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Festivals to beat the band this summer

Festivals to beat the band this summer

The summer is here and so is the festival scene back with a flourish. Lots of great gigs to choose from and enjoy from the comfort of your own campervan…

The definitive Vanhalla guide to the best festivals for 2022

After two years of a famine on the festival front fans can finally relish a feast of music and entertainment.

Ever since the 1970’s when the post Woodstock generation set about conjuring up their own versions of the ‘summer of love’, music fans have flocked to famous events to see Jackson Browne touch down in Lisdoonvarna as recounted in Christy Moore’s epic ballad; or hit Ballisodare to see Chuck Berry strut his stuff or made tracks for Macroom to sweat it out with legendary axeman Rory Gallagher on his home turf.

Festivals have always been an integral part of the fabric of summer where generations have pitched their tents and parked their vans in search of the craic and camaraderie, ceol agus culture, the joy and jubilation of the carnival atmosphere and coming together, the revelry of the road trip, the muse, music and amusement.

Fortunately, the two years of enforced sabbaticals from festival gatherings have only served to whet the appetite and store up demand and desire for the umpteen festival offerings across the country this summer.

The good news is that festivals are back with a flourish, so whether you are trying to relive your youth (with kids in tow), experience a rite of passage or create your own festival memories with stories to tell, there’s plenty to choose from starting this weekend and in the months ahead.

Posh camping at the EP img

And today’s festival is a much different animal from its predecessors when rolling around in the mud and scrounging a smoke was a thing. These days it’s far more sophisticated with saunas, posh camping, vegan menus, craft beers and mindfulness all on the menu along with the much yearned for music and festival frolics.  

Most festivals have also embraced the opportunity to cater for camping, motorhome, and campervan fans.

Here’s a guide of some of the best on offer.

Rory Gallagher Festival, Donegal June 2 to 5

Donegal knows how to throw a party and if leather jackets, cut-off worn-out faded denims and the smell of patchouli, and two-stroke motorbike engines is your thing then this one over the June Holiday weekend is for you. Old rockers never die, they just head to the Rory Gallagher Festival in Ballyshannon.

Rory Gallagher Festival Poster

A rockers haven and heaven is Ballyshannon all weekend, featuring a head-banging mix of free open-air gigs, pub sessions, and paid headline concerts in the dome. Camping is rigueur and this year’s bill features The Eric Gales Band, Crow Black Chicken, The Pat McManus Band (remember Mama’s Boys!!) and The Eric Bell Band, all who can still knock it out and roll back the years, as they pay homage to one of the greatest ever bluesmen, Rory Gallagher. Watch out for local favourite Johnny Gallagher and Boxtie Band. www.rorygallagherfestival.com

Rory Gallagher Monument Ballyshannon

Wild Roots Festival, Sligo June 3 to 5

Hazelwood Forest in Sligo is the idyllic setting for this earthy offering of music and mirth from such as Damien Dempsey and David McSavage, James Morrison, and Joe Rooney, where you can let your hair down and go wild in the country. www.wildroots.ie  

Forbidden Fruit, Dublin June 4-5

New Zealand sensation Lorde makes her Ireland debut at the capital’s longest running city-centre music festival at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. After three years of waiting Forbidden Fruit marks its 10th year in these stunning grounds of IMMA to make it a summer in Dublin to remember. The location is easy to access by city and suburban public transport. A bit of creative stealth parking might be the job for this one. www.forbiddenfruit.ie

Forbidden Fruit, Dublin June 4-5

New Zealand sensation Lorde makes her Ireland debut at the capital’s longest running city-centre music festival at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. After three years of waiting Forbidden Fruit marks its 10th year in these stunning grounds of IMMA to make it a summer in Dublin to remember. The location is easy to access by city and suburban public transport. A bit of creative stealth parking might be the job for this one. www.forbiddenfruit.ie

Carlow Arts Festival June 9 to 12

Everything a good arts festival should be, Carlow features a diverse range of visual arts, theatre, circus, dance, street entertainment and a family programme and even boasts Tony Thunder, the world’s cheesiest magician. On the music front there’s hometown heroes Ye Vagabonds, Beef Supreme and Manden Express. www.carlowartsfestival.com 

Carlow Arts Festival

Doolin Folk Festival June 10 to 12

‘If it’s music you want, you should go to Clare’ and this gem of a festival is the ideal place to start. Based around two stages at the Hotel Doolin the bill features the best of folk and trad including Peggy Seeger, Mary Black, Matt Molloy Damien Dempsey, Calum McColl, John Spillane, while a second stage ‘The White Horse Sessions’ is curated by Kenny’s in Lahinch and features Strange Boy, The Scratch, Susan O’ Neill, Hazy Haze and Bog Bodies among many others. www.doolinfestivals.ie

Doolin Folk Festival Poster
Doolin Folk Festival

Beyond The Pale, Wicklow June 10 to 12

This one is unashamedly on the posh list as apart from the entertainment you can indulge yourself with hot tubs, saunas, and massages at the Glendalough Estate. It’s convenient to Dublin too and the 45 minutes journey will deliver you into the fabled Wicklow countryside and music from The Mary Wallopers, Bonobo, Four Tet, Orbital, Stereo MCs on an extensive programme of bands, DJs, artisan foods and hot showers even. www.itsbeyondthepale.ie  

Body & Soul Westmeath June 17 – 19

For many, Body & Soul staged at Ballinlough Castle in the heart of the midlands is the real deal when it comes to everything a great festival should be. Fun and free spirited, diverse, and inclusive, meticulously organised and curated with a care-free chilled out, let-it-be vibe. Intimate performances, immersive art experiences and artisan foods all on the menu along with Roisin Murphy, Mogwai and Pillow Queens. www.bodyandsoul.ie

Sea Sessions, Donegal June 17 to 19

June is hectic on the festival front, and you really are spoilt for choice. We had to include this on from Bundoran as it offers a heady mix of songs and surfing, right on the seafront in the south Donegal resort. You can bring your best moves to land, sea and air to the grooves of Tinie Tempah, Kodaline, Lyra, The Scratch, Basement Jaxx, Gemma Dunleavy, Malaki and many more. If that doesn’t float your boat, you can have always try your hand at the skateboarding, BMX and graffiti events. www.seasessions.com

The Amazing Stendhal Festival, Derry June 30 to July 2

Ballymully Cottage Farm in Limavady is the smashing setting for this beauty of a festival. Music, poetry, comedy, arts, crafts and family events are on the bill for the return of this cheery offering.

Sister Sledge, Simon and Oscar (from Ocean Colour Scene), Hayseed Dixie, Lisa McHugh, Grainne Duffy and The Wood Burning Savages provide the tunes. Just love the feel of this festival and can already hear Sister Sledge… ‘We are family…’  www.stendhalfestival.com

When Next We Meet, Clonmel, July 1 & 2

Love the sound of this. All roads lead to Clonmel for When Next We Meet, a new festival just announced for Clonmel on the first weekend of July. The two-day event takes place at Raheen House Hotel and features Soda Blonde, John Francis Flynn, The Wood of O, Elaine Mai with Sinead White & Maykay, Houseplants, and Vale. Capacity is limited to 400 each day and the event serves as an aperitif to the 10-day Clonmel Junction Arts Festival. Tickets are €38.50 from www.whennextwemeet.ie

soda blonde img

Galway Arts Festival July 11 to 24

The Warwick may be gone and the Seapoint shows a thing of the past; the Druid Theatre performances and the Macnas parades remain the stuff of legend ever since this event was just a glint in the eyes of Ollie Jennings and Padraig Breathnach back in the 80’s.

Music gigs at the Big Top are a mainstay of this year’s festival. Take your pick from the Pixies, The Flaming Lips, The Academic, Kaiser Chiefs, Jon Hopkins, Sinéad O’ Connor and hometown favourites, The Stunning marking thirty years on the road. Plus, you’d never know who you might bump into, it’s Galway. Full programme details have just been announced on www.giaf.ie  

Forever Young, Kildare July 15 to 17

Nostalgia writ large is this one at Palmerstown House Estate just outside Naas. Lighters at the ready and sing-along to Marti Pellow, Holly Johnson, OMD, The Boomtown Rats, Nick Heywood, Hot Chocolate and a host of other 80’s heartthrobs. www.foreveryoungfestival.ie  

Forest Fest, Emo, Co Laois July 22 to 24

An exciting line-up from the country’s newest music festival sees the best of established acts mingling with an array of emerging talent, which already has tongues wagging that this boutique event could prove the big hit of the summer. The line-up of The Waterboys, The Stunning, The 4 of Us, King Kong Company, Something Happens, Soda Blonde, Hermitage Green, Thumber, Jack L, The Riptide Movement, Cathy Davey, Greenshine, Harvest, Strand, Three Underneath are just a flavour of what’s on offer and watch out for AIS. There’s camping, family events, (children under 12 go free), a fringe programme and a festival club, with full food court and craft beers.  www.forestfest.ie

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Mike Scott and The Waterboys are headlining Forest Fest in Emo Village in Laois in July and the Revival festival in Listowel, Co Kerry in August, with The Stunning also on the bill at both events.

AIS photo

All Together Now, Waterford July 29 to 31

Traffic congestion on its last outing in 2019 aside All Together Now is many peoples pick for the country’s best music festival in terms of ethos and experience. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds alone are worth the price of admission to the Curraghmore House venue. Then there’s Groove Armada, Underworld, Sinéad O’Connor, Self Esteem and The Pillow Queens also on the bill at this exquisite location.  www.alltogethernow.ie

Indiependence, Mitchelstown, Cork, July 29 to 31

Fatboy Slim, Bastille, Rudimental and The Academic are at the helm for this one in Cork. All you need to know on www.indiependencefestival.com

Spraoi International Street Arts Festival, Clonmel July 29 to 31

This is a wonderful 3-day event featuring over 200 free theatre, dance, circus, acrobatic and musical performances to the Tipp town at the height of the summer holidays. Love it. Make sure not to miss the spectacular Spraoi Parade. www.spraoi.com

Fleadh Cheoil, Mullingar July 31 to August 7

One for the purists the traditional Fleadh Cheoil returns to Mullingar for a weeklong hooley appropriately billed as ‘The Homecoming’. With competitions in over 180 different categories as its bedrock the Fleadh also features classes from master musicians as well as concerts and impromptu seisiúns all over the midland’s town, which also gave us the musical greats Joe Dolan and Niall Horan. The cost of the camping seems a bit saucy to me, but if the Fleadh is your thing… www.fleadhcheoil.ie   

Revival Festival, Listowel August 12 to 13

Renowned for its literary tradition and the Listowel Writer’s Festival earlier in the summer (June 2-6) The Square in the famed Kerry town is the location for the appropriately titled Revival Festival which sees a return to touring by the legendary Mike Scott and The Waterboys and a programme that features Gavin James, The Stunning, Hudson Taylor and Power of Dreams. www.revivalfestival.ie

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The Big Grill, Ballsbridge, Dublin August 11 to 14

Here’s one for the stealth parkers and smart campers among you. The Big Grill in Herbert Park, Ballsbridge is one of the highlights of the summer in the capital. Featuring some of the leading culinary talents in the country, along with the best of street food vendors, artisan eats, chefs galore and craft beers to a backdrop of entertainment and family fun. This is where the gourmands, hipsters and master chefs wannabees hang out and you can check it out and get your tickets from www.biggrillfestival.com  

Thin Lizzy Orchestrated, Dublin, August 27

Not strictly a festival but as a big Philo and Thin Lizzy fan you will perhaps allow me this indulgence. The RTÉ Concert Orchestra present this full live show of Thin Lizzy’s catalogue orchestrated. Curiously the promo video for the event is of Old Town, a personal favourite, which was a solo hit for Phil Lynott himself. Will be intriguing as to how the rest of the Lizzy repertoire will sound with a full-blown at Collins Barracks orchestra treatment. This is a fully seated open-air show at Collins Barracks in the National Museum of Ireland. Tickets from €55 and more info at www.singularartists.ie

Electric Picnic, Stradbally Hall, Laois September 2 to 4

Electric Picnic lights

The honour of bringing the curtain down on the summer holidays before back-to-school, used to fall to the All-Ireland Hurling Final, but that’s now the privilege of the famed Electric Picnic. After two years of cancellations Picnic lovers are chomping at the bit to let the revelry begin at Ireland’s biggest and most popular festival. Tickets are completely sold-out ages ago, and 70,000 fans will flock to see Dermot Kennedy, Tame Impala, Arctic Monkeys, Megan Thee Stallion, Snow Patrol, Fontaines DC, Wolf Alice and countless other acts and attractions.

Trailer Park img

Make sure to watch out for hometown boy, Kean Kavanagh (Mind & Body stage, Friday evening) fresh from his UK and US tour with Kojaque. Just love his vibe.

Kean Kavanagh

Hometown boy, Kean Kavanagh is all set to lay down his grooves and stake his claim at the Mind & Body stage on the Friday of the Electric Picnic in Stradbally.

The EP may have lost some of the charm and ethos of its founding father John Reynolds, but it continues to pack ‘em in. Maybe this is the year that everyone will take home their tents and sleeping bags…  www.electricpicnic.ie  

epc img

Clifden Arts Festival, September 15 to 25

Celebrating it’s 45th anniversary Clifden is the longest running community arts festival in the country and that tells you everything you need to know. Its longevity is testament to its calibre and credentials. We await full programme details on www.clifdenartsfestival.ie

And the beauty about September is that the water is still warm, places are less crowded and it’s far easier to get a camping or parking spot.

Vantastival Beaulieu House & Gardens Drogheda September 16 & 17

Great news. The much loved Vantastival is back in mid-September. The campervan and camping friendly fest with its own distinctive vibe returns to Beaulieu House & Gardens to welcome fans, vans and tents with open arms.
Serving up O’ Hara’s Craft Beers, Vantastival is alone among festivals as it operates a BYOB (bring your own beer) policy.

The line up features Hermitage Green, RSAG, The Barley Mob, The Bonny Men,Susan O’Neill, The Wood Burning Savages, and Amy Montgomery on an extensive family friendly programme over two days.
Tickets are €70 for one day and €120 for the weekend from www.vantastival.com

Vantastival poster

Write By the Sea, Kilmore Quay, September 23 to 25

Write By the Sea is the clever title of this literary festival in the lovely Wexford coastal town of Kilmore Quay. The village alone is worth the trip and September is a great time to do so, with less crowds and a welcoming spot to park up for the weekend with Alice at Kilmore Quay Holiday Park. Full programme details awaited on www.festival@writebythesea.ie 

A version of this feature was first published in the Sunday Times on May 1, 2022.

SEE ALSO: 10 OF THE BEST CAMPSITES EVER…

About The Author

John Whelan

John Whelan is a vastly experienced midlands based journalist and editor who has contributed extensively to the country's leading national and regional titles, as well as broadcast outlets. He runs the media services company, Communicate Ireland www.communicateireland.ie. John is a keen camping and campervan enthusiast with an interest in music, culture, heritage and outdoor pursuits. He has written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and the Woman's Way on these topics. He is also an author, and his latest book, The Last Beekeeper, reflects his love of nature, the landscape and our shared responsibility to protect the environment. The Last Beekeeper is available to preview and purchase at www.thelastbeekeeper.ie. Safe travels...

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