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Unmissable Wild Atlantic Way Festivals 2018

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Attending a great festival is one of the most exhilarating social experiences life has to offer.

It’s a chance to shed your everyday skin, embrace the unexpected and connect with your innermost self, sharing your passions and curiosities with people from all walks of life in a creative, anything-goes kind of setting.

On the Wild Atlantic Way, regional festivals both old and new routinely celebrate some of the most exciting aspects of life way out west, inviting folks from far and wide to join the fun and taste, see, play, explore and discover something amazing. 

From music and food to film, art, or anything else your heart desires, host towns and villages up and down the coast come to life with creativity and camaraderie, providing the perfect way to disconnect, decompress, and fully embrace the Wild Atlantic way of life. 

Share your love of something special in 2018 by checking out our selection of unmissable Wild Atlantic Way festivals below. 

Sunset in Doolin, home to the Doolin Writers' Weekend


When: 22 - 25 March 2018
Where: Dingle, Co. Kerry
What: Nestled in the beautiful surrounds of the Dingle Peninsula, one of Europe’s top independent film festivals kicks off each spring with a four-day extravaganza of all things film and animation. 

“You drop somebody here in Dingle and they’re going to have a wonderful time,” says festival founder and director Maurice Galway, explaining his decision to host the festival in the attractive Co. Kerry locale. 

Across the town, feature film and short screenings, masterclasses and workshops from Ireland and around the globe take over some of its most iconic spots. With the renowned Gregory Peck Award: For Excellence in the Art of Film to look forward to, plus a heaping dose of that famous Dingle hospitality everywhere you go, it’s guaranteed to be a whirlwind of cinematic surprises that will have you coming back for more. 


When: 13 May - 3 June 2018
Where: Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal
What: When Uli Jon Roth, guitarist for iconic rock band The Scorpions, was asked to play the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival in 2015, his answer was immediate: “I didn’t have to think...it was a straight yes,” he said. Considering the opportunity “an honour”, Roth and his full band rocked the house, playing the music of the iconic blues musician alongside an impressive lineup of others in a tribute fit for a rock’n’roll king. 

If you find yourself in Donegal in June, be sure to check out this great event for yourself. Set in Gallagher’s birthplace of Ballyshannon in the Surf Coast region of the Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll be in good company with more than 10,000 music fans from all around Ireland and the world converging to enjoy free open-air concerts, gigs in a big top circus tent, pub sessions, guitar workshops and art exhibitions. 

Sea Sessions, Bundoran, County Donegal


When: 22 - 24 June 2018
Where: Bundoran, Co. Donegal
What: If you’re a fan of great music in the great outdoors - with some invigorating sports thrown in - you won’t want to miss Sea Sessions, one of Co. Donegal’s best-kept festival secrets.

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 by night.

“I love the way it was so much more than just a music festival,” says Irish vlogger and YouTube personality Clisare of her first trip to Sea Sessions. “There was tag rugby, there was the beach, the surfing… it was really chilled out, everyone was lovely, there was no drama, no stress... it was brilliant.”


When: 20 June - 8 July 2018
Where: Bantry, Co. Cork
What: Lush countryside provides the perfect setting for the annual West Cork Chamber Music Festival, a gathering of music lovers replete with evening concerts, beautiful arrangements by string quartets and workshops from respected figures on the classical music scene. 

With the stunning surrounds of the Haven Coast, a region famed for its breathtaking beauty, to explore, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a little piece of paradise. Artistic Director of the festival, Hugh Tinney, couldn’t agree more. 

“Westport holds many attractions,” he says, “so it’s the idea of adding music to what is already a wonderful location and… having something to look forward to in the evening - be it a dinner followed by coming to a concert… after you’ve been out rambling over the hills.”

A day well spent, indeed. 



When: 16 - 29 July 2018
Where: Galway City
What: There is something special about the Galway International Arts Festival that bonds people together across all kinds of creative passions and interests. Taking place each summer in the City of Tribes, the festival offers up several days brimming with a diverse mix of theatre, dance, music, visual art and comedy, and is a must for your cultural diary.

“As an arts festival, it’s always been the one that has brought the most eclectic and the most interesting work from around the world,” says actor and writer/director Olwen Fouéré. 

With previous festival highlights including Brian Wilson, Joni Mitchell, and the New York Theatre Workshop, it’s easy to see why visitor numbers continue to skyrocket. 


When: 17 - 21 August 2017
Where: Tralee, Co. Kerry
What: One of the oldest festivals, 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.


When: 22 - 26 August 2018
Where: Bantry, Co. Cork
What: In the scenic County Cork town of Bantry, you’ll find the one and only Masters of Tradition festival, the perfect introduction to Ireland’s unique traditional music heritage. Curated by Martin Hayes of popular trad band The Gloaming, it’s a place where the subtle - and sometimes obscure - elements of Irish traditional music are celebrated and enjoyed by young and old alike. 

Set in Bantry House, one of Ireland’s finest historical mansions, as well as some of Bantry’s other special venues, like St. Brendan’s Church, Masters of Tradition offers a bespoke Irish music experience you can’t afford to miss. 

Panti shows the way to The Outing festival in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare. Credit @The Outing.


When: Starts 1 September 2018
Where: Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare
What: “Matchmaking would be a kind of a magical thing,” says Ireland’s last remaining matchmaker (yes, it’s an official job!) Willie Daly, and sure what would a great festival be without a bit of magic - or even the chance at romance? 

At the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, love is in season each autumn, and the 40,000 hopeful singles who flock to Co. Clare for this month-long celebration have just one thing on their minds. 

Led by local man Willie Daly, a fourth-generation matchmaker, this fun festival sees new couples paired together amidst dancing, music and general merrymaking all across town. With his 160-year-old matchmaking book, Daly makes his romantic rounds, offering his services to practically anyone looking for a little spark. 

“If you touch (the book) with both hands you’ll be in love and married within six months,” he says. “If you touch one hand, you’ll just be in love. If you’re already married and you touch it twice you will re-create your honeymoon period… you can’t lose out.”


When: 07 - 16 September 2018
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 invites anyone with a hunger for fresh fare to taste what this unique and abundant region has to offer. 

One of Ireland’s longest-running food festivals, this 10-day event is a fabulous opportunity for the myriad local producers and chefs to share their passion for food through a mix of markets, food demonstrations, cookery competitions, banquets, talks and tastings. 
“It’s all about tasting the West Cork produce - the artisan food,” says event director Clare Gallagher. “That’s what we’re about, really.”


When: 28 - 30 September 2018
Where: Galway City, Co. Galway
What: The rich marine waters off the coast of Galway provide some of the most sought-after seafood in the world, and your opportunity to sample the best of the best comes round each September with the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival

Taking place over a jam-packed weekend of events, it’s the perfect excuse to explore Galway City while feasting on some very tasty local produce. With a food trail, parades through the town and of course, the annual World Oyster Opening Championships, there’s every reason to mark your calendar for this wonderful weekend out. 

“Here we have in Galway one of the best festivals in the world,” says Michael Moran, 2012 National Oyster Opening Champion, “and, you know, people come from all over the world to visit, to see this festival, (and) to taste the oysters, which are are the best oysters in the world.”


When: Starts 28 September 2018 
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. Kitesurfers from every corner of Ireland, as well as abroad, descend on the serene and scenic locale, and for a few days they bring action and entertainment in spades. 

Followed by beach and music lovers, nature enthusiasts, and people simply looking for something a little different, this festival marks the true end of summer, going out with an exhilarating bang and all the live music, food, workshops, tours and races you could hope for - right in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way. 



When: 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 island culture. In the intimate surrounds of Inishbofin, off the coast of Galway, local food producers share their artisan goods and invite guests to reconnect with nature in idyllic seclusion.

Learn to make beer, forage for seaweed and other local edible plants, and even take part in a cooking workshop or two led by world-class chefs, before relaxing to the sound of live music over a refreshing pint in one of the island’s unforgettably characterful pubs. 


When: TBC
Where: Co. Sligo
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.

The only requirement to take part is that you be ready to enjoy some good music with great people on the beautiful Wild Atlantic Way. 
Whether you seek tasty treats, memorable musical moments, or a chance for romance, your next great festival experience is closer than you think. Celebrate the passion and expertise of locals who call Ireland’s west coast home by heading along to one of the many unmissable festivals taking place year-round on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Still 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.