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If you’re lucky enough to be going to the Emerald Isle in March, it really doesn’t get better than celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the land where it all began. From the capital city to small villages, these destinations offer some of the very best spots to spend the Irish holiday.
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The capital and largest city of Dublin celebrates the national holiday with one huge, loud and wild party that guarantees fun, and probably a little chaos too. If you’re not one for crowds, you might want to head to one of the small towns instead. The event includes a Beer Village, street performances, walking tours, fairs and a 5K road race. The parade is held on the actual feast day of March 17th. If you’re planning to stay in or around the city during this time, be sure to book your accommodations as far in advance as possible – and, you’ll want to get to the streets of Dublin for the parade by 9 a.m. to view one of the most colorful celebrations across the globe.
Dingle is the only major town on the Dingle Peninsula, situated on the west coast of Ireland, known for its picture-perfect lush emerald hills dotted with sheep, white-washed cottages and spectacular cliffs that touch down to turquoise waters. Here you’ll find an abundance of fantastic local pubs where the party is likely to go on through the wee hours of the night, with plenty of live Irish tunes to go along with it. Here, they kick off the celebration early, with the Dingle Fife and Drum Band taking to the streets on St. Paddy’s Day. The parade follows a traditional route that winds through the brightly colored buildings with unique shops that are so quintessentially Ireland.
Kilkenny City may be the country’s most beautiful historical city. Located just an hour and a half south of Dublin, it’s the hub of art and culture in Ireland, and especially picturesque with narrow winding streets paved with limestone flagstones. On a rainy day, the roads are literally glistening. Set along the River Nore, Kilkenny Castle creates a striking scene as the city’s landmark and centerpiece for over 800 years. Over the holiday, Kilkenny holds its TradFest as part of the St. Patrick’s Day Festivities, which includes the best of traditional music, song and dance as well as music and dance workshops and lots of family activities. The parade rivals even Dublin’s exciting festivities.
Clifden is an especially charming County Galway coastal town in the Connemara region known for its wild and rugged scenic landscape. Filled with towering mountains, white sandy beaches and medieval ruins, this is a wonderful area to spend your entire holiday. While it’s a fairly small town, you’ll find a ton to do here, including visiting museums, theaters, art galleries, antique shops and much more. Connemara National Park is just a short drive away, offering great hikes as well as the chance to spot wild Connemara ponies. Clifden also hosts St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the holiday, with its numerous pubs known for doing the day up right with live music and other festivities throughout the day and long into the night.
Cork, Ireland’s second-largest city, blithely states that this is “THE place to be on St. Patrick’s weekend.” Known for its rivalry with Dublin, many refer to it as the “other capital city.” Celebrations in this charming Irish city are boisterous with lots of people packed in the pubs, though its biggest claim to fame when it comes to the Irish holiday is that it holds the title for the shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world. It takes place in Dripsey, about 30 minutes away from the city center, where it travels just 100 yards, between the village’s two pubs. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, the city has its own parade that runs from the South Mall to the Grand Parade, along St. Patrick’s Street, finishing at Merchant’s Quay. It also holds a festival that incorporates a food and crafts market, music, street performers and children’s workshops.
This picturesque County Kerry town hosts one of the country’s most colorful St. Patrick’s Day Parades with a festival that includes street dance and music in a fun-filled emerald green event. The pubs of Killarney are filled with merriment, live music and plenty of Guinness, while talented street performers keep everyone entertained for hours. Everyone is invited to dress in green and join in on the fun with the locals. While you’re here, you won’t want to miss visiting Killarney National Park, the oldest protected wilderness in the country, home to a 15th-century castle, mesmerizing waterfalls, sparkling lakes and Ireland’s only herd of wild red deer.
Tullamore, in Ireland’s midland country in County Offaly, hosts a festival known as Seachtain na Gaeilge, celebrating all things Irish, including music, food and song as well as a street parade on St. Patrick’s Day. As always, expect to enjoy a good selection of bands and other musicians, while the parade represents a wide range of Tullamore society including schools, dance troupes, sports, culture, animal welfare, heritage, local businesses and more. With the participants competing for prizes, expect everyone to go all out.
Limerick hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day Parades outside of Dublin, with 70,000 spectators filling the city streets every year. There are numerous floats, bands and community groups that provide a riot of noise, color and entertainment. The city also puts on a huge St. Patrick’s Day festival, playing host to Spring Fest as well as the Limerick International Band Festival. A weekend market features food, crafts and all types of family-friendly activities, while just about every establishment gets in on the action with special events for the holiday.
Wicklow Town, just 45 minutes south of Dublin at the edge of the Irish Sea, celebrates every St. Patrick’s Day in style with a vibrant parade. It begins at Whitegates, running three-quarters of a mile, or 1.2 kilometers in length, to Market Square. While you’re here, be sure to take the short drive west to Wicklow Mountains National Park with its breathtaking mountain scenery and historic sites like Glendalough, a monastic city with a round tower as well as a scenic upper and lower lake. The Christian monastic settlement was set up by St. Kevin in the 6th century.
Galway’s St. Patrick’s Festival is a platform used to showcase local artists and community groups, so you can expect to hear lots of fantastic live music as well as watching talented performers. The festivities include street entertainment, parties and street dancing, a variety of art displays along with an appearance by St. Patrick himself.
Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city, was the first to declare St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday. Back in 1903, it was the Waterford Corporation that declared the day should be a general holiday throughout the city and that all business should be suspended. Before this, it was not a national holiday, though the feast of St. Patrick has been celebrated since medieval times. In addition to a traditional parade, the city’s festival typically features lots of music, concerts and a variety of performances. While you’re here, you might want to take time to visit famous Waterford Crystal, which hosts factory tours as well as a retail shop.
Wexford, in the less-visited southeast corner of the country, puts on another one of Ireland’s greatest celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day, it’s been going strong since 1917. Every vantage point from Maudlintown to Redmond Square is taken up early by thousands of parade views, so you be sure to arrive well before the start. Nearly a century old, the parade features live bands as well as floats. While you’re here, be on the lookout for remainders of the city’s Viking and Norman past in the meandering lanes off Main Street. If you have the time, take a scenic drive to the Hook Head Peninsula where you’ll find the oldest operating lighthouse in the world, constructed in the early 13th century.
Sligo, a coastal seaport in Ireland’s northwest, often has an exciting lineup of events. The city truly comes to life on this fun holiday, with green everywhere you look and streets jam-packed with family-friendly activities. The Neolithic caves of Keash in South Sligo usually go green over the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day. While you’re here, the area offers some magnificent beaches for strolling when the weather cooperates, including Strandhill, Mullaghmore and Streedagh.
The West Waterford Harbor town of Dungarvan is a wonderful place to spend time in. This is a thriving seaside market town with picturesque scenery nestled beneath the Comeragh Mountains. The parade runs along Coolagh Road on March 17th, and live entertainment will take place on Grattan Square and includes a spectacular display of fireworks over the harbor.
Letterkenny, the largest and most populous town in County Donegal in Ireland’s northwest, expects to see a huge number of locals and visitors taking to its streets for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It features lots of color, carnival and music with a wide variety of entries, including bands, businesses and sport. Expect quite a few participants from Scotland along with many other celebratory events throughout the city. Just a 20-minute drive away, Glenveagh National Park, set along the Derryveagh Mountains offers breathtaking scenery as well as a deer park, and the chance to visit a beautiful castle. Glenveagh Castle is surrounded by one of Ireland’s finest gardens and offers guided tours to the public.
Skibbereen may be a small town, but it’s St. Patrick’s celebrations are one to remember, with numerous events taking place the weekend prior to the holiday. This bustling market town is Ireland’s most southerly, located in County Cork just a few miles from beautiful beaches, filled with lots of great eateries, unique shops and pubs hosting live music. On the Saturday before the holiday, town bars host St. Paddy’s Day events including fancy dress, singing and talent contests. The parade delights spectators of all ages, while Irish music sessions are held on the street prior to the parade too.
Athlone, often referred to as the “Gateway to the West,” sits on the banks of the River Shannon near the geographical center of Ireland. This city is ideal for families traveling with children, as it includes a ton of free entertainment targeted to the little ones, including a magic show and bouncing castle. As most Irish cities, there will be plenty of live music before, during and after the main event. While you’re here, you won’t be able to miss seeing Athlone Castle, perched on the river banks, dominating the west side of town. Of Norman origin, the castle is a major tourist attraction that features a visitor center and the new Luan Art Gallery.