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Autumn Festivals on the Wild Atlantic Way

Historical tributes, quaint old-fashioned romantic ideals, delicious treats, thrilling music and more, the west coast of Ireland is a cultural haven of events and happenings this autumn… 

An all-year-round celebration of culture on the Wild Atlantic Way is a great way to engage the senses. You’ll find something to stir the spirit across all of the regions this autumn. Here’s a look at 12 of the very best festivals that you won’t want to miss… 

1. A Taste of Donegal

The biggest gastronomic food extravaganza that the north west of Ireland has to offer takes place over three days against the backdrop of the Blue Stack Mountains. A Taste of Donegal (August 26th - 28th) whips up sumptuous culinary delights for foodies from all around the globe in Donegal Town with 100-plus food and drink exhibitors, showcases and stalls that specialise in artisan produce, wine and craft beers from all across Ireland, tastings and cookery demonstrations and master classes with world class chefs.

Irish breads at A Taste of Donegal
Take a bite out of Donegal, image via A Taste of Donegal


2. Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Festival

Arts and culture will be highlighted in abundance at the annual Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Festival with events taking place in a variety of County Donegal locations including Ballyshannon, Bundoran and Donegal Town. A lively mix of music, theatre, visual arts, comedy, dance, literature and more, the festival celebrates its 17th year in 2017 with another compelling programme full of local and nationwide talent. 

3. Celtic Fringe Festival 

Celebrating artists from the Celtic regions of Spain, England, Ireland and Scotland whose traditions share a link with the Emerald Isle through the voyage of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the Celtic Fringe Festival which takes place in County Sligo is one of the most arresting history lessons imaginable. 

Celebrate Irish Heritage at the Celtic Fringe Festival in County Sligo
Remembering the Armada at the Celtic Fringe Festival, image via Celtic Fringe Festival


4. Sligo Live

Music comes to life and then some at Sligo Live, Ireland’s premier folk, roots and indie festival. When over 300 top Irish and international performers converge on Sligo Town, they add an infectious dash of folk, traditional, bluegrass, rock and world music to a spot of the Wild Atlantic Way already renowned for its musical prowess and prestige. The festival packs in over 80 individual events from intimate sessions to major concerts, a three-stage festival club and a huge free festival fringe. 

5. Clifden Arts Festival

You’ll find Ireland’s longest-running community arts festival in the heart of Connemara. For almost 40 years, the Clifden Arts Festival (September 15th – 25th) has featured some of the finest Irish acts from the arts world alongside a bustling carnival atmosphere. Those visiting the market town of Clifden during festival season can expect a high quality artistic programme with a central focus on creative writing, literary talks, poetry readings, music, theatre, graphic design and film workshops and performances. 

A carnival atmosphere at the Clifden Arts Festival County Mayo
Hanging around at the Clifden Arts Festival, image via Clifden Arts Festival


6. Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival

With each passing year, the last weekend of September has found Galway a more tantalising prospect than ever thanks to the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival. The festival was first established in 1954 and boasts a wide variety of scrumptious events and happenings such as the National Oyster Opening Championship, the ‘Oyster Olympics’, a seafood trail and lively music. Described by The Sunday Times as “one of the 12 greatest shows on Earth”, this is a special occasion  in every sense.

Irish shellfish at the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival
Delicious treats in store at the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival. 
Image via Arabia Food and Travel

7. Burren Winterage Weekend

For hundreds of years, farmers in The Burren in County Clare have marked the end of summer by herding their cattle onto ‘winterage’ pastures in the limestone uplands where they then spend the winter grazing. This ancient tradition is honoured during the Burren Winterage Weekend, a vibrant four-day celebration of Irish heritage and culture. 

8. Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival & The Outing

A quaint and romantic Irish tradition, the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival (September 2nd – October 9th) promises an experience unlike any other. Led by the charismatic Willie Daly – the only true matchmaker left in the country! – the festival has evolved from a cute union of singletons of all nationalities and ages to Europe’s largest and most revered event of its kind. Despite being just a few years young, LBGT offshoot The Outing (Date TBC) continues to grow in popularity and is endorsed by the Queen of Ireland herself, Panti Bliss

LGBT friendly festival The Outing takes place in Lisdoonvarna County Clare
LGBT-friendly fun and games in Lisdoonvarna, image via The Outing


9. Dingle Tradfest 

A unique fusion of traditional Irish music and contemporary sounds, Dingle Tradfest in County Kerry is a celebration of Irish culture with a quirky twist. The boisterous Dingle-based extravaganza showcases modern and original talents within a traditional environment, mixing old and new with the likes of the popular Saturday night trad disco and lunchtime and night-time concerts with innovative musicians. Throw in session trails, film presentations and workshops and you have a rich slice of authentic Irish spirit fit to stir the heart and soul. 

Irish culture and music at the Dingle Tradfest in County Kerry
Giving music back to the land at Dingle Tradfest, image via Dingle Tradfest

10. Rose of Tralee International Festival

A true Irish institution, the Rose of Tralee International Festival is one of the oldest and grandest festivals the country has to offer. A charming blend of street entertainment, live music and, of course, the selection of the Rose of Tralee, the festival focuses on the International Roses who, alongside family and friends, travel to Tralee from Ireland and abroad in their quest to become the Rose of Tralee. 

The infamous Rose of Tralee International Festival in County Kerry
Running amok for the Rose of Tralee International Festival, image via Rose of Tralee


11. Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival

The setting of a story can make all the difference. Some eight miles off the coast of Baltimore in County Cork, Cape Clear Island provides the perfect place in which to tell a great tale as illustrated in fine style by the Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival (September 2nd – 4th). Over three days, Irish and international storytellers and musicians come together for a series of compelling performances. 

12. Kinsale Gourmet Festival

Run in conjunction with the Kinsale Good Food Circle, the Kinsale Gourmet Festival (October 7 - 9) is a real feast for the senses. 2017 sees the 41st edition of the festival cast a sumptuous spell over Kinsale with bespoke dining experiences in the form of chowder cook-offs, tasting sessions, the famous five-course ‘Taste of West Cork’ dinner and the vivacious Mad Hatter’s ‘Taste of Kinsale’, a wild and colourful way to mark the close of the gourmet capital of Ireland’s tastiest offering. 

Irish Seafood at the Kinsale Gourmet Festival in County Cork
Dish of the day at the Kinsale Gourmet Festival, image via Kinsale Good Food Circle

For more great festivals on the Wild Atlantic Way this year, check out our guide to what’s happening in spring, summer and winter.  Also, have a look at our top 16 picks for 2017.