Ireland is a stunner the whole year round, but it positively shines during the summer months. It’s a magical time, when days stretch longer thanks to late sunsets and the whole island comes alive from coast to coast with events and festivals galore. If you’re planning an Irish adventure this summer, the following are 10 highlights you absolutely must take advantage of – not to mention 10 compelling reasons why you have to visit Ireland in the summer.
Swim, surf and play at Ireland’s blue flag beaches
Ireland has an abundance of beaches on offer, yet most visitors don’t immediately think of Ireland, with its rainy reputation, as a destination for swimming, surfing and sandcastle-building. This is a mistake. Just in time for summer 2017, a record number of Irish beaches – 88 to be exact – have been awarded the coveted Blue Flag status, marking them as superior for swimming. From Portumna in Galway to Greencastle Marina in Donegal, there are many fun waves to be explored. More interested in surfing? Head to Bundoran, Co. Donegal. Wild about marine life? Stop in Dingle, Co. Kerry for the chance to spot Fungie, Ireland’s most famous dolphin.
Island hop among Ireland’s enchanting islands
Ireland, itself an island, has hundreds of islands of its own, both inland and off its gorgeous shores. The summer months are prime time for exploring them. Perhaps the most famous are the Aran Islands, the trio of islands off the coast of Galway where the Irish culture and language has been preserved for generations.
Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer each have something special to offer, from charming bike rides and jaunting cart routes to historic wonders like Dun Aengus, the prehistoric stone fort on the cliffs of Inishmore. For an utterly unique experience, take Ireland’s only cable car from Cork’s Beara Peninsula to Dursey Island, where daytrippers can walk and take in standing stones and historic sites, including an old signal tower and WWII neutrality sign.
The Skellig islands off of the coast of County Kerry have always been a popular draw, but thanks to their featured roles in the latest "Star Wars" movies, seeing the Skelligs up close in person is now one of the most desirable experiences in all of Ireland. Book in advance to take one of the local boats from Ballinskelligs and walk in the footsteps of both Irish monks, who built the monastery atop Skellig Michael, in addition to Luke Skywalker.
Can’t-miss music festivals
Irish people live for their summer music festivals, and if you like to follow the ‘when in Rome’ dictum, then be certain to purchase tickets to whichever of the many music festivals are taking place during your trip. Fans of traditional music are especially in for a treat! Don’t miss the Fleadh Cheoil, in beautiful Ennis, Co. Clare August 13 – 21, the Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival in June, the Willie Clancy Festival in Milltown Malbay, Co, Clare July 1 – 9, the Dingle Trad Fest in one of County Kerry’s loveliest towns September 8 – 10, or The Rory Gallagher Festival in Ballyshannon, June 1 – 4.
For contemporary music, the main event is always Electric Picnic, which takes place in early September in Stradbally, Co. Laois. The massive three-day event features headliners like Siugr Ros, Florence and the Machine, The Cure, Beck and LCD Soundsystem. Other contemporary music festivals include Longitude, which takes place in Dublin in July, and Belfast’s Belsonic in June.
A kaleidoscope of arts festivals
The brilliance of Ireland’s summer festivals is that so many of them go beyond concerts and music sessions to incorporate the larger arts scene – visual art, cinema, theater, and dance. Perhaps the most famous among them is the Galway International Arts Festival, which takes place July 17 – 30 in beautiful Galway City. Also not to be missed is the bilingual Irish and English Earagail Arts Festival, happening in County Donegal along the Wild Atlantic Way July 4 – 23, the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August, or the Dublin Fringe Festival in September.
Delicious food festivals
As you have gathered by now, Ireland truly has an abundance of summer festivals! But you’d be especially remiss to skip out on a food festival during your trip. Whether you’re mad about seafood, whiskey, grilling, or farm-to-table cooking, Ireland has a delectable day out you’ll never forget.
Foodies go wild for the Taste of Dublin (June 15-18) and Taste of Donegal (August 25 – 27) food festivals, while the Midleton Food and Drink Festival in Co. Cork, September 3 – 10 celebrates locally sourced food. Seafood lovers will delight in the Carlingford Oyster Festival in August and the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival, September 22 – 24, and if it just isn’t summer for you without some meats fresh off the grill, don’t miss the Big Grill Festival in Dublin, August 17 – 20. Ireland also has you covered no matter what your drink of choice
The Whiskey in Summer fest runs June 30 – July 1 in Dublin, and venues across the country celebrate the burgeoning Irish gin industry with the Irish Gin and Tonic Fest, June 25 – July 1. Beer lovers flock to Kerry for the Killarney Beer Fest, held at the end of May, which features a range of brews from Irish breweries.
Perhaps Ireland’s greatest gift to the summertime visitor is its long and luxurious hours of daylight, which can stretch to 10:00pm in June and July. This allows you to fill your days with more, and take things at a leisurely pace. Plus, when the sun does set, the views are unreal. Popular sunset viewing points include the famous Cliffs of Moher, Dublin’s Howth and Dun Laoighre piers, Salthill promenade in Galway, and the grounds of Dunluce Castle in Antrim. Any of Ireland’s beaches will also offer a resplendent sunset view.
Bloomsday – the St. Patrick’s Day of summer
If you’ve never spent Bloomsday in Ireland, you’re missing out. June 16 marks the day on which James Joyce’s landmark novel "Ulysses" takes place, and over the decades it has transformed from a niche celebration by literary aficionados to a full-blown Victorian-garbed party – particularly in Dublin, where "Ulysses" is set. Events in tribute to Joyce and his legacy, and to Irish literature in general, take place across the city in the days leading up to Bloomsday (the St. Patrick’s Day of summer), and the day itself is marked by visits to Dublin’s Joycean landmarks, readings, concerts, and literary pub crawls.
Go on a proper road trip
Practically any long drive you take in Ireland will include some stunning landscape views, making it prime road trip territory. What’s more, since Ireland has an abundance to offer in a comparatively small package, traveling by car allows you to cover the most ground.
So, hop in, roll the windows down, repeat the mantra “drive on the left,” and set off on a breathtaking coastal route like the Wild Atlantic Way or the Giants Causeway on the Causeway Coastal Route. Take in the Ring of Kerry or the Beara Peninsula, or drive through the Wicklow mountains to see their beautiful peaks and valleys.
Explore majestic gardens
Ireland blooms in the summer, and there’s no better place to witness this than in one of the country’s many fine gardens. From the stately and manicured Powerscourt in Wicklow, to the renowned Japanese Gardens at the Irish National Stud in Kildare, or the beautiful walled garden of Glenarm Castle in County Antrim, there is something for everyone. Pack a picnic and make a day of it.
Is the promise of the most delicious ice cream cone you’ve ever had reason enough to visit a country? We’ll let you be the judge.
This post is proudly produced in partnership with Tourism Ireland. Find out more on Ireland.com