl finds boy during the unending dancing, drinking and sing-alongs in every corner, then that is sustaining the tradition which made The Spa famous in the first place.
Willie Daly is the internationally famed modern matchmaker, and I'm told he is the fourth generation of his clan in the romantic business. By all accounts he has a long list of successful matches made at this stage and he is the flamboyant face of a festival which has so modulated its appeal that, nowadays -- and the old matchmakers must be spinning in their graves -- there is a hugely successful LGBT weekend towards the end of the month which attracts thousands of merrymakers in its own right and garnishes the entire occasion. Lisdoonvarna has moved with the times.
I once again will not drink a glass of the sulphurous spa water which flows freely at the Spa Wells on the edge of the town. I was never strong enough for that, even in my youth, no matter how healthy it is.

That apart, I know that I will enjoy every minute of the town that will become the capital of Craic for the next month and beyond and will ease in the leading edge of the upcoming winter so subtly that we won't notice it at all.
If any of you are visiting here this fall take my advice and make every effort to reach The Spa. If you are looking for romance you are likely to find it in one dimension or another and, with all the dancing and walking around, you will be as fit as a fiddle by the middle of October one way or the other.

 

"The craic is only getting going properly if you know where to go to find it."Caty Bartholomew