The arts scene in Ireland has thrived in recent decades, so it is no wonder that we can celebrate so many great Irish festivals each year. In this article we will explore some of the most popular annual Irish festivals.
We have divided our festivals into three distinct categories:
- Irish Music Festivals
- Irish Arts Festivals
- Traditional Irish Festivals
Each category is ordered by the month it takes place, so you can easily make festival plans for the year!
Irish Music Festivals
#1. Forbidden Fruit – Irish music festivals
The Forbidden Fruit Festival takes place on the bank holiday weekend (first weekend) in June.
Forbidden Fruit takes place on the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin 8.
See more on Forbidden Fruit’s official website
Forbidden Fruit Festival is the first and longest running city-centre festival in the heart of Dublin. If you’re in the capital city in June why not check out the set list!
One thing that sets this Irish festival apart from others is how easy it is to get to the site. Located just off the city centre, you won’t have to stress about long bus journeys or confusing directions if you are already in the city. There are also after parties in Dublin after the festival ends!
With a combination of music, art, fashion and good food, your weekend in Dublin is sorted! From Electronic DJ duo BICEP, to the introspective music of none other than Lorde and the king of alternative/indie folk Bon Iver, Forbidden Fruit Festival has got their fair share of in demand artists.
The line up is definitely varied, ranging from Irish musicians to established international talent, newcomers and everything in between. Forbidden Fruit is sure to be an interesting experience with a soundtrack of familiar tunes and exciting new songs.
#2. Belsonic – Irish music festivals
Belsonic kicks off from mid-June and continues until the end of the month.
Ormeau Park, Ormeau Rd, Belfast BT7 3GG
Find out more on Belsonic’s website
Belsonic is another outdoor festival celebrating the best of international talent. Located in Ormeau Park in Belfast, attendees have enjoyed the likes of Dermot Kennedy, Paolo Nutini, Sam Fender and Liam Gallagher.
With a focus on Pop, Rock and Indie/folk music, Belsonic differentiates itself from other festivals by organising individual shows throughout its run. You can buy a ticket for the acts you want to see individually, as opposed to being forced to buy a weekend ticket just to see one of favourite artists.
Personally I really like this individual concert set up as it is a great way to get a number of bigger artists to perform in Belfast over the summer. You can go to as many or as few concerts as you like and your experience will range from a night out in the city, to a week exploring everything that Belfast has to offer.
Not all of us can or want to spend a weekend at a festival; Belsonic allows you to enjoy music your way.
#3. Longitude – Irish music festivals
Longitude usually takes place during the first weekend in July
Marlay Park, Dublin
Find out more on Longitude’s official website.
Lovers of hip hop, rap music and the UK grime scene will be queuing up to buy tickets for Longitude, with artists such as Dave, Tyler the Creator, Megan Thee Stallion, Aitch and Stormzy featuring in recent years.
Other global stars such as the Weeknd, Postmalone, J Cole and Travis Scott have featured on the stage.
The rise of Longitude coincided with the ending of Oxygen. Ireland’s former most popular music festival was held from 2004-2011 and focused on pop and rock music. Nowadays rap and hip hop have become some of the most popular genres in Ireland, and this festival definitely delivers on what the people want.
Longitude also gives Irish talent a platform, with the likes of Denise Chaila, Kojaque, Wild Youth and Versatile appearing over the years.
#4. Indiependence festival – Irish music festivals
This Irish festival takes usually takes place on the first weekend in August
Mitchelstown Co. Cork
See more on Indiependence festival’s official website.
Why not get your tent and camping equipment ready for our next festival. A combination of up and coming international musicians, a few big names and a lot of Irish talent make the line up of Indiependence.
Some of the best of Irish acts including Kodaline, Hudson Taylor, Bell X1, Hozier and the Coronas have performed in Mitchelstown over the last few years. Fellow Irish stars such as Hermitage Green, Walking on cars, Ham Sandwich and the Academic have also stolen the show with their performances.
In fact, the Academic were only two years into their music career and fresh out of secondary school when they performed at this Irish festival. They have only gone from strength to strength since and it really highlights the importance of celebrating Irish musicians and giving them a chance to show us their talent.
The campsite also offers a glamping option, which is a nice change from the more traditional camp sites at festivals. A glamping ticket gives access to a VIP Bar in the main arena which means you will spend less time standing in line for drinks at more time at front of the stage.
#5. Electric Picnic – Irish music festivals
EP takes place during the first week of September
Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, Co. Laois.
Find out more info on Electricpicnic.ie
Primarily a music and arts festival, EP has everything you could want, including your favourite musicians and artists as well as podcasts, poetry, theatre, comedy, food and holistic health. There is a focus on quality festival services (namely food and camping) as well as creating a relaxed, eco-friendly atmosphere.
From Tame Impala to the Arctic Monkeys and Florence and the Machine, as well as Dermot Kennedy, Hozier and The Killers, EP has had their fair share of modern music legends grace its stage.
Whoever picks the line up is doing a great job at recognising talent; global super stars Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish played at the gig before their careers skyrocketed to amazing heights. It is hard to believe that they were not even the headline acts during the years they performed.
Electric picnic combines the thrill of seeing your favourite musicians live with the joys of camping with your friends. It is sure to be a weekend to remember, especially considering the weather can be hit or miss in September which may make your camping more eventful (and if we’re being honest, is part of the festival charm in the UK and Ireland)!
#6. Guinness Cork Jazz Festival – Irish music festivals
The Jazz fest takes place on the October bank holiday weekend.
See more information, including specific venues and acts on Guinness Cork Jazz Festival’s website.
The Jazz fest has been held for over 40 years and takes place throughout Cork city. A mix of iconic jazz bands as well as jazz renditions of the popular music is common throughout the weekend. Jazz infused hip hop, funk and soul create a varied experience that brings people together to enjoy the magic of good music.
Irish Arts Festivals
Outside of music festivals, there are plenty of things to do throughout Ireland. Here are a few festivals we think deserve a spot on this list.
#7. Waterford Walls – Irish Arts Festivals
The Waterford Walls festival takes place in mid august each year and usually lasts 10 days.
Check out the latest news at Waterford Walls’ official website.
Waterford Walls is Ireland’s largest international street art festival. Over 30 Irish and international artists come together to create large scale murals in Waterford City and the surrounding area. The festival consists of live art, music workshops, guided tours and more.
There is also an artistic exchange and collaboration programme to encourage young people to create under the guide of experienced mural artists across 3 different countries, namely Ireland, Germany and France.
People can sign up as a professional artist or as a student who would like to be mentored. This is probably my favourite event in this list. The art scene in Ireland is growing tremendously and it is events like the Waterford walls that encourage people to be creative. The love and care that goes into each mural is appreciated and the whole town looks amazing!
#8. Galway International Arts Festival – Irish Arts Festivals
The Galway International Arts Festival takes place for two weeks, usually starting in mid July.
Find out more information on listings and events on the Giaf official website
The Galway International Arts Festival is a great time to visit the city of the tribes. From the street spectacle of giant giraffes parading through the city, to arts, theatre, comedy and music events, Galway lights up during this festival.
The arts festival sees the return of the Heineken Big Top tent to Galway’s skyline. If you want to experience world class talent in the heart of the West of Ireland, the Galway international arts festival should be on your list.
Galway Oyster Festival
After visiting Galway during its arts festival, you will more than likely be planning a return trip. So why not return at the end of September for Galway’s International Oyster Festival? There are so many great restaurants in Galway city and during this weekend seafood is the highlight of every menu. Fresh and local produce is cooked by world class seafood chefs for your enjoyment.
#9. International Film Festivals in Ireland – Irish Arts Festivals
There are many international film festivals in Ireland, including the Dublin international film festival, Dingle international film festival, Kerry international film festival, Galway film festival and Cork international film festival.
Ireland has a wealth of film and acting talent. For such a small country, we have produced masterful films as well as talented directed and producers. We also have our fair share of famous Irish actors who have given performances that rival Hollywood’s A-listers.
Traditional Irish Festivals
#10. Saint Patrick Day’s Festival – Traditional Irish Festivals
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated throughout Ireland in all of the major towns and cities across the island of Ireland.
Traditionally, people would begin the 17th of March by attending mass for St. Patrick. It was custom to wear shamrock and green clothing for the day. After mass, a parade would take place on the main street. Marching bands, Irish dancers, humorous floats and even an appearance from Saint Patrick formed the usual activities of the parade.
The evening would be spent celebrating in the pub with friends and family, with a bit of traditional Irish music and a few pints of Guinness. It was tradition to ‘wet the shamrock’, which meant getting a drink in the pub.
Most of these Saint Patrick day traditions are still celebrated around the world today.
#11. Puck Fair – Traditional Irish Festivals
The Puck Fair is held on the 10th, 11th and 12th of August each year.
Killorglin, County Kerry
Check out the Puck Fair festival for more information
The Puck Fair is known as ‘Aonach an Phoic’ in Irish. This literally means festival of the goat. The Puck fair is one of Ireland’s oldest festivals and offers free family-friendly street entertainment daily.
Every year a group of people go into the mountains and catch a wild goat. The goat is brought back into town and the ‘Queen of Puck’ usually a young school girl, crowns the goat ‘King of Puck’.
The festival is believed to date back to ancient Ireland, but the first offical Puck Fair was recorded in 1613, when the pre-existing fair was given legal status.
Another legend goes that a flock of goats saw an army of pillagers and headed for the mountains during the 17th century. One goat broke away from the flock and headed into the town, which alerted inhabitants that danger was close by.
Another theory states that the festival has ties to the pagan festival of Lughnasa, which symbolised the beginning of the harvest season. The goat is a symbol of fertility which also supports this. Some speculate that the goat is tied to the horned Celtic god of nature called Cerrunos, though this has been rejected by most historians.
The ethics of the fair is something that has come into dispute in recent years due to the nature of the festival. The goat is held in a small cage for three days and on the 3rd day he is led back into the mountains. He is fed and watered under veterinary supervision, but many animal rights activists are campaigning to keep this tradition in the past. What do you think about this issue of the goat’s welfare during the festival?
Due to unprecedented heat of 29 degrees in 2022, the goat was taken down from the cage on the first day of the festival.
During the Puck fair, pubs stay open until 3am, which is a legal exception in Ireland as 2am is the usual closing time. The festival is celebrated with plenty of entertainment in the arts and there is plenty to enjoy over the 3 day event.
#12. The Rose of Tralee – Traditional Irish Festivals
Tralee, Co. Kerry
You can learn more on the Rose of Tralee website.
The Rose of Tralee International Festival is based on a 19th-century ballad of the same name about a woman who was called the ‘Rose of Tralee’ because of her beauty. It has been running for over 60 years.
While a beauty pageant-esque festival may sound out dated, the Rose of Tralee festival is all about bringing Irish communities together. In fact, the festival is not a beauty pageant, contestants or roses as they are called are judged on their personality, with a focus on the stories, skills, careers, achievements and talents of contestants.
While initially only opened to people from Kerry first, second and third generation Irish people can now represent their country or city wherever they are in the world. It also gives people a chance to return home to Ireland and for some it may be a first chance to visit the home of their ancestors. In recent years the festival has become more diverse, and traditional entry requirements have been eased.
There is also an escort of the year. The escort is the male companion of the rose, who helps them during the festival.
The winning rose receives a lot of prizes including jewellery and hotel stays. They are expected to be an ambassador for the festival for the next year and attend public events.
#13. Fleadh Cheoil – Traditional Irish Festivals
Visit Fleadh Cheoil for more information!
The Fleadh Cheoil (festival of music) brings the best of traditional Irish music to Mullingar. Enjoy expert Irish musicians in a variety of locations and a general good atmosphere in the city.
#14. Lisdoonvarna matchmaking festival – Traditional Irish Festivals
The month of September
Lisdoonvarna, county Clare.
Check out the Lisdoonvarna match making festival website for more information.
Over 160 years old, the small village of Lisdoonvarna is located along the Wild Atlantic Way and hosts one of Europe’s biggest singles festivals. People arrive from all over the world looking for love and more commonly a ‘bit of craic’ or fun.
A month of live music and dancing can be enjoyed by all. Ireland’s only traditional match maker is present at the festival to help singles.
#15. The National Ploughing Championship Festival – Traditional Irish Festivals
Ireland, location can change each year.
Find out all the details for the next ploughing championship at the official website.
It may not surprise you that one of the main activities held at the national ploughing championship is well, ploughing. An agriculture show at heart, the ploughing also showcases livestock, machinery and vintage tractors. There are also cookery demonstrations as well as fashion and craft shows.
Final Thoughts on the best festivals in Ireland:
We hope you have enjoyed our article about Irish festivals, are you planning to go to any festivals this year? What is your favourite Irish festival memory? Let us know in the comments below!
While you are here, why not check other articles on our blog including:
The Irish Humour: 25 of the best Irish Comedians of all time | Traditional Irish Food | 15 of the most successful Irish athletes of all time | 20 of the best Irish movies filmed in Ireland