In most towns and cities around Ireland, St Patrick’s Day will mark the first parade held in three years. In Galway, the city’s theatrical heritage always guarantees a fantastic parade and many street performances, like the Macnas theatre group, which will be marching with their giant puppetry creations and youth drummers. The parade will kick off a four-day celebration across the city, with family entertainment, vintage amusements and an outdoor craft village.
The first St Patrick’s Day parade ever held in Ireland was in Waterford back in 1903 and this year the event will kick off its St Patrick’s Day Festival, which will run from 17 to 20 March. In Kerry, the theme for this year’s St Patrick’s Festival in Killarney is The Earth/An Chré, so you can expect to see colourfully decorated floats and dancers in elaborate green costumes .
In Kilkenny, St Patrick’s Festival will run from 15 to 20 March and will include acrobatic performances, street food and a vintage carousel, alongside the parade itself. There’s also the community drum of Fuinneamh, a 14ft drum that can be played by anyone, and by up to 25 people at a time. Alongside the St Patrick’s Day festivities, Kilkenny Tradfest will be up and running with free trad gigs, live sessions and folk music in several venues around the city, from some of the finest pubs to the Medieval Mile Museum and the Watergate Theatre. Check venues for booking information.
This year the Sligo parade is back in business, with floats and dancers weaving through the city. But that’s not all. In the Hawk’s Well Theatre, Patrick Kavanagh’s Tarry Flynn, based on the author’s experiences in 1930s Cavan, will be on stage on 18 and 19 March. Out on the coast, the Strandhill People’s Market will be open on 20 March, with local food producers selling everything from tacos to artisan sourdough, all from Hangar One in Sligo Airport.
There’s a jam-packed schedule of events in Cork, from the main parade on St Patrick’s Day to a flurry of activities all over the city from 17 to 20 March. There will be creative workshops in Bishop Lucey Park, a food and crafts market on Grand Parade and a special concert on the evening of St Patrick’s Day itself. Over the four-day festival, there will be live music on the Grand Parade stage, as well as street performers to get you in the party spirit. Down in West Cork, you can celebrate in style at the Bantry Goes Green festival with marching bands, floats and live music.
For the devout (and those who love climbing hills), climbing Croagh Patrick is a St Patrick’s Day rite of passage. Every year, hundreds of people climb Westport’s holy mountain, where St Patrick is said to have fasted at the summit for 40 days. It’s a challenging climb but the views from the top are spectacular, with all of Clew Bay spread out before you. If you don’t want to climb all the way to the top, you can hike to the first viewpoint to get a sampling of the scenery and the smattering of tiny islands in the bay.
The country will be on tenterhooks on 19 March, when Ireland plays Scotland in their final match of the Six Nations rugby championship. The game will take place in the Aviva Stadium but will be on many a television screen all over the country. Get into the match-day spirit by watching with other rugby fans in one of Ireland’s cosiest pubs.
There’s plenty taking place in Limerick over the long weekend. The parade is set to be a celebration of the spirit of community, with this year’s theme being ‘Belonging and Identity’. At the Milk Market, there will be all of the regular fruit and vegetable, speciality food and arts and crafts stalls at the weekend. There will also be live music on St Patrick’s Day and a family fun day on the Friday. From 18 to 20 March it’s the Limerick Early Music Festival, honouring Bach’s birthday through live concerts held in cathedrals, churches and museums all over the city. On Sunday, the 50th Limerick International Band Championship will see marching bands from all over the world take to the streets in the hopes of winning the big title.
As well as the parade in Wexford town, there are plenty of other places where you can get into the St Patrick’s Day spirit. Down at Hook Lighthouse, there’s a green theme in the café and a day of activities to enjoy on the peninsula. In fact, if your name is Patrick, Pat, Paddy or Patricia, you can even get a free tour of the lighthouse. There will also be snake hunts on the lighthouse lawns in the afternoon.
Fancy getting active on the Bank Holiday weekend? The Mullingar Half Marathon is taking place on 17 March, with a 21km route on flat but beautiful terrain. You’ll start in the town centre before taking in the nearby countryside, weaving along the Royal Canal and then back into Mullingar Town Park. There’s also a 5km run, if you’re not quite up for the full 21km.
Over at the Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark in Co. Cavan, there’s a slightly more meditative vibe in the form of a Haiku Poetry Writing Walk, held on 19 March as part of UNESCO World Poetry Day. You’ll walk through the Cavan Burren Park and be inspired by the natural landscape to write your own poetry along the way.
This particularly special parade links not only two towns, but two counties. The parade route connects the twin towns of Ballina in Co. Clare and Killaloe in Co. Tipperary, crossing the Killaloe Bridge over the River Shannon at the mouth of Lough Derg. There are prizes awarded on the day for the best floats, with plenty of local businesses and clubs getting into the creative spirit. After the parade, be sure to take the time to wander around both towns, where local homes and shops go to town with their patriotic decorations in the hopes of winning the prize of Best Dressed Window.
Ireland is no stranger to celebration throughout the year so check out even more ways to enjoy yourself and mark an occasion.