Planning your St Patrick’s weekend events? Better read this

From Dublin’s huge parade to small, quirky events around Ireland

Dublin’s St Patrick’s Day parade

It sounds like Game of Thrones battles it out with Star Wars for Dublin's parade this year. Grand marshal this year is Liam Cunningham, aka Davos Seaworth, and the festival's first international guest of honour is Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker. Hamill will be on the presidential stand to view the parade, but Cunningham will have more crack (and more work), as he'll lead it.

The Dublin parade, part of the five-day national St Patrick’s Festival, has the theme of Home. It starts at noon on Parnell Square on Saturday, March 17th, and will weave its way through central Dublin.

Half a million people are expected to come out to see the parade, which features Irish community groups and pageant companies, and Irish and international bands, along its 3.2km route.

The route and getting in and out
The parade takes about 90 minutes to pass any one point; it will reach St Patrick's Cathedral shortly after 1pm. (These times can vary, not least because of the weather.)


From Parnell Square the parade will come down the east side of O’Connell Street (the Clerys side), over O’Connell Bridge and on to Westmoreland Street. The route is longer than last year’s; locals and anyone getting off the Luas at St Stephen’s Green should now get a good view on Kevin Street.

If you plan to see the parade on O’Connell Street, and are coming from south of the Liffey, use Rosie Hackett Bridge and Marlborough Street, as access to O’Connell Bridge will be restricted.

Generally, you should use public rather than private transport; the Garda will have a traffic-management plan, with road closures starting from 5am.

What's in the parade this year?
The longest pageant, by Buí Bolg, will be 155m long, with 140 performers aged from 16 to 60.

The festival’s community arts-participation project, City Fusion, is working with groups and communities on performance skills; pageant companies performing are Spraoi (Waterford); Artastic (Kildare); Dowtcha (Cork); City Fusion (Dublin); Buí Bolg (Wexford); and Inishowen Carnival Group (Donegal).

More than 2,000 band members, Irish and international, will create the soundtrack for the street parade. The University of Illinois's Marching Illini – 106m long, and with 310 members, including five drum majors, twirlers, guards and Illinettes – will lead the parade. Bringing up the rear will be Purdue University's "All American" Marching Band, from Indiana, with 358 members, including dancers with flags, pom-poms and batons.

Music ensembles and pageantry
Dublin Fire Brigade Pipe Band; National Ambulance Service Pipes & Drums, with, from Australia, Ambulance Victoria Pipes and Drums; University of Illinois Marching Illini;

Opening Pageant: Ériu Welcomes the World; Clondalkin Youth Band; City Fusion – My Heart Is My Home; Legacy High School Lightning Marching Band; Spraoi – Insectopia; La Cañada High School Marching Spartans; Youngsville High School Marching Eagles; Dowtcha Puppets – Homebirds; the Lumberjack Marching Band from Stephen F Austin State University; Artastic – Tick-Tock of the Family Clock; Jackson High School “Purple Army” Marching Band; Buí Bolg – Home Is Where the Hearth Is; Lakeville South Marching Band; Vestavia Hills Rebel Marching Band; Inishowen Carnival Group – Spiky Tribe; Purdue “All-American” Marching Band; Sue’s Stepper-ettes.

St Patrick’s Day parades around Ireland

From Royal Avenue through Castle Junction and along Donegall Place, around Belfast City Hall and back along the same route to finish at Royal Avenue. From 11.30am
This year's parade, which follows a new route, is Global Belfast.

From South Mall to Grand Parade, along St Patrick's Street to finish at Merchant's Quay. From 1pm
Celebrating the theme of Democracy for All: 100 Years of the Vote for Women, with a carnival of colour, music, pageantry and comic fun

From Fr Griffin Road, along Domnick Street and Shop Street, and past the viewing stand in Eyre Square. From 11.30am
Galway's St Patrick's festival celebrates Galway and the west of Ireland as European region of gastronomy for 2018. There'll be music from The Clandestinos after the parade on the main stage on Eyre Square.

From 1pm
This year's parade takes Kilkenny Through the Ages as its theme.

From Mission Road through Killarney town centre, finishing at Beech Road car park. From 2pm
This year's theme is Killarney, You're Looking Good.

From the Roden Street junction of O'Connell Avenue through the heart of Limerick city centre. From noon
The street-theatre companies Luxe and Lumen will be accompanied by the School of Spectacle in a procession on the theme of Circus 250.

From Mail Coach Road to Our Lady of Mercy Primary. From noon
With the centenary of women getting the right to vote and stand for election – and Countess Markievicz as the first woman elected to the House of Commons – this year's parade celebrates the women of Sligo and the world.

From the bus station down the quays and on to the Mall, to end at the Mall's junction with Parnell Street. From 1pm
This year's theme is Celebrating Waterford's Cultural Diversity.

From the junction of Parnell Street and Trinity Street, along William's Street, Trinity Street, Paul Quay, Commercial Quay, Wellington Place and Redmond Square to Westgate. From 10.45am

Parades on the Wild Atlantic Way

Kinsale Maritime Parade
The foodie capital of west Cork is one of the few towns with two St Patrick's parades. Besides the one on the day itself, there's a parade at sea the night before, with colourfully lit boats sailing into the harbour and a fireworks display.

Dingle Dawn Parade
St Patrick's Day starts with the bang of a drum, at 6am; then Dingle's venerable Fife and Drum band leads people on a musical parade around the town, finishing at St Mary's parish church for Mass.

Crossmolina Electric Light Parade
The Co Mayo town plans a parade to light up the senses. Starting at 7.30pm, long after other parades have finished, a stream of floats, cars, tractors, trucks, buses, marching bands and street theatre from children will be lit up by decorated streets along the route.

Kiltimagh Parade
Over the past 30 years the small Mayo town's parade has evolved into a week-long celebration of Irish tradition and culture, with trad groups and visiting European bands, concerts, table quizzes, drama – and fishing competitions.

The rest of St Patrick’s Festival

Now billed as Ireland's national festival, and running for five days, St Patrick's Festival it has a pretty wide-ranging line-up, broadening its reach towards most ages (not just family groups) and many interests, with not a shamrock, a leprechaun or a pig trough in sight.

In the line-up it’s the new stuff that stands out, particularly music and theatre.

The festival opens with a screening and live performance of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin; Thursday, March 15th, 8pm), which sounds a treat. The 1921 silent epic war film directed by Rex Ingram, who emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1911, will be screened at the cathedral with a new score by Matthew Nolan and Barry Adamson (of Magazine and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame), which they will perform live on the night, accompanied by Seán Mac Erlaine, Adrian Crowley and Kevin Murphy.

Kormac: Equivalent Exchange (Vicar Street, Dublin; Sunday, March 18th, 7pm) is a collaborative concert commissioned by the festival from the DJ, producer and composer Kormac. It features the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Kormac's Big Band and 30 other musicians and artists, including the "ArtSoul" singer-songwriter Loah, the composer and conductor Eimear Noone, the spoken-word artist Stephen James Smith, the Persian classical musicians Shahab and Shayan Coohe, and the songwriter Jack O'Rourke, plus visuals by the urban artist Maser.

And the Dublin experimental folk-rock band The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock will expand to an 18-piece electric-guitar orchestra to launch their new album, Lockout, at another Dublin church, the Pepper Canister (Friday, March 16th, 8pm).

Over at Dublin Castle there's an interrogation of the Famine through art, in Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger. The world's largest collection of Famine-related art, from Ireland's Great Hunger Museum, at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, has never been seen here before. An artist's panel discussion features the artists Rowan Gillespie, Robert Ballagh, Brian Maguire and Geraldine O'Reilly, whose work is part of the collection (Thursday, March 15th; tour at 5pm, panel at 6pm, Coach House, Dublin Castle).

Theatre gets a look in during the festival, with Druid performing a one-off of Beckett's Waiting for Godot outdoors at the Daisy Market near Capel Street in Dublin – an act of faith in the weather holding off. This sounds beyond magical, but unless you were quick off the mark getting tickets you won't be able to go, as it is sold out.

Theatre also figures, along with a lot of other lively stuff, in Where We Live, a Thisispopbaby presentation, like a festival within the overall Patrick's festival. It has taken over the Complex, in Smithfield in Dublin, for two weeks to respond to the theme of Home. It promises a kaleidoscope of stories about what it feels like to live in Dublin and Ireland today, wrapping in theatre, work in progress, live art, an exhibition and, in the Town Hall Sessions, a lively talks programme that includes the American novelist and activist Sarah Schulman on how cities can retain their character when money squeezes out diversity.

Part of the Where We Live strand is another commission, from the radio presenter, photographer and film-maker Donal Dineen. Pathways: Irish Routes to the Art of the Matter is a documentary about Irish creatives making it abroad (Sunday, March 18th, 6.30pm, or see it on the festival's Facebook and YouTube pages).

As the festival's chief executive, Susan Kirby, remarks, "the first St Patrick's Festival, in 1996, was held over one day, and the programme has now grown and evolved to include events over five days and nights which have a home and international reach". So give thanks for the website's day-by-day guide to help navigate it all:

Other ways to celebrate St Patrick’s weekend

As well as parades big and small, you’ll also find some off-the-beaten track events this weekend.

Dublin Bay Prawn Festival
The Howth festival in honour of the Dublin Bay prawn is a great way to do St Patrick's weekend differently. It's a mouthwatering part of the huge St Patrick's Festival programme for Dublin. More here.

Writers Entertain
Neil O'Shea's one-man show (Dublin Writers Museum, Parnell Square, Dublin 1; Friday, March 16th, and Saturday, March 17th) explores comedic elements of James Joyce and WB Yeats.

Where We Live
Thisispopbaby's festival within the Dublin St Patrick's Festival features plays by Clare Dunne, Tara Flynn and Veronica Dyas; an immersive audiovisual installation by Eamonn Doyle, Niall Sweeney and David Donohoe; and a series of talks. (The Complex, Smithfield, Dublin 7; until Sunday, March 18th.) More here.

Catch a gig in Dublin
Lots to choose from, including The Stunning at the Olympia and the Stereophonics at 3Arena, both on Friday, March 16th. Aslan are at the Olympia on St Patrick's night.

Cork St Patrick's Festival Market
Free family fun with big bands, trad music, circus performers and street comedians. More here.

Ireland's Ancient East
If your name is Patrick or Patricia, or a variant, you qualify for special offers in Ireland's Ancient East around St Patrick's Day, including a free tour at Hook Head Lighthouse or an especially spooky time at Wicklow Gaol. More here.

Kilkenny Tradfest
This trad-music and culture festival features musicians, sean-nós singers and dancers in the Marble City. More here.

Loughcrew Equinox Festival
The spring equinox is especially magical at the megalithic cairns at Loughcrew, Co Meath. Over this period the back stone of Cairn T is lit up by the morning sunlight shining down the passageway. You'll find events from Saturday, March 17th, to Wednesday, March 21st – the equinox – including a kids' arts event on St Patrick's Day. More here.

Epic and the Irish Family History Centre, Custom House Quay, Dublin 1 have St Patrick's events over the weekend, including Landless, a traditional Irish vocal group; sean nos with  Saileog Ní Cheannabháin; Songs & Stories of the Men Who Built Britain: The Legacy of the Irish Navvy; a science Slime Lab workshop; and a family history treasure hunt. Some of these are free with Epic admission or can be booked on

Kids’ events

Dublin St Patrick's Day Parade
Starts at Parnell Square; Saturday, March 17th, from noon; free;
Whether you're hanging on to Daniel O'Connell, freezing in a 10-deep crowd or smug up in an office somewhere above the madness, the parade is a must-see for many. The parade's theme this year is Home, so you'd think Dermot Bannon should be leading it, but instead the grand marshal is the equally brilliant Game of Thrones star Liam Cunningham.

City at Play funfairs
Merrion Square, Dublin 2, and Custom House Quay, Dublin 1; 11am-8pm/9pm, Saturday, March 17th to Monday, March 19th; prices of rides vary;
It's all here: the dreaded waltzers, gentle carousels and that addictive game where you throw balls in holes and make the horses run a race to win a prize. The fairs add a bit of carnival to the street, and there's something for all the family.

Festival Big Day Out
Merrion Square, Dublin 2; Sunday, March 18th, noon-6pm; free;
A dizzying amount of stuff's going on in the annual Festival Big Day Out, which takes over Merrion Square on Sunday. Street theatre, aerial performances, Irish-language activities, a giant céilí, storytelling by torchlight, shadow puppets, and a puzzle room where Dublin Unesco City of Literature's Citywide read, Erica McCann's Making Millions, will come to life in a Georgian house.

Irish Film Institute, Temple Bar, Dublin 2; Monday, March 19th, 3pm; €4.80 per person/€14.40 per family;
If you need a bit of a break from all that haring around town, on Monday there'll be a screening of the rarely seen Shamus. The plot of the 1958 film is a few sticks short of a shillelagh: it's a about an orphan boy and the monkey's tail that suddenly appears on him when he steals an evil leprechaun's pot of gold. He rambles around 1950s Belfast, tail in tow, until he boards a ship to Liverpool, where he is befriended by an English family fascinated by his "weird and enchanting ways".

Me & the City
The Ark, Temple Bar, Dublin 2; Monday, March 19th, 11.30am and 2pm; €11.50/€8.50;
The children's cultural centre is running two fun and practical visual-arts workshops, hosted by Jole Bortoli, on Monday. Me & the City will allow children to discover the colours and textures of the city and how architects and artists create iconic buildings, sculptures and street art within it. Then bring your ideas to the Spectacular Street Art workshop, where you can try some mural painting or let your imagination run wild and create a brand-new city landmark at the Spires, Towers & Imaginative Structures workshop.

For more information