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26th Jun 2019

Go West! 2 fantastic food and arts festivals you need to get to in September


Brought to you by Discover Ireland


The very mention of it evokes a sense of escape, wildness, nature and of getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

It’s the place to enjoy a restorative break and to embrace the Wild Atlantic Way of life.

No trip to Connemara would be complete without time spent in its ‘capital,’ Clifden. The vibrant, historic town keeps us all coming back thanks to its mix of great pubs, restaurants and hotels. Plus, it’s the perfect base for exploring Connemara AND it’s home to a terrific festival.

The Clifden Community Arts Festival (September 18 to September 29) showcases the area’s thriving cultural life within both the town and the surrounding landscape. The longest-running community arts festival in Ireland is now heading into its 42nd year and there’s bound to be plenty that appeals in the 2019 programme (unveiled later this summer).

Organisers say, ‘audiences can expect a very high-quality artistic programme, with superb literary, musical and visual art content, which again will have the community arts of Clifden and the surrounding hinterland as a central focus with creative writing, music, theatre and film workshops, and performances taking place in the local schools for the duration of the festival.’

Sounds fabulous to us!

The festival has become an essential part of the West’s cultural calendar, but it began humbly as a week-long celebration of the arts for the children of Clifden Community School. The idea was to help foster their artistic and social skills and provide an outlet for self-expression and development. (Who wouldn’t want to get on-board with that one?)

While you’re in the vicinity, make sure to explore Derrigimlagh Bog. This wild and remote place is accessible from Clifden by bike (if you’re feeling you can take on some narrow roads) and car. It’s where aviators Alcock and Brown landed after their successful trans-Atlantic flight too — exactly 100 years ago this year.

You’ll have no trouble finding somewhere marvellous to eat in Clifden. For a start, get to Mitchell’s. You’ll find sumptuous seafood, delivered by local fishermen each day, and plenty say it’s the best fish there is, plus, the sauces paired with each dish are superb. They cater to vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dietary needs too. Be sure to book ahead though — it’s popular.

In terms of great pubs — Lowry’s is one of the town’s liveliest. Their trad sessions are justly famous!

If you want to live like a queen, book a night or two at the gorgeous Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, or lap up the luxury at your own private beach at the Connemara Sands Hotel and Spa. (Glorious.)

Food lovers are spoiled for choice on the Wild Atlantic Way while fishing/seafood fans find themselves in paradise along its 2,500km coastline. There are innumerable fine food-related festivals too — one of the very best being the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival (September 27 to September 29).

Taking place in multiple venues around Galway city, you’ll be stuffed to the gills with a bounty of locally caught seafood. But the festival is more than just great food: there’s so much fun to be had for all the family in its packed programme. How about the Masquerade Mardi Gras or the World Oyster Opening Championship?

On the Sunday, you can enjoy cooking classes — many of them child-friendly — as well as sampling delicious nosh from some of the country’s most celebrated chefs.

No trip to Galway city is complete without a mosey down the pedestrianised (and aptly named) Shop Street. You’ll find lots of independent craft shops to tempt you and you can quench your thirst at the atmospheric Taaffe’s.

If you want an escape from the city, a drive out to Kinvara is a delight. The fishing village boasts a castle, an abbey and a nature reserve. Greene’s Bar is perfect for anyone staying the night, especially if you’re a whiskey lover, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more characterful hotel than the thatch-roofed Merriman’s: what better way to start your day than with a view of the Atlantic from one of their lovely bedrooms? (Heavenly!)

In terms of places to visit — check out Dunguaire Castle. With a 75-foot tower, a stunningly beautiful backdrop by the shores of Galway Bay and an incredible history dating back to the 16th century — it’s no wonder it’s the most photographed castle in Ireland.

From mid-April to mid-October, check in to see when the castle is set to host its next medieval banquets. You can enjoy a four-course meal, beautiful wines and plenty of entertainment.

If you’re looking to discover more nature with the family in tow, head for the Burren Nature Sanctuary and Café. Set off on the nature trails that pass by great ancient ash and hazel woodland, spot friendly farm animals and maybe… even see a fairy. Check out the Burren Botany Bubble too where you’ll find native, in-season flora and fauna — it’s actually very cool.

A festival makes your break, so head to Discover Ireland to discover even more options to make your break in Ireland something magical.

Brought to you by Discover Ireland

A festival makes your break, so click on the image below to discover even more things to do that’ll make your break in Ireland something really special. Go to our festival hub here on Her to see more of what’s happening too!