Galway – The Festival Capital Of Ireland!

Galway is known as the festival capital of Ireland, the place where the very best of Irish festivals take place year after year. If you are going to be visiting Ireland, there is no better way to really experience the culture and the people than to attend these festivals. People come out in droves and have a great time; the atmosphere is always one of fun and excitement. These festivals will give you something that you can enjoy while you are in Ireland, especially if you want to experience the people and the culture and not just the land. It is easy to go to Ireland and do everything by yourself, but you will leave feeling like you have not really been to Ireland. Galway festivals ensure that you will leave feeling like you truly know the country and been to an event that is like no other festivals around the world.

When looking for hotel deals Ireland can provide, you will find some great Galway hotels right near these festivals. Galway is a place that has been built up around these festivals, around the excitement that they provide and the money that they bring in. Therefore, Galway hotels are always offering good deals to help people get to the festivals that they want to attend. You should book these deals in advance, however, since Galway hotels do tend to fill up as time draws closer to the festivals.

The following festivals are some that you should not miss. If you have not yet planned your trip to Ireland and to Galway, you should take note of these festivals and plan the trip so that you will be there while they are going on.


The Galway Arts Festival

In recent years, Galway has appeared on the world stage as a centre of culture and the arts. This is largely because of the success of The Galway Arts Festival which is now a two-week event and is one of Ireland’s biggest international festivals.

This festival takes place from the eleventh to the twenty-four of July. It consists of dancing, sculptures, orchestra music, folk music, art exhibits, and much more. Any type of art that people can make can be found at this festival; it can help you to further appreciate the art that you know about and open your eyes to new kinds of art that you never considered.

It was founded in 1978 and over its 33 years it has grown in size and reputation and now showcases many top international artists and Irish performers in music (popular, jazz, classical and traditional), theatre, visual arts, dance, comedy and much more. The Arts Festival has been instumental in putting Galway on the world map as a cultural centre of excellence.

Over the years, some of the famous artists who have featured at the festival include: Philip Glass, Primal Scream, Blondie, Joni Mitchell, The Kronos Quartet, David Hockney and The New York Dolls.

Theatre is a huge part of the festival and every year there are performances by many of the big Irish and International Theatre Companies. Macnas, which was founded in 1986, is a local theatre company which stages performances in the theatre but it has become famous for its street performances which can have up to 400 participants. The annual Macnas Parade at The Galway Arts Festival is a fabulous spectacle which celebrates fantasy, history and creativity on the streets. The local Druid Theatre Company has become a major force in the theatre world and has put on performances all over the world. The Abbey Theatre as well as many companies from abroad put on performances at the festival.

Dance is another major element of the festival and visiting international theatre and dance companies have included The Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, Michael Clark Dance Company and Hofesh Shechter Dance Company.

In 2010 over 160,000 people attended events during the two weeks and a large proportion of these were visitors to Galway. Some of the highlights in 2010 were: Chekov’s ‘Uncle Vanya’ performed by Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company, ‘Freefall’ performed by The Corn Exchange Theatre, ‘Political Mother’ (Part dance show, part heavy-rock gig) by Hofesh Shechter Company, The Human League (Synth pop’s first international superstars), Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, The Divine Comedy, Rodrigo Y Gabriela and of course the spectacular Macnas Parade.


The Galway Races

These horse races are a favorite event every year. They give you a chance to dress up in your finest clothes and go out into the afternoon sun to enjoy the thrill of competition. You can place bets if you would like, giving yourself a favorite to pull for and a chance to make money, or you can just sit with a drink and watch the festivities.


The Dunmore Festival

The dates for this festival are a bit more loose, but it takes place in early August and late July. There are soccer matches, a bicycle treasure hunt, card games, nightly events at the pubs, and much more. This is a long festival with much to offer; the pub events also give you a chance to visit some of the oldest and most historic buildings in Ireland, since many of the more famous pubs have been around for centuries and have been frequented by famous people.


The Galway Quilting Festival

The Galway Quilting Festival is not like other foreign quilting festivals, where attendees can easily get lost in the expanse of a massive convention centre. This event has the distinction of being held in a custom built Quilter’s Village, beside the Corrib River. This creates a far more intimate experience, where one can wander amongst the various stalls and workshops of the Quilter’s Market without becoming disoriented by the sheer scale of the operation. A range of native handicrafts, bread and cakes, chocolates and confectionary are all on sale, while a School House offering lessons and a Quilter’s Canteen are also available.


Galway Film Fleadh

Each July for six days, directors, actors and anyone else working on or interested in films descend on Galway. Why? This is when the Galway Film Fleadh is held. This is a festival meant for lovers of film, regardless of their nationality, culture or vintage. It is now almost a quarter of a century old, yet over the years the organisers have never wavered from their original goal; to reveal a wondrous mix of avant garde, alternative and thought provoking films to an appreciative audience. Whether they are involved in the filmmaking business or not, it does not matter – film is a shared interest and something they automatically have in common.


Galway Comedy Festival

Each year the Galway Comedy Festival just keeps improving, with a better selection of acts than the last. In 2011, the itinerary was impressive; notable stand up comedians such as Dylan Moran, The Rubber Bandits, Ardal O’Hanlon and David O’Doherty, amongst many others, were in attendance. The Galway Comedy Festival is a celebration of humour in all its forms, however; this is where comedic dramas such as The Faulty Towers Dining Experience and Who Needs Enemies II have also been performed on stage. The main aim of this event (apart from making the audience laugh out loud, of course) is to encourage up and coming talent as well as established acts, so although one may not be familiar with a lot of the names, there just may be some hidden gems waiting to be discovered.


Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival

Every year during the month of September, Galway becomes a hub of gourmet delicacies when the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival comes to town. This is far and away the most famous of Irish food festivals, and the International Oyster Festival has been held for more consecutive years than any other. This is where the city’s best restaurants really get a chance to shine, alongside the Food Village, which is a celebration of all types of edible delights. This is when the National and World Oyster Opening Championships are held, along with a colourful parade. At the Festival Finale, there are events for all the family, while the kids can dress up, music lovers can soak enjoy the live bands, and people who enjoy cooking can attend demonstrations.


Volvo Ocean Race Festival

June 30 to July 8 is usually a 10 day party in Galway, with a line up of celebratory events, as the Volvo Ocean Race Festival graces the city with its presence. As many as 12 boats are expected to sail into Galway Docks from Lorient during the second last leg of the race. It is conservatively estimated that the population of the city will temporarily swell by at least 40,000 people as they come to witness the conclusion of the Volvo Round the World Ocean Race. The last leg will be a race circumnavigating the Irish coast, and is predicted to last three days. It will conclude in Galway Bay, with an In-Port race and closing ceremony.


What Else Is In Galway?

There are numerous attractions that one can enjoy in Galway City. It may not be possible to see all of them in just a couple of days but if you are armed with a good map or a competent tourist guide, you should certainly try to visit as many places as you can.

One of the most popular sights that tourists visit while in Galway City is Thoor Ballylee. This is a tower located beside the edge of a stream and made world famous by Nobel Prize winner W.B. Yeats. Back in 1916, the poet had purchased this Norman Tower and its accompanying cottages, because he fell in love with it during one of his many visits to Lady Gregory, his patron.

Apart from the tower, there is also another edifice that is closely attached to Yeats. It is called Dungaire Castle which was the ideal place for revivalists of literature way back when. These days, bardic traditions are being relived through the Medieval Banquets which are held every night. This event is for the celebration of Ireland’s fascinating musical and literary past, which can be a spectacular sight to those who are into medieval traditions and folklore.

There are many other attractions that you can take advantage of while in Galway City. Among these is the Dan O’ Hara’s Homestead nestled in the hillside right below the Twelve Bens. Also, there is the Athenry Heritage Center which is ideal for discovering the story of the walled town of Athenry. Rare sports such as archery can be tried here.

For a slightly different side of Galway City, visit its national aquarium called the Galway Atlantaquaria which can be located by following the trail of the world famous Galway Salmon from the River of Corrib to Galway Bay. Here, a breathtaking view of the water world and its many wonders can be seen, from the starkly blue seabed to local lakes and rivers as well as the city canals. Learning about the highly diverse marine ecosystem of Ireland at The Galway Atlantaquaria has never been made more entertaining and fun with features including saltwater and freshwater exhibits. Children will adore touching live sea animals like crabs, lobsters and starfish.

More of Ireland’s grim but interesting history may be experienced at the Battle of Aughrim Visitor Centre. You can also visit the Glengowla Mines which are situated two miles of Oughterard as there is many caverns and marble chambers with impressive lead, calcite, and silver formations to explore. Last but not the least, treat yourself to an awe inspiring sight by exploring the very picturesque Inishbofin. To tour this area, you can either walk, rent a bike or ride a horse.


To sum it all, Galway is the getaway that will be fun for the whole family, or just the two of you who need to get away from it all. Great food and drink, a lovely landscape, friendly folks and plenty to do when you want to sight see! Sounds like a Great way to go!

Visit information about festivals section to explore a full list of festivals happening around the world yearly!