Five of the coolest June Bank Holiday festivals taking place across Ireland
Brought to you by Discover Ireland
No shortage of fantastic June Bank Holiday festivals to look forward to this year.
Al fresco pints, sun-kissed grub and the best craic you could hope for await on the June Bank Holiday weekend. For many, it’s the true start of summer — long, lazy days in which to get working on that tan and rock your new T-shirt and shorts combo.
And what better way to make the most of the long weekend than by immersing yourself in some of the best festivals the country has to offer? You'll have plenty to see and do in each of these places, so you might as well make a little holiday out of it!
It's not just the festivals themselves that are worth checking out, the great thing about Ireland being such a small island means that you're never too far from something fun to do. If you're planning a trip around the June Bank Holiday weekend, we've thrown in a few extra ideas for you to make the most of it.
Listowel Writers’ Week
The Kingdom is always perfect for a weekend escape and you can grab a bit of culture while you’re at it at the long-running Listowel Writers’ Week. The north Kerry town is forever synonymous with John B. Keane — famed for The Field — and book lovers flock far and wide for interviews with celebrated authors, book signings and public readings.
The packed programme includes such established writers as Roddy Doyle and Colm Toibin, as well as up-and-coming talent like Belfast’s Jan Carson, who recently won the European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL) for her book The Fire Starters.
Listowel is a buzzing town at the best of times but it really comes into its own during Writers’ Week. Make sure to check out John B. Keane’s pub — run by his son Billy — and if you fancy checking out something really cool, stop by the Lartigue Monorail and Museum. It’s a must for trainspotters — and is the only rail line of its kind in the country.
We also recommend heading over the road to Ballybunion. While the seaside town itself is a lovely spot for a stroll or cup of coffee, its massive Blue Flag beach is definitely the star attraction.
You won't have to look far for accommodation either, with the Listowel Arms Hotel right in the centre of town. Apart from the fact the boutique hotel is a beautiful place to stay, its Georgian restaurant overlooking the river offers nothing but the very best of fresh local North Kerry produce.
Kilkenny Cats Laughs
Kilkenny hardly needs an introduction: the Marble City is one of the great weekend destinations, but it’s especially lively during the famed Kilkenny Cats Laughs festival. One of the country’s most rib-tickling extravaganzas, you’ll have your pick of great shows including Dara Ó Briain, Tommy Tiernan, and the brilliant Lou Sanders — a very funny lady indeed.
Kilkenny is a wonderland for history buffs but if you’re curious about why they’re so damned good at Ireland’s most beautiful game, you’ll want to check out the Kilkenny Way Hurling Experience. Even if you’ve never picked up a hurley before, you’ll master the art of striking that sliotar perfectly.
It's no secret that Kilkenny is a fantastic city. Once your sides are sore from all the laughing you'll have done, we recommend Kyteler’s Inn in the city centre, a great pub that was founded back in 1324. Doesn't time fly?
As for accommodation, the 4-Star Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel is located right in the city centre. We've already mentioned the possibility of you having sore sides from laughing, so maybe a trip to the spa the following morning will be in order as it's a genuine possibility with this standard of comedy on offer.
Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival
If you’re a guitar aficionado, you’ll hardly need an introduction to Rory Gallagher — the late bluesman was one of the greatest exponents of the instrument Ireland has ever produced.
The Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival is in his hometown of Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, and features 30 acts over the course of the weekend including Wishbone Ash and the Glenn Hughes Band. There are free street concerts every day and loads of pub gigs too.
Over 10,000 music fans from all over the world flock to the Donegal for the annual festival, and the atmosphere is always bopping. Throw in a bit of sunshine and a few laughs, and it makes for one unforgettable weekend.
Donegal is famed for its great surfing and while you can enjoy the music once the sun goes down, it might be the perfect time to catch your first wave. Learn the basics of surfing at Fin McCool Surf School, a 15-minute drive up the coast. It might be just the introduction you need to catch the surfing bug.
If you're looking for somewhere to stay, Bundoran is only a few minutes away with a regular shuttle service on offer from the festival. The gorgeous Allingham Arms Hotel would make for an ideal base!
Tattersalls International Horse Trials & Country Fair
If you’re a horse lover, then the perfect way to spend the bank holiday weekend is at the Tattersalls International Horse Trials & Country Fair — or Tatts, as its enthusiasts call it. Taking place in Ratoath, Co Meath — in the heart of horse country in Ireland’s Ancient East, there’s a huge amount to appeal to families, including show-jumping and dressage competitions.
It’s not all about the gee-gees, though. There is some seriously tasty food to savour and a special effort is made to make little ones feel welcome — they won’t want to leave the Kid Zone.
There will also be a dog show on the Sunday as well, with prizes ranging from the coveted crown of "Most waggly tail" to "Most obedient dog." Only right that the good doggos of Ireland aren't left out of the fun.
Meath is steeped in ancient history. If you’ve never been to Newgrange at the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Brú na Bóinne, now is the time to recite that. It leaves a lasting impression, and it’s been there since before Stonehenge and Egypt’s pyramids.
When you want to put your head down, where better than the 4-Star Pillo Hotel in Ashbourne? Named in the Top 10 family hotels in Ireland by TripAdvisor in 2019, it's less than 15 minutes away from the festival by car.
From horses to horse-power — and there are some seriously powerful motorbikes to be seen at BikeFest in Killarney. Now in its 13th year, it’s a must for any biking lovers — as well as those keen to soak up one of the liveliest weekends of the year in Killarney.
If you're looking to soak in the Wild Atlantic Way, cruising along on a motorbike with the ocean breeze on your face is the way to do it. There will be incredible guided motorbike tours on offer throughout the festival, so definitely enquire ahead about booking a spot!
There’s also a host of Irish and international tribute bands — including one of the best U2 cover acts, Rattle and Hum — and some of the best food that the Kingdom has to offer.
You’ll be spoiled for things to do around this most buzzy of towns. Killarney National Park — one of five on the Wild Atlantic Way — is a paradise for nature lovers… and those keen to escape those biking leathers and helmets!
When the time comes that a mattress sounds more appealing than a saddle, we recommend the iconic Gleneagle Hotel. Apart from the fact it's one of the most well-known hotels in the country, staying here means you'll never miss a second of the action as you'd be staying in the bike village itself.
A festival makes your break, so head to our Discover Ireland festivals hub to discover even more options to make your break in Ireland something magical.
Brought to you by Discover Ireland