Festivals not to be missed

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From spring right through to winter, the towns, cities and hills of Ireland’s Ancient East come alive with festivals. World-class opera performances, cultural celebrations and mid-summer magic are all waiting for you in this historic region, showcasing the talents of skilled musicians, poets, writers, artists and chefs.

Plan your short break to Ireland’s Ancient East around the festival of your choice, to transform your stay into an adventure, and truly experience Irish culture in all its glory. We’ve chosen 16 annual festivals that span the spectrum of activities in the region to help you discover the stories and history behind these amazing places — from comedy to delicious local food, street arts to feats of endurance — but there’s so much more to discover. The festivals of Ireland’s Ancient East are waiting for you.

Cork International Choral Festival 

Held yearly in the stunning surrounds of Cork City Hall, the Cork International Choral Festival plays host to choirs from all over Ireland and the rest of the world. For five days each May, the festival hosts national and international competitions, school concerts and gala performances, with fringe and street performances peppered throughout the programme.
 

Bealtaine Fire Festival

Taking place on the historic Hill of Uisneach in Meath, Bealtaine Fire Festival sees the rebirth of Ireland's oldest festival. A celebration of Irish culture, art, heritage and sport, this magical event has been held on the famous hill almost every May for over 1,400 years. Culminating in an incredible night parade and fire ceremony, it ignites the summer gathering season in spectacular fashion.
 

Tattersalls International Horse Trials & Country Fair 

Billed as Ireland’s premier eventing show, Tattersalls International Horse Trials and Country Fair in Meath showcases the nation’s passion for all things equine. Taking place at the end of May, the Olympic Three Day Eventing competition – combining dressage, cross-country and show jumping – is the highlight of the five day festival, with shopping, food and entertainment making it a charming Country Fair.
 

Kilkenny Cat Laughs Comedy Festival

Set against the backdrop of Ireland's medieval capital in Kilkenny, The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival is the country’s first and favourite comedy festival. Happening every June, with the best of Irish, British and international stand-up talent, the relaxed vibe and intimacy of the shows make for some intriguing experiences.

The Bealtaine Fire Festival on the Hill of Uisneach

Bealtaine Fire Festival, Hill of Uisneach

Bealtaine Fire Festival, Hill of Uisneach

Cork Midsummer Festival

Cork's largest arts festival takes place in unusual venues and locations across the city and county during June. Described as an explosion of arts events on the banks of the River Lee, Cork Midsummer features theatre, opera events and the beloved Picnic in the Park.
 

Lismore Opera Festival

Music floats through the summer air at Lismore Opera Festival, set in the beautiful surrounds of the Lismore Castle Stables and other venues along the Blackwater River in Waterford. The event brings a series of operas, musicals and concert performances to life every year during the June bank holiday.
 

Waterford Spraoi International Street Arts Festival

Every August, the heart of Ireland's oldest city is transformed into a giant stage, featuring a vibrant programme of entertainment from around the world. The Waterford Spraoi International Street Arts Festival combines street theatre, performance, floats, live music and a magical Sunday evening parade.
 

Kilkenny Arts Festival

The Kilkenny Arts Festival gathers many of the world’s finest musicians, performers, writers and artists to Ireland’s medieval city each August. For ten days, the city’s churches, castle, courtyards, townhouses and gardens offer a magical setting for unique collaborations and intimate encounters.

Midsummer Festival in Cork
Waterford Spraoi International Street Arts Festival
Kilkenny Arts Festival
Left: Cork Midsummer Festival Middle: Waterford Spraoi International Street Arts Festival Right: Kilkenny Arts Festival

Groove Festival

Every August, Killruddery House and Gardens, a magnificent 17th century mansion in Bray, Wicklow, plays host to Groove Festival, a busy weekend of live music, fascinating workshops and a creative menu of festival food. The two day event, dedicated to fun and wellness, features a line-up of the most exciting new talent on the music scene.

 

Waterford Harvest Festival

Eat, drink and be merry on the streets of Waterford at the annual Harvest Festival. Celebrate the city and surrounding area’s fine food, culture and music with three autumnal days of street parties, barbecues and cookery demonstrations in early September.
 

Hell and Back

Test your fitness or just have fun as you push your limits at Hell and Back, at the magnificient Killruddery House and Gardens in Wicklow. Don’t be deceived by the charming surroundings — this endurance event is no walk in the park. Known as Ireland’s toughest physical and mental endurance challenge, Hell & Back takes place every year in September.
 

Wexford Spiegeltent Festival

A big part of the annual Wexford Fringe Festival, Spiegeltent has seen some of Ireland’s biggest talents in music, comedy, theatre, film and even burlesque perform in the wondrous surrounds of giant antique circus tents. International artists also take to the stage, as Wexford’s artistic flair truly comes alive each October.

Kilruddey House and Gardens, County Wicklow
Hell and Back at Kilruddery House
Left: Kilruddery House and Gardens Right: Hell and Back at Kilruddery House

Wexford Festival Opera

If opera is your genre, make your way to Wexford in October to enjoy one of the world’s leading opera festivals. Taking place against the charming backdrop of this glorious Viking settlement, the Wexford Festival Opera brings a world of music to the auditoriums of the National Opera House and a party atmosphere to the streets of the ancient town.
 

Wexford Fringe Festival

The Wexford Fringe Festival opens in October each year in Wexford town, running concurrent to the Opera Festival, and showcasing 17 days of fantastic artistic and cultural events, with homegrown talent performing alongside international artists. Over 300 events take place at this open-access arts festival, including visual art, traditional music, theatre and dance.


Guinness Cork Jazz Festival

Ireland's flagship international jazz festival takes place every October bank holiday weekend in the maritime city of Cork. The Cork Guinness Jazz Festival showcases an eclectic programme of jazz and jazz-related music in over 70 unique venues, with over 90% of the events free of charge.

 

Kilkenomics

Every November, laughter and lectures merge, as world-renowned economists and comedians converge for the Kilkenomics festival in the medieval city of Kilkenny. Audience participation is encouraged in this long weekend of mirth and maths, as contributors find fun in finances and entertain with economic insights.

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