Major Theatre / Opera / Music / Dance / Film / Arts / Food events are listed under Ireland’s Festivals, Fairs etc.
Horse Races: a trip to Ireland is not complete without a day at the races, held regularly at courses around the whole island. They are major social events, and very exciting. The horses run on the flat, over hurdles or sturdier fences (steeplechasing / National Hunt). To enjoy the event to the full betting is vital, either with a bookie (bookmaker / turf accountant) or via the less intimidating Tote (Totalisator). The food and drink facilities are often quite primitive, but nonetheless good fun. Off-course races are held on seaside strands such as Laytown in County Meath.
Greyhound racing, also popular, takes place at tracks dotted across Ireland.
Horse Shows are well worth attending, whether the magnificent Dublin Horse Show in early August or smaller show-jumping / dressage competitions in towns, villages and rural locations around the country, often as part of Agricultural Shows.
Gymkhanas, Hunter Trials and especially 3-day Events are also good fun.
Gaelic Games (Gaelic Football and Hurling) are run by the GAA (Gaelic Athletics Association) and are hugely popular. Don’t miss a chance to go to an inter-county game, provincial final or All Ireland match (In Dublin’s impressive Croke Park).
Rugby Matches attract huge crowds at Provincial, Inter-Provincial and International levels, and even school’s league matches are as hotly contested by the supporters as the players
Soccer, hockey, and cricket matches take place at various levels regularly across the country.
Golf championships are held at courses all over Ireland, frequently at the highest International levels.
Tennis championships tend to be hosted by private clubs with limited admission.
Basketball, Handball, Volleyball etc. have enthusiastic followings.
Sailing and Rowing Regattas take place in bays and on rivers and lakes all over Ireland
Cycling races (including the 2002 Tour de France), car rallies and marathon runs attract throngs of roadside spectators.
Hare coursing (with greyhounds) is a rural blood sport, regarded by many people as cruel and barbaric. Nevertheless, meetings are well attended.
Traditional Irish music is best heard at informal pub sessions, but is also played in parish halls etc., especially if a Feis Cheol (competition of traditional music, song and / or dance) or Ceile (traditional set dancing) is scheduled.
Travelling rock / pop bands and DJs perform in the same venues, and also at gyms and other sports facilities.
Major Rock Concerts take place at stadiums, racecourses and isolated rural venues, often as part of a Festival held in the grounds of a Big House.
Dances (”hops”) are traditionally associated with village and parish sports clubs such as the GAA. The more elegant (and staid) ones take place in “function rooms” attached to pubs and hotels. Raves seem to have gone out of fashion, but some old-fashioned dancehalls a la Ballroom of Romance remain in use, and a few old-fashioned Show Bands, massively popular in the 1960s, are reportedly still doing the rounds, while Nightclubs and teenage discos are perennially popular.
Jazz Musicians perform at the Jazz Festivals held annually in various locations around the country, but regular jazz music venues are hard to find outside the bigger cities.
Classical music concerts are regularly performed in parks and the elegant surroundings of aristocratic old mansions.
Small annual festivals, carnivals, craft fairs etc. are held in many towns, villages, parishes and localities.
Agricultural fairs can be fun. There is often a festive atmosphere, and usually several bars / food tents. They can take the form of or feature horse and / or cattle markets, sheep auctions, or competitive events such as sheep shearing championships, sheep dog trials and so on. There are usually lots of commercial / industrial stalls, craft exhibits and displays of farriery and other traditional skills. Those advertised as animal auctions tend to be very basic, but Puck Fair, held in August in Killorglin, County Kerry, and the National Ploughing Championships in September, attract huge crowds.
Travelling circuses are still popular in Ireland, and can be very entertaining.
Plays by both travelling professional repertory troupes and enthusiastic local amateur groups are usually performed in local parish halls etc., often as part of competitive Drama Festivals.
Exhibitions, Lectures, Talks etc. about matters of local interest are quite often hosted by municipal libraries, town halls etc.
Summer Schools are annual gatherings in historic rural venues for an exchange of views in a relaxed atmosphere on a particular Irish author, poet etc. (e.g. James Joyce, WB Yeats, Brian Merriman), they tend to be very interesting and great fun. Participants range from well-known academics, writers and media personalities to ordinary enthusiasts, all on equal terms at workshops and in the pub. Rather oddly, these events are sometimes used by politicians to make policy statements.
St John’s Eve / Midsummer’s Night and especially Hallowe’en (originally the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, now very Americanised) are widely celebrated with bonfires, dancing and games.
At Christmas, the Wren Boys keep an interesting rural tradition alive.
St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) features parades etc., but can be rather dreary as it usually rains throughout most of March. Far better to enjoy the festivities in New York, Boston etc.
Christmas Day is even drearier, at least for those away from home, as pubs remain closed. They also close on Good Friday and, in most places, St. Stephen’s Day.
In Northern Ireland, it is wise to avoid divisive events such as the 12th July Orange Order Parades.