Small festivals Ireland

Discover Ireland’s Charming Small Festivals

Let’s explore Ireland’s vibrant cultural scene through its small festivals. These events showcase the lively spirit of the country. They bring people together in a close-knit way. You can find festivals in big cities or tiny villages, each offering a unique experience. They feature everything from comedy to music and art, highlighting local and global talent.

Take the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival in Kilkenny, which welcomes over 30,000 guests1. Then there’s the Cork Jazz Festival, known worldwide and among the top three jazz events1. The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, celebrating Irish music for over 60 years, still enchants its audience1. Not to forget the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival since 1954 and the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, drawing 20,000 people yearly1.

The Puck Fair, happening for over 400 years, is an Irish festival icon1. The Rose of Tralee Festival stands out as one of Ireland’s biggest, showing the appeal of these festivals1. And the Wexford Festival Opera, marked by innovation, attracts culture lovers in large numbers1.

Key Takeaways

  • Small festivals in Ireland offer diverse cultural experiences, from comedy to music and exhibitions.
  • The Cat Laughs Festival in Kilkenny attracts over 30,000 visitors, showcasing both local and international comedy talent1.
  • The Cork Jazz Festival ranks among the top three Jazz festivals worldwide1.
  • The Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann has celebrated traditional Irish music for over 60 years1.
  • The Puck Fair has a storied history spanning more than 400 years1.

The Cat Laughs Festival

The Cat Laughs Festival is a major Irish event, known since 1994. It’s called the “Best Little Comedy Festival in the world” by The Guardian and RTE2. It takes place in the ancient city of Kilkenny, blending comedy with historic charm. The festival highlights Ireland’s lively comedy scene, attracting big crowds each year.

Kilkenny's comedy festival

Description and Activities

The Cat Laughs festival started small but now draws global attention3. It stars Irish favourites like Dara Ó Briain, Ed Byrne, and David O’Doherty, who went from viewer to main act2. International stars like Tommy Tiernan and Jason Byrne also grace its stages3. Besides shows, there are workshops and the famed Cat Cup football matches. Here, Irish comedians face off against global names2.

Dates and Location

This fest happens every June bank holiday weekend, filling Kilkenny with laughs and fun2. Its setting in an ancient city adds a special touch, loved by all. The events spread out in historic venues, spotlighting Kilkenny’s charm and talent.
This makes Kilkenny a prime spot for Irish music festivals, celebrating both its past and its comedians.

Cork Jazz Festival

The Cork Jazz Festival is a key event in Ireland, known worldwide for its top musical acts. It started in 1978 and has since hosted many famous Jazz artists. This festival has become a part of Ireland’s rich cultural scene, mixing traditional and new Jazz.

Cork Jazz Festival

Global Reputation

This event welcomes about 40,000 people every year, proving its global popularity in Jazz. Since the 1990s, visitors come from around the world to enjoy the music4. In 2010, over a million fans came to Cork, Ireland, to hear Ella Fitzgerald, George Shearing, and others4. Originally sponsored by John Player, it later found support from Guinness in the 1980s4.

Event Highlights

Visitors to the Cork Jazz Festival can expect an exciting mix of music every year. They offer over 1,000 musicians from 20 countries, guaranteeing a varied sound. Along with the music, there are street parades and activities for everyone, showing the fest’s broad appeal4.

YearVisitorsMusiciansCountries Represented

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is a key event celebrating Irish music and culture. It has over 60 years of history. It pulls in many people to enjoy the music, competitions, and fun on the streets5.

In 2023, over half a million people came to the Mullingar Fleadh. This made it the biggest Fleadh ever6. The main aim is to share and grow Irish traditional music. There were 20,000 performers taking part in the competitions6.

This event lasts for a week, from August 14th to the 22nd. The one in 2016, held in Ennis, saw 400,000 people come. It brought in about €38 million. Up to 80,000 were there at the same time6. This shows how much people love and value the Irish culture.

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann

Every year, Fleadh Cheoil brings life to towns and cities with Irish music. In 2016, there were 180 music competitions. 6,000 musicians took part, making the atmosphere lively. Also, people could play music freely in the streets, adding more joy6.

It’s been known for its music competitions and exhibitions for decades. Every year, it pulls in many visitors. The 2008 Fleadh in Tullamore had 250,000 visitors, making it Ireland’s biggest festival then6.

Celebrities like U2 members and Ed Sheeran sometimes judge the competitions. This adds a special touch to Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. It shows its important role in keeping Irish cultural traditions alive5.

Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival

The Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival is a top seafood event that has been loved around the world since 1954.7 It’s the world’s longest-running oyster festival. It has seen over half a million people and served more than 3 million oysters.78 This 3-day fest happens at the end of September. The next one is set for Friday, September 27th to Sunday, September 29th, 2024.7

Seafood Celebration

The festival gathers seafood fans from everywhere to enjoy the best catches. Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival is famous in Ireland. It boasts 17 top seafood spots in Galway City on the Seafood Trail.7 This trail is a delicious journey, focusing on Galway’s best oysters and more.

Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival

Festival Activities

More than just food, the event offers lots for everyone. A big hit is the World Oyster Opening Championship. It’s exciting and draws eyes from around the world.7 Choosing the Festival Pearl, the Mardi Gras Party, and the Gala Ball add to the fun.7

About 22,000 people come each year, making it full of life. It’s also affordable, with tickets starting at 45 Euros for Friday night, and up to 120 Euros for the big Saturday night.8 The Sunday Feile Bia Na Mara part is free, welcoming everyone to join the fun.8

If you’re into seafood and fun, the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival is a top choice in Ireland. It promises a great time.

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival

The Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival is a lively event in Ireland, happening every September for over 160 years. It pulls around 40,000 people looking for love9. The festival turns the small town of Lisdoonvarna, normally with 800 residents, into a vibrant place full of joy, music, and dance10.

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival

Festival Overview

Set in the harvest season, the festival showcases Irish culture with live music and dance. You can enjoy performances by top artists and have fun with traditional Irish dancing. Willie Daly, the famous local matchmaker, plays a big role by offering matchmaking advice and his ‘Lucky Book’ service, said to help find a spouse in a year911.

Event History

The festival dates back to 1845 when the spa first opened. With the start of the West Clare Railway soon after, more people began to visit9. September became the month for farmers to meet and marry thanks to Lisdoonvarna’s matchmaking fame. Willie Daly keeps this tradition alive, following his father’s steps. He has arranged about 3,000 marriages, focusing on helping quiet farmers find love11. The festival now includes both traditional and modern elements. It features musicians from around the world and even DJ sets, blending old practices with new culture9.

Those who have been say the festival is great fun, filled with music, dance, and chances to make new friends. Every year brings unforgettable memories for its attendees11.

National Ploughing Championship

The National Ploughing Championship isn’t just any show—it’s a key Irish cultural event. It honours rural life and traditions, bringing together many people each year. This gives everyone a big look into the world of farming.

Rural Celebrations

The 2024 National Ploughing Championships will be in Ratheniska, Co. Laois. They run from Tuesday, September 17 to Thursday, September 19. The site covers 323 hectares of activities and exhibitions1213. The event has gotten much bigger, needing over 700 acres now, including space for ploughing and trade stands, parking, and demos12.

National Ploughing Championship

This is rural Ireland’s top yearly event, welcoming about 300,000 people. On any one day, from 70,000 to 115,000 guests may arrive1213. There are more than 1,700 stalls showing everything from animals to forestry products. This get-together really brings out the best of Irish culture, uniting farmers and their families1214.

There’s a lot to see and do at the National Ploughing Championship. You can visit the Tented Trade Village and try tasty food at the Food Fair. Plus, there’s a Craft Village, animal contests, and other fun activities. Fashion shows and special guests also add excitement to the event12. More than 30 small businesses and over 50 agritech companies show their best work here, competing for prizes13.

Getting into this event costs €30, but you can pay less if you book tickets online in a group. For students, it could be as cheap as €1513. Bus services from nearby towns make it easy for people to attend, with many visitors taking advantage of this13.

The National Ploughing Championship is more than just a place to see contests. It’s a huge part of Irish culture, where we come together to talk, share stories, and honour our farming heritage14.

Puck Fair

The Puck Fair is held every year in Killorglin, County Kerry, from 10th to 12th August. It is Ireland’s oldest fair, possibly dating back to Pre-Christian Ireland and the Celtic Lughnasa festival1516. For over 400 years, it has crowned a wild mountain goat as “King Puck.” This tradition started in 1613 when King James I gave it legal status15. The fair brings more than 100,000 visitors in three days, mixing ancient rituals with modern fun16Puck Fair

Unique Traditions

The Puck Fair is different from other Irish festivals. It comes alive with special customs in Killorglin. The goat, “King Puck,” sits on a high stand for a few hours15. This is a big draw, even though it is now shorter due to animal rights concerns. The fair also has old events like the horse and cattle fairs. These show Ireland’s traditional rural life1516.

Event Schedule

The Puck Fair has something for everyone, making it a loved festival in Ireland. Starting of August is marked with horse trading, a big parade, music, and fun rides16. Sadly, the Puck Fair wasn’t held in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. But it came back strong in 2022, bringing joy back to Killorglin15. People like Christy Moore have even been inspired by this fair. He made an album called “King Puck” in 199315.

In August 1906, John Millington Synge, a famous playwright, visited the fair. This visit shows how important the Puck Fair is to Irish culture16. Anyone looking to enjoy traditional Irish festivals and the lively spirit of Ireland should visit this festival.

Wexford Festival Opera

The Wexford Festival Opera is known as a top-notch event in Irish opera, famous for its artistic creativity and fresh ideas. Every year, it attracts fans from everywhere who come to enjoy both popular and lesser-known operas. This mix makes it a must-visit for opera lovers.

Opera Performances

Each year, the festival presents three main stage operas, mixing old classics with new favourites17. In 2024, we’ll also see two Pocket Operas and a special RTÉ Concert Orchestra performance18. The festival features works from legendary composers such as Verdi and Handel, offering a broad range of musical styles17.

Wexford Festival Opera

Festival History

Started in 1951 by Tom Walsh, the Wexford Festival Opera has become a key part of Ireland’s cultural scene17. Over the years, it has introduced fans to rare and new operas. In 1961, the festival celebrated the reopening of its theatre with Verdi’s *Ernani*19. Artistic directors from Brian Dickie to Luigi Ferrari have led the festival through different periods of style and innovation1719.

Visitor Experience

Guests at the Wexford Festival Opera get more than just great opera. The 16-day event includes 80 diverse activities, from performances and concerts to discussions and spontaneous happenings18. These varied events enrich the festival experience, linking visitors with Wexford’s rich cultural past. Special projects like *Wings to Fly* and *Circus & Opera* also engage school kids, adding to the festival’s cultural impact18. For anyone looking for a deep dive into Irish arts, this festival is the place to be.

West Cork Literary Festival

The West Cork Literary Festival happens in Bantry every year. It’s a wonderful place for anyone who loves Irish books. The event is known for its top writers and many seminars and workshops for authors20.

Literary Giants

Big names in literature often visit. Authors like Colm Tóibín and Alice Taylor have been there. They make the festival extra special with their talks and readings20.

The festival is in Bantry, near Cork City. It’s easy to get to by car, plane, or bus. During the event, the town is full of life, especially its market day on Fridays. You can find local food, arts, and crafts there20.

Event Highlights

There are many exciting events lined up. People can join author seminars, take part in workshops, and get feedback on their writing. The festival also hosts lively debates about books and ideas20.

But the fun isn’t just about books. The festival happens near the Wild Atlantic Way, a beautiful coast. There are lots of places to stay, like grand hotels or cosy B&Bs, for all visitors’ tastes20.

The West Cork Literary Festival is an important gathering for book lovers in Ireland and the world. It makes Bantry a key place for culture. For more info, check out the West Cork Literary Festival website.

Carlow Arts Festival

The Carlow Arts Festival is an important event in Ireland. It will happen from Wednesday, June 7th to Sunday, June 11th, 20232122. This festival offers a wide range of experiences like theatre, dance, music, and art2122. It includes pieces from artists in different parts of Europe, welcoming diversity in art21.

This year, the event will last for five days. It will present contemporary theatre and literature1>. A highlight will be the first showings in Ireland, a special experience for all visitors21. Musicians like Æ MAK, Jafaris, and John Francis Flynn will delight the crowd2122.

2023 is also the 50th anniversary of European Union membership. This will be a major festival theme21. The event matches Cruinniú na nÓg, a day in Ireland dedicated to free creativity21. With more than 80 events, there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy23.

There are special events for families too. Kids and teens will love the fun atmosphere2122. Shows like Pelat and By the Light of the Silvery Moon are on the schedule23. Adults into modern theatre shouldn’t miss First Light by Asylum Productions23.

For those who love art, visit the ‘Remembering the Future’ exhibition at VISUAL starting June 8th22. There’s also ‘The Long and Short of It’ and Behind the Curtain212322. Plus, don’t forget to join the Cycles: Spokes and Roots Shop workshops2122.

Special buses and trains will make travelling to Carlow Town easy23. This makes the festival accessible to everyone. The Carlow Arts Festival celebrates a mix of art that’s sure to be enjoyed by all.


Many small festivals are spread across Ireland, giving a special chance to experience the real spirit of its communities. The Bealtaine Festival, from May 1-31, has events in nearly every county. The STAMP Festival in Cork from May 19-21 offers over 50 creative events24. These are perfect examples of boutique festivals, small but rich in culture. They allow visitors to get close and feel the local vibe.

Cork shines during the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival from May 29 to June 5. It includes 21 events and 103 artists at various places. In Dublin, the Dublin Dance Festival from May 16-28 has Irish and international dance performances24. Listowel Writers’ Week in Kerry, happening May 31-Jun 4, offers workshops and awards for those into literature24. These events serve their communities, bringing people together in joy.

We also note the vital financial support these events receive, averaging €4,565 per festival, with single grants from €1,000 to €5,00025. Donegal takes the lead in funding five festivals, followed by Cork and Cavan with four each25. Such support shows a dedication to keeping these community events vibrant and alive.

From the jazz tunes of Cork to Dublin’s creative heart, and Kerry’s love for literature, Ireland’s festivals are a treasure trove of culture. They offer fun and a feeling of belonging for everyone. By supporting these gatherings, we help keep Ireland’s cultural legacy thriving and welcoming. Let’s celebrate Ireland’s rich culture and friendly welcome, open to all who come near or far.


What are some of the most popular small festivals in Ireland?

In Ireland, popular small festivals include The Cat Laughs in Kilkenny. There’s also the Cork Jazz Festival, celebrating jazz in a unique way. Don’t miss the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, known for its traditional Irish music.

Other notable festivals are the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Fest. Plus, the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Fest which combines traditional marriage practices with modern fun.

There’s also the National Ploughing Championship, showing off Ireland’s farming life. And the Puck Fair is special for crowning a goat as king.

For arts lovers, don’t forget the Wexford Festival Opera. The West Cork Literary Festival is a must for book lovers. Finally, the Carlow Arts Fest brings together different art forms for a rich experience.

What can we expect at The Cat Laughs Festival?

The Cat Laughs in Kilkenny mixes well-known comedians with Irish stars. It’s in historical venues, creating a special vibe. With both free and paid events, laughter fills the air.

When and where is The Cat Laughs Festival held?

It happens over the June bank holiday weekend in Kilkenny. This medieval city in Ireland hosts the festival. Venues throughout the city add to its charm.

Why is the Cork Jazz Festival renowned globally?

The Cork Jazz Festival is loved worldwide for its jazz variety. From traditional to modern, it attracts fans globally.

What are the highlights of the Cork Jazz Festival?

At the Cork Jazz Festival, enjoy performances by jazz greats. There are vibrant jazz parades and events for all, from fans to newcomers.

What makes Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann significant?

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann celebrates Irish traditional music for over 60 years. Competitions and street performances fill the atmosphere with joy.

What is the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival known for?

It’s known for kicking off the oyster season with zeal. You’ll find cooking demos, tastings, parades, and a big oyster competition.

What is the history of the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival?

Over 150 years old, it started as a way to make marriages. Now, it’s a month-long fest that lures singles worldwide with music and dance.

What activities can you find at the National Ploughing Championship?

The National Ploughing Championship offers ploughing finals and machinery displays. There are also crafts and foods, celebrating rural life in Ireland.

How does Puck Fair stand out among Irish festivals?

Puck Fair stands out by crowning a wild mountain goat as king. It has a coronation parade, music, and thrilling fair attractions.

What can we experience at the Wexford Festival Opera?

The Wexford Festival Opera showcases top-class opera and festival history. It’s a unique visitor experience in a beautiful Irish town.

Who attends the West Cork Literary Festival?

Book lovers and writers gather at the West Cork Literary Fest. It features talks and readings by top authors. Workshops and debates also take place.

What types of performances are showcased at the Carlow Arts Festival?

The Carlow Arts Festival is a blend of theatre, dance, music, and art. Enjoy interactive theatre, dances, and art by local creatives.

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Healing Spirit festival takes place at Drummany Spirit, Milltown, Cavan, Ireland on the 4rd to 5th August 2024. Our festival is run by our small community group, Drummany Spirit, is family and child friendly and is alcohol and drug free. This boutique festival features a large lineup of live music, plus a large array of holistic events and practices including sweat lodges, yoga classes, movement meditation (ecstatic dance), pranayama/breathwork, meditation; plus alternative healing and therapies, crafts, art, drumming circles and talks by leading authorities on personal and spiritual growth, sustainability, conscious living, and healing.

We are set on beautiful sacred land overlooking Lough Oughter in Cavan. Drummany Spirit is a community group which hosts the festival each year. 2024 is our third year running the festival and it's been a major success so far with new friends from across Ireland and abroad attending. You can see the festival lineup here, see photos from previous years here and you can get tickets here (note: the festival has very limited capacity and is almost sold out) .