The top cultural Irish festivals you don’t want to miss this fall & winter on the island of Ireland.
The month of September in Ireland sees the excitement of the summer slow down to make space for the warm embrace of fall and the buzz of Christmas on the horizon.
Earlier this year as part of our hugely successful competition with Tourism Ireland, readers were asked to share what fills their heart with Ireland. Some of these stories reminded us of what makes Ireland so special this time of year, from cozy peat fires to the slower pace of life and the magic of the festive season:
“During our Irish vacation we were invited to a surprise birthday party for the brother of a B&B owner. We ate the best food, sang and danced to the best live music, all in the dim glow of peat fires and low lamps. We arrived strangers but we left as family.” - Linda Hamann
“Standing at the top of Mount Leinster at daybreak watching houses come to life, listening to the choir voices of Myshall Church in Co Carlow at Christmas fills my heart with happiness no money can buy.” - Mary Cahill
Feeling inspired to fill your heart with Ireland? During fall & winter, the island of Ireland comes alive with food, music & literary festivals - these can be unique and immersive experiences for visitors looking to learn more about Ireland and its heritage.
Music & Art Festivals
This year the City of Derry International Choir Festival (18-22 October) marks a milestone 10th anniversary and will feature world-renowned vocal groups, competitions for choirs, workshops, and concerts in landmark locations across Derry and the surrounding area.
The Belfast International Arts Festival is another event in Northern Ireland not to be missed. From 12 October - 5 November, the festival will celebrate the very best in international and homegrown artists, promising a mix of entertainment, challenging topics, and provocative live performances.
Cork Jazz Festival makes a return from 26-30 October. The world-renowned festival includes a music trail, Jazz boat tours along the harbor, brass bands marching through the streets of Cork City, and an incredible lineup of musicians and emerging talent.
At the Púca Festival in Co Meath (27-31 October), you can discover the origins of the ancient Irish celebration of Halloween. According to Irish folklore, Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain.
Vibrant, fun, and contemporary in feel but strongly rooted in tradition, the festival is brought to life through music, comedy, and performance events. A highlight is the Harvest Market, a portal to Ireland’s rich history and culture. Here, you can explore the art of wood sculpting, discover the secrets of Neolithic bread making, or indulge in the age-old pastime of board games.
Food & Drink Festivals
The Bushmills Salmon & Whiskey Festival in Co Antrim is back from 6-8 October to celebrate the food, drink, and local heritage of the area. Foodies will be able to indulge in and meet the makers behind locally produced food and drink, with a focus on salmon and whiskey.
In Ireland's Ancient East, the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival is held from 27-30 October. Showcasing the very best of Irish products, chefs, and culinary ideas, Savour Kilkenny brings you on a journey of discovery and taste that will truly awaken the senses! Visitors can expect special dining events in local restaurants, stall markets, lively food industry debates, cooking demonstrations, and more.
Discover Ireland’s love of the written word at one of the upcoming literary festivals taking place across the island. From 8-12 November you can check out the Dublin Book Festival which celebrates Ireland's writers and publishers through a diverse program of events covering everything from history, poetry, and science to literary fiction, non-fiction, and comedy.
Further West of Ireland, the Dingle Literary Festival takes place from 17-19 November in Co Kerry along the Wild Atlantic Way. The unique bilingual festival brings some of the best contemporary writers in English and celebrates the rich literary and cultural heritage of the area through an Irish language program, as well as supporting new writing in Irish.
We would like to leave you with a lovely quote from a reader on what fills her heart with Ireland:
“Since I was an infant I have been traveling back to Ireland. It is the only place I can truly go and disconnect from my crazy life pace. I have never had the same trip, as there is always something new to discover” - Noreen Brennan
How will you Fill your Heart with Ireland? Whether you decide to wander through 5,000 years of history in Ireland’s Ancient East, discover Ireland’s breathtaking west coast along the Wild Atlantic Way, embrace a giant spirit in Northern Ireland, or enjoy the unspoiled majesty of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands – an experience of a lifetime awaits you.
This article is presented proudly in partnership with Tourism Ireland. To learn more about Tourism Ireland and get inspired for your next visit to Ireland, check out their website at www.ireland.com.
Note: Some of these reader stories have been modified in length for the purpose of the article.