August and June Bank Holiday Weekends
It’s not just banks who take these, the first Mondays of August and June, off – bank holidays are the term for public holidays in Ireland where pretty much everyone takes the day off. (This year, these holidays falls on June 8 and Aug. 3.) There’s no specific reason for these holidays and Irish people traditionally use them for extended weekend breaks, often to coastal areas such as Galway, Kerry or Cork. As you would expect, Irish people don’t need much of an excuse to make the most out of them, and usually, the weather for these weekends is pretty good. (Meaning, it shouldn’t rain too much!)
Be warned, however, that the roads are very busy on the Fridays of these weekends, so if you are driving down the country, make sure to get out of the city (especially if you are in Dublin) as early as you can. If you leave anytime after 4pm, the chances are that you'll get stuck in a lot of traffic. But nevertheless, these weekends always come with a lot of "feel-good factor" - and are worth being in the country for, traffic or no traffic. Bank holiday weekends usually feature festivals and concerts so it's worth doing some research to see what's on around the country.
Bloomsday Weekend, June 16
If you are one of the few people on the planet who has actually finished James Joyce’s Ulyssess – (or if you're just interested in literature) Bloomsday is for you. June 16 was the date Leopold Bloom, the central character in Ulyssess, walked around Dublin. There are a number of events and readings all around the city, which recreate Bloom’s travels around the city. Most begin at The Forty Foot, a bathing pool in the South Dublin suburb of Dun Laoghaire, where you’ll see ladies and gentlemen dressed in Edwardian fashions. Make sure to sample some Gorgonzola cheese and Burgundy in Davy Byrne’s pub on Duke Street in Dublin’s City Center.
September All-Ireland Weekends in Dublin
The All-Ireland hurling and Gaelic football championships are two of the most important events in the Irish sporting calendar. They are the culmination of competitions that begin in May. Anyone new to either game will be impressed by the passion and intensity of each sport. (See article on Irish sports explained for more on hurling and football.) The final of the All-Ireland hurling championship takes place on the first Sunday of September, which this year, falls on Sept. 6. The final of the Gaelic Football competition takes place on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009.
Tickets for the finals, both of which take place in Croke Park, the GAA Headquarters located in Dublin (see tourist article on Croke Park), are very hard to get hold of. Nevertheless there is always a great atmosphere around Dublin’s City Center during All-Ireland weekend. Fans who can’t get tickets simply watch the games in one of the city’s many pubs. So even if you can't get a ticket - and chances are, if you are vacationing in Ireland, you won't be able to - it's still worth being in Dublin on these weekends, to watch the games in a pub.
Like American baseball and football, these sports can be great family days out. Rivalry between teams is always intense, especially when two neighboring counties are playing each other, but the atmosphere among opposing supporters is always good-natured. After the games, the pubs and bars of Dublin fill up with the supporters - who are either drowning their sorrows or drinking with joy.
For an idea of what the games are about, check out the clip from the All-Ireland finals football from 2008.