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Summer Festivals on the Wild Atlantic Way

Although a whole host of events take place the year round along the Wild Atlantic Way, the summer months are absolutely jam-packed with fun festivals! Celebrating everything from literature and the arts to music and food, these events are set in the stunning surrounds of Ireland’s awe-inspiring west coast. Here are just a few of 2017’s summer highlights...

1. Rory Gallagher Festival

Kicking off in the vast and epic Northern Headlands, the annual Rory Gallagher festival is set to return to the iconic late rocker’s hometown of Ballyshannon, County Donegal. From June 1st- 4th, the streets of this charming little town will burst with live blues and rock performances, as Rory fans gather to celebrate their idol’s illustrious career. 

2. Earagail Arts Festival

The Earagail Arts Festival, meanwhile, is a bilingual, multidisciplinary event that runs for two weeks throughout the same county. This year's festivities will run from July 4th - 23rd. Its diverse programme will cover music, visual arts, circus, theatre, spoken word, film, and children’s workshops, all against the breathtaking backdrop of Donegal’s magical landscapes.

3. Sea Sessions

Moving into the wild and vibrant Surf Coast region, Sea Sessions teams live music with fun in the crashing Atlantic. Thousands of punters will descend on the surfing town of Bundoran from June 23th – 25th, where they can enjoy a day of riding the waves before heading into the arena’s marquees for performances by some top national and international talent.       

The scene at Sea Sessions in Bundoran County Donegal
Sea Sessions in Bundoran, County Donegal

4. Tread Softly

Fans of literature, meanwhile, won’t want to miss Tread Softly, the annual Yeats Arts Festival. This 10-day event pays tribute to WB Yeats and is set in County Sligo, where the beloved Irish poet spent much of his childhood. There’ll be exhibitions, poetry readings and guided walks around the countryside that enchanted Yeats; indeed, he penned ‘Under Ben Bulben’ as a homage to Sligo’s most well-known mountain.

Nice mountain view of Benbulben County Sligo
Benbulben in County Sligo


5. Connemara Mussel Festival

To a sumptuous feast of a festival next! Every May on the pretty Bay Coast (April 28th - 30th), visitors are treated to the finest selection of fresh seafood at the Connemara Mussel Festival. The pretty town of Tully Cross in County Galway plays host to a variety of cooking demonstrations, street food stalls and later in the evening, lively music sessions in local pubs.          

JP McMahon at 2015 Connemara Mussel Festival in County Galway
Michelin Star chef JP McMahon of Galway restaurant Aniar, image via Connemara Mussel Festival


6. Galway International Arts Festival

Galway is the place to be later in the summer too, as the Galway International Arts Festival kicks off on July 17th - 30th. For two weeks, the city’s streets will come alive with theatre and dance, live music performances in local venues, and colourful visual art shows.

7. Burren in Bloom

Further south on the rugged Cliff Coast, you’ll find even more entertaining events taking place. Nature lovers should head along to Burren in Bloom, a series of talks and walks on May 19th - 21st  around the gorgeous Burren in Clare.              

The Burren in Bloom Festival celebrates the Burren Landscape in County Clare
Burren in Bloom
festival celebrates this unique terrain in County Clare


8. Wild Atlantic Seaweed Festival

In the same region, the Wild Atlantic Seaweed Festival showcases the various uses of seaweed; from food and cooking to beauty products and seaweed baths. There’ll be seminars, cooking demonstrations and discussions, as well as foraging and guided walks around the beautiful seaside resort of Ballybunion.

9. Féile na Bealtaine

To wild County Kerry in the Southern Peninsulas next, where Féile na Bealtaine (pronounced fail-ya na BAL-tin-yeh), which translates as ‘May celebration’ is set to take place. This five-day event (April 28th to May 2nd) will see music, drama, spoken word and children’s games take place in the picturesque, Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) town of Dingle.            

Music, Drama and the arts at Féile na Bealtaine in County Kerry
Enjoying a performance in Kerry, image via Féile na Bealtaine


10. Ireland Bike Fest

Also in Kerry is Ireland Bike Fest, a fun annual event aimed at motorcycle enthusiasts. It’s based in the town of Killarney (June 2nd – 5th), where attendees can head along to the bespoke ‘bike village’. But of course, it’d be wrong to come all the way to Killarney by bike and not explore its amazing surrounds! There’ll also be guided and self-guided ride-outs, which will take punters out onto the iconic Ring of Kerry, a 172km-long route around this stunning region.

Bike Fest Ireland runs in Killarney County Kerry during the summer
Bikers on the Ring of Kerry overlooking Rossbeigh, image via Bike Fest 

11. Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival

On the Haven Coast at the southern tip of the Wild Atlantic Way, film fans won’t want to miss the Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival (May 24th – 28th). ‘Our village is our screen’ is the organisers’ motto, with film screenings from all around the world taking place in the charming town of Schull

Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival on the Haven Coast
The Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival kicks off on May 25th


12. West Cork Chamber Festival

Finally, the West Cork Chamber Music Festival takes place in the gorgeous surrounds of Bantry in County Cork from June 30th to July 8th. As part of this event, a series of classical music performances, workshops and masterclasses will take place in venues dotted around this picturesque harbour town. 

Here we have featured just a selection of the many great summer festivals set to take place along the Wild Atlantic Way in 2016. Use our handy trip planner tool to put together your own unique itinerary, and find more great events in our comprehensive directory.