The quirkiest tourist attractions in Ireland
Ireland has always been noted for its quirky personalities, their wit and way with words, the characters that are unconventional and unashamedly so. So I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the tourist attractions that are unique in Ireland. Some are based on age old customs, some are very much tongue in cheek methods of driving tourism business in an area, all are great fun to visit and should not be missed.
1. The National Leprechaun Museum, Dublin.
The National Leprechaun Museum is only open a short while but it is proving to be a popular and enjoyable attraction. Given the fascination that many tourists have with Leprechauns, it is amazing that someone has not previously commissioned a museum in Ireland to this small fairy. Located in Dublin City Centre, it hosts exhibits such as Cnoc na Sí (The hill of the fairies), stories, displays, live music and an exploration of the Leprechaun in all its facets since the 8th C. To quote Le Cool magazine ”
“… nothing twee or tacky about this one. And most interestingly, it is an attempt to light-heatedly celebrate the fairy tales and folklore, which have been a huge part of Irish culture for thousands of years, reminding us what a rich oral heritage this country has… the potential to become a favourite on Dublin’s cultural and tourist trail. Culturally it is far more important than the Guinness Storehouse and its ilk, and although tourists will no doubt be charmed, this is an area of our collective past which should not be overlooked by Irish folk either – little or large.”
The Leprechaun Museum may concern little people but it is big on information and fun for adults and kids alike.
2. The Carlingford Annual Leprechaun Hunt, Louth.
More Leprechauns, this time on the Slieve Foy walk, where each March a Leprechaun hunt takes place. Given that the real Leprechauns are so rare, and are now protected under EU law (I’m not joking) ceramic ones are left in varying points on the trail, so that the families searching have something tangible to aim for. All proceeds go to Our Lady’s Children Hospital in Crumlin. It’s what the little people would want!
3. The Puck Fair, Killorglin, Kerry.
Killorglin is located in the heart of Kerry and hosts Ireland’s most unusual and oldest festival. The crowning of a wild male Goat as King of Killorglin for three days in October. The crowning of the Goat is part of pagan fertility tradition, that marked the end of the harvest, and was probably a major religious feast in pre-Christian Ireland. The fair itself is was first mentioned 500 years ago, and was considered ancient even then and is still going strong. It occurs from October 10-12th every year. There is still a strong commercial element to the fair, with horse, cattle, donkeys and other farm animals being sold on the streets. The pubs and bars of Killorglin pack up at night time, and it is noted for being a very lively festival. Over the years, as it has become more of a tourist draw rather than just a mart, the organizers have added in workshops in story telling, Irish music and there are many day events exposing and show casing Irish culture. Puck fair, there is nothing like it.
4. Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, Clare
Home to Europe’s largest single event, Lisdonvarna festival is based on the old Irish tradition of match making, where a professional matchmaker, would find suitable partners for a prospective husband or wife. Basically it was Internet dating for the pre-computer age. While there is now only one professional matchmaker left in the town, he is still very busy during the festival, pairing up people that he feels will make a good match, and very many of them do. I know 2 couples who met, and have since married. Most people go to Lisdoonvarna though for the fun, as it is a very good natured and friendly festival, in a beautiful part of Ireland. The craic (fun/entertainment) is absolutely mighty here, as is the music, singing and dancing, all of which Clare is famous for.
5. Ted Fest, The Aran Islands, Galway
The comedy show Father Ted, written about a trio of priests in a small Irish Island was the main comedy hit of the 90′s in Britain and Ireland and has since developed a cult following world wide. This festival based on Inis Mór, holds events that are based on the show such as the “lovely Girls Contest”, last year it had contestants from as far away as Canada, Japan, America and Britain. It is a good natured weekend of partying, sporting events and fancy dress, with all visitors dressing up as characters from Father Ted. It has been described as the booziest, silliest, most absurd and fun festival in Christendom. As the photo above suggests (Image:Niall Carson).
There are many other deserving and unusual tourist attractions and festivals in Ireland. If you want to have a post regarding one of them published, then do drop us a line: [email protected]
All five of these Irish festivals are on my to do list this year, so I’ll be reporting back on each of them.