Looking for the ultimate holiday? A regional festival can be the best way to discover Ireland’s spectacular western shores and fully embrace the Wild Atlantic way of life. Every year, the route positively sparkles with an unmissable series of celebrations on everything from arts and literature to film, food and more. Skilled musicians, chefs, writers and artists all happily share their talents, setting host towns and villages up and down the coast abuzz.
With so many fabulous fêtes and heady high times in the works for 2017, there’s no reason not to fill your Wild Atlantic Way trip itinerary with as many festivals as you can.
Check out our selection of the best of the year ahead below.
1 DOOLIN WRITERS' WEEKEND
When: 3 - 5 February 2017
Where: Doolin, Co. Clare
What: A must for even passing fans of literature and the arts, this event offers an eclectic mix of workshops, theatre and readings by esteemed Irish authors, while the the charming fishing village of Doolin is brought to life with music sessions in local pubs, tasty food stalls and general on-street merriment.
Wonderful Sunset captured in Doolin, home to the Doolin Writers' Weekend.
2 DINGLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
When: 23 - 26 March 2017
Where: Dingle, Co. Kerry
What: Nestled in the beautiful surrounds of the Dingle Peninsula, this four-day extravaganza celebrates all things film and animation. Offering feature film and short screenings, masterclasses and workshops from Ireland and around the globe and covering all genres, it’s a whirlwind of cinematic surprises. The Dingle International Film Festival is also home to the Gregory Peck Award: For Excellence in the Art of Film.
Walk the red carpet at the Dingle International Film Festival.
3 RORY GALLAGHER INTERNATIONAL TRIBUTE FESTIVAL
When: 1 - 4 June 2017
Where: Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal
What: If you find yourself in Donegal in June, be sure to check out the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival. Set in the iconic blues rocker’s birthplace of Ballyshannon on the wild and rugged Surf Coast, over 10,000 music fans each year set upon the town to join the fun, with free open-air concerts, gigs in a big top circus tent, pub sessions, guitar workshops and art exhibitions.
Sea Sessions, Bundoran, Co. Donegal
4 SEA SESSIONS SURF & MUSIC FESTIVAL
When: 23 - 25 June 2017
Where: Bundoran, Co. Donegal
What: Fans of great music and outdoor sports won’t want to miss Sea Sessions, a Donegal favourite that combines the best live music with invigorating outdoor adventure. Taking place in the bustling town of Bundoran, you can ride the waves by day before heading into the main arena to catch live sets from both Irish and international rock, dance and indie acts.
5 WEST CORK CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL
When: 30 June - 8 July 2017
Where: Bantry, Co. Cork
What: Lush countryside provides the perfect setting for the annual West Cork Chamber Music Festival , replete with evening concerts, beautiful arrangements by string quartets, and workshops with respected figures in the classical music scene. While you’re there, be sure to explore the stunning surrounds of the Haven Coast, a region famed for its breathtaking beauty.
6 GALWAY INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL
When: 17 - 30 July 2017
Where: Galway City
What: There is something about the Galway International Arts Festival that bonds people together. Offering up a diverse mix of theatre, dance, music, visual art and comedy, this is a must for your cultural diary. To get a feel for the festival, take a look at this short video.
7 ROSE OF TRALEE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL
When: 16 - 22 August 2017
Where: Tralee, Co. Kerry
What: One of the oldest festivals on our list, The Rose of Tralee International Festival is also one of Ireland’s largest, connecting the global Irish community in a carnival atmosphere of street entertainment and live music. The Selection element of the festival is focused around young women of Irish descent, who, along with their families and friends, travel to Tralee from locations within Ireland and around the world in the hope of being crowned the Rose of Tralee.
The streets of Tralee in County Kerry come alive. Via Rose of Tralee festival.
8 MASTERS OF TRADITION
When: 23 - 27 August 2017
Where: Bantry, Co. Cork
What: In the County Cork town of Bantry, you’ll find Masters of Tradition, the perfect introduction to Ireland’s unique traditional music heritage. Curated by Martin Hayes of popular trad band The Gloaming, you can't afford to miss this festival, which will see a series of bespoke concerts take place around the town.
9 LISDOONVARNA MATCHMAKING FESTIVAL
When: 25 August - 1 October 2017
Where: Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare
What: What would our pick of festivals be without a bit of romance? Every Autumn, around 40,000 hopeful singles flock to County Clare for the month-long Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival. This incredibly fun event sees local man Willie Daly, a fourth-generation matchmaker (yes, it’s an official job!), pair couples together while dances, music and general merriment take place across the town. You can even enjoy further romantic flights of fancy with The Outing, a fast-growing, hugely popular LGBT offshoot that comes approved by the Queen of Ireland herself, Panti Bliss.
Panti shows the way to The Outing festival in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare. Image via The Outing.
10 A TASTE OF WEST CORK
When: 08 - 17 September 2017
Where: Various locations around West Cork
What: September heralds the beginning of food festival season on the Wild Atlantic Way and to kick it all off in delicious style, A Taste of West Cork gets underway from the 8th. This 10-day event brings together a mix of markets, food demonstrations, cookery competitions, banquets, talks and tastings; it’s a must-visit on foodie calendars. If this Huffington Post story ‘188 Reasons to Bite into A Taste of West Cork’ doesn’t give you enough of a reason to visit we don’t know what will!
11 GALWAY INTERNATIONAL OYSTER & SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
When: 22 - 24 September 2017
Where: Galway City
What: The Bay Coast serves up the opportunity to sample the region’s native seafood at the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival . Taking place over a weekend, it’s the perfect excuse to explore Galway City while feasting on some very tasty local produce. There’ll be a food trail, parades through the town and of course, the annual World Oyster Opening Championships.
12 BATTLE FOR THE LAKE KITESURFING & MUSIC FESTIVAL
When: Sept/Oct 2017 (Dates TBC)
Where: Achill Island, Co. Mayo
What: At the end of September, the Battle for the Lake Kitesurfing & Music Festival takes place on gorgeous Achill Island, home to Keel. It is hard not to fall in love with this wonderful place, which boasts scenery and action in spades. And if you’d rather not kitesurf, no problem! You can simply kick back and enjoy the selection of live bands, workshops, tours and races set to take place in this simply stunning part of the country.
13 BIA BÓ FINNE
When: Sept /Oct 2017 (Dates TBC)
Where: Inishbofin, Co. Galway
What: Bia Bó Finne is a very special food festival that allows participants to immerse themselves completely in rural Irish culture. In the intimate surrounds of Inishbofin, an island off the coast of Galway, local food producers share their artisan goods and invite guests to reconnect with nature in idyllic seclusion.
14 SLIGO LIVE
When: October 2017 (Dates TBC)
What: Music fans won’t want to miss Sligo Live, the annual folk, roots and indie extravaganza that has descended on the town of Sligo since 2005. Previously featuring the likes of Van Morrison, Jools Holland, The Waterboys, Sheryl Crow and Imelda May, it’s a sonic celebration with a mission to share quality music with friendly people in one of the most iconic towns in Ireland.
Whether you seek the freshest local fare, memorable musical moments, or a chance for romance, celebrate the passion and expertise of locals who call Ireland’s west coast home by heading along to one of the many festivals the Wild Atlantic Way has to offer. No matter the time of year, there’s a festival for everyone that simply can't be missed.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? There are plenty more festivals and events listed in our Directory, and don’t forget to consult our handy trip planner tool for help putting together your own itinerary.