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15 speciality festivals to check out this year
Back in full swing, Ireland’s summer festival season opens up the country in intriguing ways. Celebrating words, music, art, architecture and more, if there’s something that takes your fancy, chances are you’ll find a festival for it.

Here are 15 unique festivals that will intrigue and delight this season.

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1Rory Gallagher International Festival, County Donegal

From pub sessions to street sessions to big concerts, Rory Gallagher fans come to his birthplace of Ballyshannon to celebrate the Rory Gallagher Festival. The legendary guitarist – who influenced the likes of The Edge, Brian May and Eric Clapton – collaborated with other musical giants, including Muddy Waters and Jerry Lee Lewis. Established in 2002, the festival attracts Gallagher aficionados and lovers of rock legends in general.

Best for: Adults. Mixture of free and ticketed events.
Various venues, Ballyshannon, County Donegal, May 30-June 2.
Rory Gallagher Festival

Band of Friends performing at the 2022 Rory Gallagher Festival in Co Donegal
Celebrate guitar hero Rory Gallagher with some talented musical acts.
2Cork Harbour Festival, County Cork

As Ireland's largest celebration of maritime culture and heritage, the Cork Harbour Festival takes over 12 locations in the county, including the scenic harbour and parts of the River Lee. For nine glorious days in June, take part in over 80 fun-packed events and activities, and find a good spot to watch An Ocean to City - An Rás Mór, the country's most challenging rowing and paddling race. Jump into the water yourself for a bout of sailing, SUPing or kayaking, or explore the land by joining the many walks, talks and cycling tours on offer. Don't forget to bring the whole family to enjoy the free outdoor activities, especially the floating classroom.   

Best for: Adults and families. Mixture of free and ticketed events.
Various venues, Cork city, June 1-10.
Cork Harbour Festival

Rowers in the Oceans to City event in the Cork Harbour Festival, Co Cork
Take to the water at the Cork Harbour Festival.
3Sea Sessions Surf and Music Festival, County Donegal

Whether you're a surfer or just enjoy the seaside lifestyle, head up to Donegal's annual Sea Sessions Surf and Music Festival. The festival brings Ireland's biggest surf competition and some incredible musical acts to the coastal town of Bundoran. This year's line-up includes performances from Cian Ducrot, Johnny Marr and Jake Bugg. Between acts, you can chill out with a session of yoga on the beach or watch the pros hang ten.

Best for: Adults and families. Ticketed event.

Tullan Strand, Bundoran, Co Donegal, June 21-23. 

Sea Sessions Surf and Music Festival

A musical performance at the 2023 Sea Sessions Surf and Music Festival in Bundoran, Co Donegal
Enjoy music on the beach at the Sea Sessions Surf and Music Festival.
4Galway Film Fleadh, County Galway

The Irish word for a feast or celebration is 'fleadh', and Galway’s Film Fleadh is a banquet for film lovers. Championing the work of Irish filmmakers alongside their international counterparts, it’s the place to discover the newest, the boldest and the brightest from across generations and cultural backgrounds. You’ll also find talks and masterclasses and a novel pitching competition. You saw it here first.

Best for: Adults (the Generation Fleadh takes place during the winter months). Free street concerts, and ticketed events.
Various venues, Galway city, July 9-14.
Galway Film Fleadh

View of the audience watching a film at the Pálás Cinema as part of the Galway Film Fleadh, Galway City.
Celebrate film with a cinematic feast at the Galway Film Fleadh.
5Spraoi International Street Arts Festival, County Waterford

Spraoi International Street Arts Festival invites artists from around the world to strut their stuff in Waterford city, where the narrow streets, medieval buildings and little squares provide the perfect backdrop for bold street art. 'Spraoi' translates from Irish to mean fun and exuberance, and you’ll get that in spades here over the August Bank Holiday weekend. The whole city gets involved, with entertainment and music throughout Waterford culminating in a firework finale. Look out for Waterford Walls, putting street art up on gable ends everywhere (the Waterford Walls Festival itself runs August 9-18).

Best for: Adults and families. All events free.
Various venues, Waterford city, August 2-4.
Spraoi International Street Arts Festival

Street performers at the 2023 Spraoi International Street Art Festival in Co Waterford
Attend dazzling performances at the Spraoi International Street Arts Festival.
6Birr Vintage Week and Arts Festival, County Offaly

One of Ireland’s longest running festivals, the family-friendly Birr Vintage Week and Arts Festival brings together theatre, music, street art and community sessions. All that, plus vintage events including steam parades, donkey racing, and antique markets that are unique fun for the whole family. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit Birr Castle, with its award-winning gardens, and famous historic telescope – a vintage item itself!

Best for: Adults and families. Mixture of free and ticketed events.
Various venues, Birr, Co Offaly, August 2-10.
Birr Vintage Week & Arts Festival

The Great Telescope at Birr Castle in Offaly.
Check out Birr Castle's Great Telescope at the family-friendly Birr Vintage Week and Arts Festival.
7Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, County Wexford

The lucky county receiving the honour of hosting the annual Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in 2024 is none other than Wexford. With half a million people flocking to the concerts and sessions each year, it’s quite a blast. Catch a live show at the Gig Rig along the Quay, get a bite to eat in the food and craft village, and join in with street performers busking and dancing in the centre of the town. Since Wexford town is the home of the Guinness World Book of Records, there will also be an attempt to break a Guinness World Record, so tag along to find out which one and be a part of history. 

Best for: Adults and families. Mixture of free and ticketed events.
Various venues, Wexford town, August 4-11.
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann

Man playing the guitar and the harmonica.
Listen to legends of traditional Irish music and spot up-and-comers at Fleadh Cheoil.
8Cork on a Fork, County Cork

Work up an appetite and prepare for five days of food-filled fun at the Cork on a Fork Fest in County Cork. A dream event for foodies of all ages, the flavourful festival is packed with tasty food trails, cooking demonstrations, insightful masterclasses and more. 

Best for: Adults and families. Events are ticketed.

Various venues, Cork city, August 14-18.

Cork on a Fork

Chefs doing a cooking demonstration at the 2023 Cork on a Fork Fest in Cork city

Photo credit: @corkonaforkfest

Learn a trick or two by attending food demonstrations at Cork on a Fork Fest.
9Another Love Story, County Meath

The story of Ireland’s big houses has always involved welcoming visitors – Irish hospitality being legendary. These days, it’s just as likely to be for music festivals, where everyone can come together and soak up the amazing atmosphere. From Slane Castle to Stradbally with its Electric Picnic, some are larger than others. But for the beautifully niche, you can’t do better than Another Love Story at Killyon Manor, which keeps that gentle summer vibe going with stretch tents, mini gigs and more. Established in 2014, the manor house is open too, so you might well be getting down in the ballroom, or going large in the library. Lovely.

Best for: Adults. Tickets from €235.
Killyon Manor, Co Meath, August 23-25.
Another Love Story

Audience surrounding a lit stage at an evening performance - Another Love Story festival.
Fall for the relaxed big house vibe at Another Love Story.
10Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, County Clare

Way back when, one of the most common ways to find love in Ireland was with the help of your local matchmaker, a method that has long been replaced with online dating. However, for over 165 years the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival in Clare has been keeping the tradition alive and has become Europe's biggest singles festival. Over 60,000 people pour into the small village of Lisdoonvarna every year, some for the craic while others come for the expertise of Ireland's only traditional matchmaker, Willie Daly. So, if you're single and willing to give some tried and true methods a go, be sure to keep your September wide open.

Best for: Adults. Mixture of free and ticketed events.

Various venues, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, September 1-30.

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival

11Listowel International Storytelling Festival, County Kerry

Famed the world over for our way with words, you could almost say storytelling is Ireland’s unofficial national sport. Spend an evening in Irish company, and one story tops another, as imaginations take hold. The Irish word for storyteller is 'seanchí', and you’ll find them aplenty at this year’s sixth instalment of the Listowel International Storytelling Festival that celebrates the tradition with an international flavour. Including musical performances, workshops, spoken word, children's events and even a few tales for the  grown-up.

Best for: Adults and families. Events are ticketed.

Various venues, Listowel, Co Kerry, September 12-15.

Listowel International Storytelling Festival

A man reading a book to two kids
Enjoy the art of storytelling at the Listowel International Storytelling Festival.
12Dublin Theatre Festival, County Dublin

Coming hot on the heels of the Dublin Fringe Festival, the Dublin Theatre Festival showcases world class performances across the city’s great theatres and venues. From the Abbey to the Gate, with shows popping up in intriguing spaces, lanes and city squares, it’s a must see for theatre lovers everywhere. The programme focuses on introducing Irish theatre to the world stage and bringing international shows to Irish attention. Established in 1957, it’s Europe’s longest-running specialist theatre festival, but while there’s premieres aplenty, don’t expect it to be staid!

Best for: Adults, but look out for some family performances. Events are ticketed.
Various venues, Dublin, September 26-October 13.
Dublin Theatre Festival

A couple leaving The Gate Theatre
Catch a performance at the Gate Theatre or other venues around the city for the Dublin Theatre Festival.
13Kilkenny Animated, County Kilkenny

As summer comes to a close, the festivals keep on going. The medieval city of Kilkenny has an international reputation as an animation centre in large part thanks to the success of Cartoon Saloon, the studio behind Wolfwalkers and The Secret Book of Kells. Hosted by Cartoon Saloon and Lighthouse Studios, Kilkenny Animated brings the spirit of the studio’s animation to the public in a whole new way. From screenings to talks, animation to illustration, comedy to dance, this festival has been pushing the boundaries of animation for the past five years.

Best for: Adults and families. Mixture of free and ticketed events.
Various venues, Kilkenny city, October 4-6.
Kilkenny Animated

Two adults and a child at Kilkenny Animated Festival
Enjoy some of the best modern animation in a medieval city at Kilkenny Animated.
14Dingle Food Festival, County Kerry

Keep the first weekend of October free and head to Kerry for the annual Dingle Food Festival. With an impressive array of over 60 outlets and food stalls, there's plenty to sink your teeth into, with a Taste Trail that guides you through each vendor so you won't miss a bite. Improve your own culinary skills and stop by one of the masterclasses on offer over the three-day event, or attend a cookbook launch and bring the expertise home with you. There's also plenty of kids activities and entertainment to keep little ones happy between meals. 

Best for: Adults and families. Events are ticketed.

Various venues, Dingle, Co Kerry. October 4-6.

Dingle Food Festival

A man cooking in Dingle, Co Kerry
Catch a cooking demonstration at the Dingle Food Festival.
15Open House Dublin, County Dublin

Who doesn’t like looking around other people’s houses? It’s even better when they’re fabulous works of architecture. Part of the international Open House collective of festivals and organised in Dublin by the Irish Architecture Foundation, Open House Dublin lets you tour a range of private buildings. Past tours have opened the doors to impressive buildings such as Roe & Co Distillery, the Guinness Storehouse and the Abbey Theatre. Add walking tours with passionate guides, workshops and history sessions, and you’re guaranteed to see a whole new side to the city.

Best for: Adults, but with family events at Open House Junior. Free but ticketed.
Various venues, Dublin, October 12-20.
Open House Dublin

Discover Ireland's fantastic festivals

Ireland’s calendar of festivals and events is always full, so check out what's happening throughout the country to make sure you don’t miss out on the fun.

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