A Guide to Visiting Ireland in May

May is a brilliant time to visit Ireland. Not only can the weather be quite pleasant at times, but there is also a huge number of things to do such as:

● The Fastnet Film Festival

● The West Wicklow Festival

● The Leinster Pipe Band Championship

● The Fleadh Nua

● The Tullagh Begley Heritage Walking Weekend

● The City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival

● Watching a Game of Gaelic Football

Go to the Fastnet Film Festival

In the beautiful picturesque fishing village of Schull in West Cork, one of the most exciting Irish film festivals takes place. Every May (usually for five days) the Fastnet Film Festival shows a variety of short films both from Irish and international filmmakers.

The village of Schull is right at the west coast of Ireland and is near the fascinating landmasses that are Beara Peninsula and Mizen Head. The village itself is about an hour and forty minutes’ drive from Cork city, making it a very accessible place to get to.

The focus of the festival is to engage the audience with the creators. Filmmakers and producers can share and discuss their filmmaking process with attendees. The festival also avails of interesting locations within the village to host films. These have included in the pass the village hall, a bookshop and pubs.

The competition itself is not the primary focus of the festival. It is more attentive of celebrating film and giving artists the chance to screen their films.

The festival also has several workshops you can avail of. These workshops relate to the craft of filmmaking. So, if you’re interested in motion pictures and want to learn a few things about it, then this festival is for you.

Attend the West Wicklow Festival

Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

For a couple of days every May, Blessington in county Wicklow becomes the home of the West Wicklow Festival. This is a music festival that showcases some of the best classical musical acts from home and abroad.

Former acts include Fiacnhra Garvey. He is a prize-winner of the AXA Dublin International Piano Competition. Violinist Elena Urioste has also been at the festival. She is most notable for her performances alongside highly esteemed orchestras like the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The town of Blessington is situated next to the Wicklow mountains, where many scenic sights are accessible. The town is also close to Dublin, so you can easily make your way down to the festival for a day trip. 

Check out the Leinster Pipe Band Championship

Every May in Swords, County Dublin the Leinster Pipe Band Championship is held. The championship has bands from all corners from Ireland who show off their skills in a competition. The event itself is very family orientated and is a great experience to witness.

The bands mainly consist of drummers and of course bag pipers. The backdrop to the music is the beautiful Swords castle. You will get to see bands play their pipe music in front of one of Ireland’s most historically rich castles. The castle was first built as a resident of Dublin’s first Anglo-Norman Archbishop. It is believed the castle was built just after 1200 AD.

The town of Swords is a suburb of Dublin city and is luckily close to Dublin Airport. In fact, it is one of the closet towns to the airport and has many people working there from it. Hence, if your flying out of the airport or just landing, and it’s around the time of the festival, then you should defiantly give the Pipe Band Championship a look.

Go to the Fleadh Nua in Ennis

The Fleadh Nua music festival has been going strong in the County Clare town of Ennis since 1974. The festival mainly focuses on traditional Irish music and spans for over a week in the month of May. There is over a hundred events within the festival from concerts to Ceilis (a form of group Irish dancing that you should see if you ever come to Ireland or better yet, participate in).

Many of the events are surprisingly free considering their immense entertainment value. Most of the other events are reasonably priced. In addition to this accommodation in Ennis is plentiful, so you should have no issue in finding somewhere to stay. Queens hotel is an excellent choice for your stay. If you want the fun hostel experience, then there are also options. Rowan Tree hostel is a great spot in the town, also there is Sleepzone – The Burren. Sleepzone is just over a thirty minute drive from Ennis, however it is located near the coast so you can easily make your way to the nearby natural sights (like the Cliffs of Mohar).

The town of Ennis is easy to get to. It is almost completely connected to Limerick city and Dublin city by motorway. In addition to this there is Shannon Airport that is also nearby. It is a town that has much to see and do. With the Fleadh Nua being one of its most stand out festivals to enjoy.

Take part in the Tullagh Begley Heritage Walking Weekend

The Donegal Countryside

Usually every May Bank Holiday an amazing walking event takes place in rural County Donegel. Tullagh Begley Heritage Walking Weekend occurs around the start of May and begins in the remote north western village of Falcarrach.

The walk also advertised as Deireadh Seachtaine Siúil Oidhreachta Thullach Beaglaoich in native Irish, celebrates the history and heritage of the area. The walk follows the footsteps of those who had to carry dead bodies and take a path to a burial site in Tullagh Begley many generations ago. With the walk you will get to see the terrain they went over in making the long journey and the sights they took in.

The Donegal countryside really is a beautiful sight to behold. So, if you love nature and taking long walks or hiking, then this weekend away in one of the more scenic parts of the island is a great way to spend your time.

Go to the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival

Derry city is right beside county Donegal and is a place you need to go to if you’re interested in checking out Northern Ireland. The city has a tonne of history. The area upon which it rests has been inhabited for centuries and the city itself was first properly established during the Ulster Plantation. At the start of the 17th century British settlers built fortified walls on the location and began to put down roots.

Since then the city has been one of Ireland’s centre points of conflict in relation to the Irish Independence movement. Most recently the city was important in the civil rights activism of the 1960s and 1970s in Northern Ireland. It also saw major violence during the Northern Irish Troubles.

The city is now a cultural centre of Northern Ireland and hosts a wide span of festivities every year. One of the most notable and enjoyable is the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival every May. The first festival took place back in 2001. The focus on always having high quality talent at the event is a major reason why now it is one of Ireland leading musical festivals.

The festival takes place in venues across the city. So, no matter where you stay in the city during the event, a nearby jazz or bluegrass session shouldn’t be too far away.

If you do manage to have some free time in Derry around the festival, check out the City Walls. The walls are a stunning 400 years old, however parts of them remain enact today. As stated, they were constructed by settlers during the Ulster Plantation. At the time the north of Ireland was a very perilous place for settlers who had removed native Irish from their land. Along with large stone walls around the city, they also placed cannons on top of them. Derry has the largest number of cannons of any European city where the origin of the weapons is known. They were regularly used in the 17th century against native Irish rebels when they would lay siege to the city.

Getting to Derry is easy. There is the City of Derry airport nearby.  Also, you have Belfast International Airport which is only about an hour and fifteen-minute drive away. Northern Ireland occupies a small landmass, so if you’re anywhere in the province you can also easily make your way to the city by car.

Overall Derry has a tonne to offer in May. It is rich in culture and is surrounded by some of the most spectacular sights in the Island of Ireland. If you are there in May or feel like going there around that time, then Derry city and its Jazz festival are a must.

Catch a game of Gaelic Football

Gaelic Football is one of Ireland’s most popular spots. For centuries various types of football games were played throughout the Island. It wasn’t until the 19th century that a version of Gaelic football replicating the modern game was officially established.

 In the 17th century the games were extremely popular in Ireland. Landlords would back teams and have them compete against each other. In the 19th Century the games were particularly prominent in county Kerry. Kerry went on to be one of the best counties at the sport and to this day it is still one of the major teams in the official leagues.

The most popular of these leagues include the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. This championship begins in May and usually finishes by the end of August or sometime in September. If you are in Ireland during May then make sure to go to one of these championship matches. Being the main league for the sport the matches are sure to draw in huge crowds.

If your ancestors come from one of these football strong counties (e.g. Dublin, Kerry or Tyrone) then attending one of these games could be a great way to get in touch with your roots. Many villages, towns and parishes in Ireland have a Gaelic football team. If your great-great grandparents came from a small football strong village then it could be worth going to one of their matches. You might even meet someone who may have an in-depth knowledge of the area and its history, including the area’s sporting history. People take this sport very seriously and many people give up a lot of energy and free time to participate in them.

Gaelic football Is in fact one of the few completely amateur sports in the world. The players, managers and coaches are paid zero income for the work they put in.

Attending a championship match in May could save you the hassle of competing with football fanatics to get tickets for more crucial matches in August. The games take place across the country and most football strong counties have stadiums that allow them to host games. So, no matter where you are around Ireland in May you shouldn’t be too far from a stadium and a match. This also very much includes Northern Ireland. Gaelic football is extremely strong up there as well, especially in county Tyrone.

One of the coolest things about the sport is that Irish counties have their very own football (and hurling) jerseys. So, it could be an interesting idea to buy a jersey from the county you come to visit as a souvenir. They usual differ greatly from one another with Tyrone’s jersey being red and white, Kerry’s being green and yellow and Dublin being navy and sky blue.

Most of the significant matches are televised, so if you don’t manage to grab some tickets to a match you could always pop down to the local pub to watch the game. This is a great way to enjoy the matches alongside some locals. You can even relax with a pint in your and get chatting to some fans next to you. Not a bad way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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