No plans for the bank holiday and Halloween? You need to read this

From Macnas parades and the Bram Stoker Festival to Guinness Cork Jazz Festival

The final bank-holiday weekend before we give up the ghost for the year has, happily, plenty of ghostcentric events – and a whole lot more besides, right through schools’ midterm-break week. Please check details and availability with venues before travelling.


Macnas: Out of the Wild Sky

Sunday, October 28th, 5.30pm; Galway; free;
Monday, October 29th, 7pm; Dublin; free;
Halloween is the perfect time for the creatures of Macnas to come out, and this year the company is again staging exuberant street parades in Galway and, as part of the Bram Stoker Festival, Dublin. Out of the Wild Sky, Ireland's largest free Halloween event, promises a hypnotic, intoxicating, glittering and mysterious world filled with shadowy and noble things, using Macnas's signature giant creations and sculptural images, pyrotechnics, bespoke costumes, and performances to live, original music.

Bram Stoker Festival

Friday, October 26th, to Monday, October 29th; Dublin;
More than 70,000 people are expected at this festival, which wraps around both the supernatural and the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (now Halloween), as well as marking the legacy of the Irish author of Dracula. Its four days of events include theatre, readings, illustration and animation, outdoor screenings, a fun park and podcasts. A flagship event is NYsferatu: Symphony of a Century (Friday, October 26th, St Anne's Church), a rotoscope re-creation of the classic 1922 horror film Nosferatu, set in present-day New York. It features 35,000 hand-drawn images, replicating the eerie, flickering-shutter effect of early cinema, accompanied by the premiere of a newly commissioned live score by Matthew Nolan. As well as Monday night's Macnas parade (starting from Moore Street at 7pm), the festival includes Creature Features screenings (for adults) of Arachnophobia, Little Shop of Horrors and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, various days); The Night of the Shifting Bog, a night-time outdoor aerial-acrobatic show based on a passage in Stoker's The Snake's Pass (St Anne's Park, Clontarf); three short horror plays, The Horrors in the Black Church, in Dublin Castle's Chapel Royal; Stokerland, a free Victorian fun park (St Patrick's Park); and Slice: The Gothic Graphic Novel Live, immersive storytelling with horror readings from comics and graphic novels, plus music, sound design, projected illustration and live performance.

Spirits of Meath Halloween Festival

Runs until Sunday, November 4th; Boyne Valley, Co Meath;
Samhain, marking the end of the old Celtic year, when the spirits of the dead pass on to the next world, originated in the Boyne Valley 3,000 years ago. This festival includes a Halloween boat tour, harvest festival, lantern-lit canoe tours, ghost walking tour, workshops and Halloween hunts.


Hook Lighthouse Féile Samhain

Saturday, October 27th, until Monday, October 29th; Hook Head, Co Wexford;
Hook Lighthouse celebrates the festival of Samhain, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the dark half of the year.

Youghaloween Spooktacular

Runs until Sunday, October 28th; Youghal, Co Cork;
A gathering of witches perform a ritual on the beach to welcome home An Bhean Uisce, plus a lantern parade around the medieval town of Youghal, fireworks and much more.

Samhain Haunted Forest Walk

Sunday, October 28th, 3.30-8pm; Marlay Park, Dublin 14; free with wristband;
A haunted forest walk through Marlay Park, with ghouls and goblins like the Wicked Woodsman, Crane the Mad, Witches of the Woods, Phantom Tailors and Banshees expected to make appearances. Dress your worst, in your most freakily frightening – but warm – costume. The walk is about 1.7km long, on a path suitable for buggies and wheelchairs.

Vaults Live

Daily, 10.30am-6.30pm (Thursdays 10.30am-8.30pm), 30 one-hour shows a day; John's Lane West, Liberties, Dublin 8; €22/€16 (families €55);
Dublin's newest visitor attraction, with its gruesome journey of horrors through Irish history, has opened just in time for Halloween. The €5 million interactive show, based on 800 years of Irish history, involves live performance and special effects to bring to life six scenes, including a Cromwellian torture chamber, the crypt of a Dublin church, a Viking settlement, Bandon courtroom, medieval apothecary and what was once Europe's biggest red-light district, Monto, in the heart of Dublin. The scripts were first written by the late Fergus Linehan, the comic writer and Irish Times journalist and critic; the playwright Peter Sheridan created the final versions.


Dockers & Demons festival

Saturday, October 27th, until Wednesday, October 31st; Dublin; free;
The second Dockers & Demons festival takes place again this year in the Irishtown, Ringsend and Docklands area of Dublin. Choose from the curious cabaret, a zombie teen disco, freaky funhouse, seniors' Halloween monster's ball and loads more. The festival ends with the Dockers & Demons parade and street party, on Thorncastle Street from 6.30pm to 9.30pm on Halloween night. (Warning: watch out for the banshee.)

Otherworld Halloween Festival

Wednesday, October 31st; 4.45-9pm; Ballymun Plaza, Dublin 9;
The kids can channel their inner zombie at this year's Otherworld festival in Ballymun, with lots of spooky stuff, including a circus, funfair rides and an arts-and-crafts tent. Witches Brew cafe will serve ghoulish cakes, tea and coffee, and Muck & Magic soup stall will offer deadly good homemade soup from vegetables grown on a community patch. The parade starts at the Virgin Mary national schools, on Shangan Road, at 4.45pm; the festival starts on the plaza at 6pm.

Sandymount Tidy Towns Scarecrow & Pumpkin Festival

Runs until Wednesday, October 31st; Sandymount, Dublin 4;
The festival takes place on Sandymount Green, with a prize-giving and awards night on Friday, October 26th, in Christchurch Hall from 5pm to 7pm. For more details check out Sandymount Tidy Towns' Facebook page.

The Cauldron of Smithfield

Wednesday, October 31st, 4.30-8.30pm; Smithfield Square, Dublin 7; free;
Double, double toil and trouble: the Cauldron of Smithfield event is back with even more thrills. Expect fangtastic activities at Smithfield Square, including the 300m zip line and a 50m-high bungee jump. New this year: Cirque du Freak Scare Tent, Climbing Wall and Lost Souls parade. (The Cirque du Freak Scare Tent is open 4.30-5.30pm, 5.45-6.45pm and 7-7.30pm; arrive early to secure your place in the pot.)

Bram Stoker Spooktacular

Tuesday, October 30th, 6-8pm; Bram Stoker Park, Marino Crescent, Dublin 3
The annual spooktacular means that, for one night only, you will be transported into Dracula's lair. There is an interactive light and sound show with music and special effects. (All children must be accompanied by an adult.)

Liberties Halloween Monster Bash

Wednesday, October 31st, 4-6pm; Digital Court, Rainsford Street, Dublin 8; free
The Monster Bash is full of spooktacular activities, including a haunted house, spooky storytelling room, face-painting, Halloween games, scary film screening and devilish pinatas.

The Haunted House in Rialto

Wednesday, 31st October, 3pm - 5pm; F2 Centre, 3 Reuben Plaza, Rialto, Dublin 8; free
The F2 Centre will be transformed for Halloween. Are you brave enough to face the ghost of Mrs Nugent in the basement of the haunted house or enter the Bride of Chucky room? If that's not heart-stopping enough there's also a graveyard with music and dance performances among the graves.

Pumpkin Party in Ballyfermot

Wednesday, October 31st, 11 am; Markievicz Park, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10; free
Including train rides and pumpkin-carving.

Dracula’s Disco

Monday, October 29th; 2-4pm; Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2; free;
Dracula's Disco returns, with DJ Will Softly on the Ark's outdoor stage, complete with confetti cannons to inspire some seriously deadly dancing. Perfect for young ghosties, ghouls and music-loving little monsters. Free entry on a first-come-first-served basis.

Halloween film night

Friday, October 26th, 7.30pm; Lismore Castle, Co Waterford; €15, including snacks and soft drinks; over-18s; booking essential;
Lismore Castle's annual Halloween film night, in the atmospheric Pugin Hall, is showing A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, from 2014, the first Iranian vampire film.


Saturday, October 27th, and Sunday, October 28th, 11am-4.30pm; St Patrick's Park, Dublin 8;
This pop-up Victorian funfair for children and the eternally young will open its Gothic gates in one of Dublin's most beautiful green spaces. Street theatre, a performance tent, free face-painting, macabre thrills and ghoulish games for everyone to enjoy, complete with a food village. Fancy dress encouraged.

The Haunted Library

Saturday, October 27th, 10am-5pm; Marsh's Library, St Patrick's Close, Dublin 8; free with ticket;
Ireland's oldest public library, by St Patrick's Cathedral graveyard, invites guests to wander its darkened galleries, where books of witchcraft and heresy are to be found. Visitors will be regaled with bizarre tales from the past by a series of strange characters ready to teach those willing to learn – and to terrify those who come unprepared.

Ghoulsley’s Manor

Runs until Wednesday, October 31st, 60-minute afternoon (ages four-plus) and evening (ages eight-plus) shows; Cuskinny Court, Cobh, Co Cork; €15;
I have it on good authority that the curse of the purple pumpkin has hit east Cork. That is to say Cuskinny Court has been hit by a 200-year-old curse, unleashing mischief and turning the estate home into a murky manor. "We've never seen anything quite like the curse of the purple pumpkin in east Cork," says Caitriona Johansson of Ghoulsley's Manor. "It's quite spooky and funny to see the curse take hold, and we are inviting children to come and experience this imaginative, interactive Halloween experience this October."

Half Light

Thursday, November 1st, until Saturday, November 3rd, 2pm; the Ark, Temple Bar, Dublin 2; €12.50/€9.50;
"Imagine this: you're walking up a mountain, through a forest of pine trees, and you're trying to find your dad. He's been taken by a monster." Meet Robin, a 10-year-old boy travelling through the magical woodland of his father's storybook. A tale that is as true as it is untrue, from Bombinate Theatre, for ages eight-plus.



Runs until Monday, October 29th; Westport, Co Mayo;
Westport Music and Arts Festival describes itself as an autumnal-Halloween festival of comfort, much of it set during the long evenings and around open hearths. International and home-grown acts include Lisa Hannigan, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Pete Williams from Dexy's Midnight Runners, Tom Hickox, Daithí and Elaine Mai, and Le Galaxie with MayKay. There's also a launch of Back to the Island, Matt Molloy's first album in 25 years. Visitors can also relive their teenage memories with Aindrias De Staic's Pop-Up Gaeltacht at Matt Molloy's pub.

Achill International Harp Festival

Friday, October 26th, until Monday, October 29th; Achill Island, Co Mayo;
This year's gathering celebrates links between Ireland and the Spanish region of Galicia with a raft of concerts and sessions. Saturday afternoon has a concert celebrating the work of the harpmaker Peter Cafferky with Tríona Marshall, Laoise Kelly, Kathleen Loughnane and others at Gielty's, in Dooagh, and that night there's an international line-up of musicians, including Connla, from Ireland, Annika Mändmaa Band, from Estonia, and Anxo Lorenzo and friends, from Galicia. Lots of concerts, films and recitals all weekend.

Savour Kilkenny

Runs until Monday, October 29th;
The 12th Kilkenny food festival turns the beautiful medieval city into a foodie haven, with cooking demonstrations and masterclasses with award-winning chefs, quirky dining events, beer and wine tasting, live entertainment and a food market.

Sligo Live

Runs until Monday, October 29th;
The music festival's Saturday highlights include Saint Sister, with support from Niamh Farrell (Hawk's Well Theatre), the Boomtown Rats (Knocknarea Arena) and Little Hours, with Brave Giant as support (Andersons). Sunday includes Rhiannon Giddens (Hawk's Well Theatre) and Hudson Taylor (Andersons).

Belfast International Arts Festival

Runs until Saturday, November 3rd;
As this year's festival winds to a close, remaining highlights include Writers of Belfast at Titanic Belfast, where Neil Shawcross delivers a powerful, emotional tribute to the city; In the Gear at the Mac, from the French hip-hop company Dyptik; Handle with Care, a free and fun-packed family show; the Beninese singer-songwriter, actor and activist Angélique Kidjo's interpretation of the Talking Heads album Remain in Light, at the Grand Opera House; Isabella Rossellini's Link Link, a one-woman (and one dog) show by the actor and film-maker; When Words Fail, in which the writer Ed Vulliamy asks if the magic, mystery and incertitude of music – of the human brain meeting or making sound – can stop wars, rehabilitate the broken, unite, educate or inspire; The Lament for Art O'Leary, the Pulitzer winner Paul Muldoon's new translation of the greatest love poem in the Irish language, Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, set to music by members of Horslips; and a conversation piece, Nine Pints with Rose George, telling stories about the liquid that sustains us.

Metropolis Festival

Saturday, October 28th, and Sunday, October 29th; Main Hall complex, RDS, Dublin;
Saturday's headliners at the fourth year of this indoor music festival , Villagers, curated the day's line-up, including the UK trio Friendly Fires, the Welsh singer and DJ Gwenno, the raucous Irish eight-piece Booka Brass, the folk singer David Keenan and Junior Brother. Sunday's line-up includes the pop pioneer Róisín Murphy, the Canadian singer and producer Mac DeMarco, the multi-instrumentalist Blood Orange and the Scottish hip-hop trio Young Fathers.

Guinness Cork Jazz Festival

Runs until Monday, October 29th; Cork;
Saturday at the 41st outing of Ireland's biggest jazz event sees two double bills at the Everyman, with the drummer TS Monk and the London world-music orchestra Bansangu in the afternoon, then the US vocalist China Moses and the Argentinean pianist Pablo Ziegler's trio in the evening. Later, at the Green Room at Cork Opera House, are two sets, both worth catching, from artist-in-residence Paul Dunlea, the Cork trombonist. Sunday at the Everyman has sets from David Bowie's last collaborator, the saxophonist Donny McCaslin, and the vocalist Nnenna Freelon in the afternoon and the fusion giants Stanley Clarke and Billy Cobham in the evening. McCaslin also joins the Maria Schneider Orchestra at Cork City Hall on Sunday evening. At the Triskel the ECM weekend features the Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu's trio with the guitarist Ben Monder, and the bandoneon master Dino Salluzzi (Saturday), then the Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavssen's world-beating trio and the UK keyboard star Kit Downes (Sunday). The weekend kicks off with a carnival-like Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) jazz parade on Thursday evening.

Tradition Now

Runs until Monday, October 29th; National Concert Hall, Dublin;
This four-day festival looks at the evolution of traditional music. Saturday night's concert, Freedom Doesn't Fall from the Sky, features a huge range of women performers, including Eleanor McEvoy, Karan Casey, Pauline Scanlon, Liz Carroll, Niamh Dunne, Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Marry Waterson, Reem Kelani and Niamh Ní Charra, in a joyful exploration of the contributions of women to folk and traditional music. On Sunday, Ómós celebrates one of traditional music's pioneers, Liam O'Flynn, who died in March, and includes the musicians Sean Keane, Matt Molloy, Triona Marshall and Steve Cooney. The festival also has performances from Iarla Ó Lionáird with Crash String Quartet, playing a new commission by Kate Moore; Liam O'Connor; an Aoife Ní Bhriain residency; and two concerts for children, the interactive A Winter Wish, and a family day on Sunday with the Armagh Rhymers.

Wexford Festival Opera

Runs until Sunday, November 4th;
This year's festival has included a verismo double bill (L'Oracolo, by Franco Leoni, and Umberto Giordano's gritty Mala Vita), the European premiere of Dinner at Eight, by the American composer William Bolcom, and Il Bravo, by Saverio Mercadante, the sixth of his operas to be presented at Wexford, involving kidnapping, murder and arson. There's also a gala concert on Sunday, October 28th, when the festival company will perform a collection of favourites– plus, throughout the festival, recitals, short works, tours, talks and lectures, a vibrant fringe of exhibitions, drama and music, and a wonderful atmosphere all over town.

Dublin Marathon

Sunday, October 28th;
Cheer on the runners in the city's single-lap marathon, starting in waves on Fitzwilliam Street Upper, from 8.55am, and finishing at Merrion Square, with the route taking in Phoenix Park, University College Dublin and Bushy Park.

Richard Harris International Film Festival

Runs until Monday, October 29th; Limerick;
A celebration of the life and work of Richard Harris, Limerick's most famous actor, and those who follow him, this Irish festival is affiliated to the Irish Film and Television Academy and collaborates with Newport Beach Film Festival, offering a platform for Irish and international film-makers to collaborate and view each other's work.

Ernest Shackleton Autumn School

Friday, October 26th, until Monday, October 29th; Athy Heritage Centre, Athy, Co Kildare; €155, individual lectures €10/€8;
The 18th edition of this school in the great polar explorer's hometown provides a forum for discussion and debate on polar exploration by guests, plus artistic work. The museum is also home to the only permanent exhibition devoted to Shackleton. Highlights include an original sledge and harness from his Antarctic expeditions, a model of Shackleton's ship Endurance and an audiovisual display featuring Frank Hurley's footage of the Endurance expedition.

Shrek the Musical

Runs until Sunday, November 4th; Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin; from €31;
Perfect Halloween timing for the family comedy based on the Oscar-winning animated film. The Marker Hotel next door has midterm family packages from €249 per night.