Halloween events: 20 things to do with the family
From the Spirits of Meath to the witch’s lair - a selection of spooky celebrations
A witch from the Spirits of Meath Halloween festival. Photograph: Barry Cronin
Scary events at Westport House, Co Mayo.
With Halloween around the corner, it’s time to start making planning the weekend. Here is a quick selection of events that will entertain the whole family.
Spirits of Meath: The county where Halloween began more than 3,000 years ago, according to legend, hosts a Halloween Festival that started last weekend and runs until November 1st, with more than 37 events, 25 geared towards families. See the full programme here or tel 046 909 7060.
Pooka Spooka and Farmaphobia: Traditional Halloween games and crafts, along with “limb throwing” and “tunnel of terror”, are some of the events at Causey Farm’s celebrations for families with children aged up to 12 years, October 25th-26th and 29th-31st, 1.30pm-5.30pm. €13 per ticket (both adult and child) - more here. On this same farm a much more terrifying experience awaits older teenagers and adults at Farmaphobia, which was voted Best European Independent Attraction at Europe’s only awards for the “scare industry” earlier this year. Passes range from €18 to €60. Visit farmaphobia.ie.
Samhain Festival of Fire: Join the torchlit procession up Tlachtga Hill, believed to be the Celtic birthplace of Halloween, on October 31st, leaving the Fairgreen, Athboy, at 7.30pm. Tayto Park: For children over eight, there’s the “House of Horrors” by day (€6 extra on admission of €4) at the Ashbourne theme park, October 24th to November 1st, 11am-4pm but there are also Halloween activities for younger visitors. Those aged 14-plus get the chance to “Confront the Darkness” with a ride on the Cú Chulainn rollercoaster in the dead of night, October 27th-30th, 6pm-9pm, €18.
Pick your pumpkin: Families can choose their own Jack O’ Lantern at a number of pumpkin farms, including one outside Summerhill, open daily until October 31st, 11am to 5pm (tel. 086 037 6583) or at Alright Pumpkin in Fordstown, (where you can pick your own sweetcorn too), from October 24th-31st, noon-6pm (tel. 087 291 2492).
Museum moves: From “scary skulls” and “creepy cauldrons” to upcycled costumes and terrifying tales of vicious Vikings, all four branches of the National Museum (three in Dublin and one in Co Mayo) are putting on free events for children between October 27th and 31st. Click here for more info.
Masquerade mystery: Spooky tours of Malahide Castle, Co Dublin, where there will be face-painting and magic shows in the Visitor Centre. October 28th-31st, 10.30am-3.30pm; adult €12; child €6; family tickets €30. Booking on tel. 01 816 9538; or visit the website.
Galway Aboo: The City of the Tribes hosts what it claims to be the country’s biggest Halloween Festival, October 24th-25th and 31st. The highlight will be the spectacular Macnas parade, “The Shadow Lighter”, starting at 5.30pm on October 25th. All spectators are invited to dress in costume too. Seehere and here.
Bram Stoker Festival: Macnas head to Dublin the next day to stage “Arise! Awake”, a Twilight Procession on October 26th, winding its way through the city from 5.30pm to finish with pyrotechnics at Wolfe Tone Square at 6.30pm. It’s one of the family-friendly events in this October 23rd-26th celebration of the Dublin-born writer who created Dracula. Others include a pop-up Gothic theme park, “Stokerland”, a free event with street performers in Dublin’s Wolfe Tone Square, noon-5pm on October 25th; and The Scary Trail at Marsh’s Library, October 23rd-24th, 11am-5pm, entrance free.
Haunted woods: Children are encouraged to “dress up to scare” as a personal monster hunter leads them through the “gruesome gardens” at Birr Castle, Co Offaly, on a Halloween trail. October 23rd-25th and 30th and 31st, with tours running every 30 minutes from 5pm-9pm. €12.50 child, €5 adult, €30 family. Not suitable for under fives. To book, see birrcastle.com.
Halloween Howl: Kenmare in Co Kerry goes to town on scare tactics for the week October 24th-31st, with scarecrow building and haunted forest walks to “cranky cooking” and pumpkin-carving workshops, culminating in its traditional parade on Halloween night at 6pm.
Celtic charms: Brigit’s Garden near Rosscahill, Co Galway will host a Samhain evening of Celtic crafts, storytelling with Rab Fulton, parade with the púca and lighting of the Halloween bonfire, on October 30th, 4pm-9pm. Adult €7; child €5; family of five €25. Visit the website for more info.
Dangerous World: Families are invited to “risk life and limb” and join comedian and writer David O’Doherty, the author of “Danger is Everywhere” (Penguin Books), and illustrator Chris Judge to hear about making characters come to life at the National Gallery, Dublin. October 30th, noon-1pm. A free, family event suitable for all ages, but particularly those aged seven plus. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book places.
Westport House: The 18th-century Westport House in Co Mayo is transformed from October 24th to 31st into a (not too) scary haunted house. Line-up includes the White Witch and her story time, ghastly face painting and Jack O’Lantern carving (€2.50 per pumpkin). Westport House and the Halloween Fest workshops operate 11am to 5pm daily and the rides are open from 1pm to 5pm. Adult €21; child €16.50; family €60. Meanwhile, outside the walls, a Spooky Train Tour will tell tales of ghosts and ghouls. Pick-up points at the town-centre gate to Westport House and the Quay, Westport, with trains departing daily, October 24th to 31st, from 11am to 2pm. Click here.
Dragon of Shandon: Walking with the dragon in a procession starting from Shandon in Cork at 7.30pm on October 31st, into the city centre and back, is the culmination of a community festival running October 29th-31st, featuring scary stories and ghost tours among its programme. Website here.
Virginia Pumpkin Festival: Spine-chilling fun for all the family in the Forest of Fears, at Virginia RFC, on October 23rd, 7.30pm, which kicks off the town’s Halloween celebrations, running until October 26th. A giant pumpkin will preside over the procession staged by LUXe, complete with aerial performers and dancers, leaving the Virginia Showgrounds at 6pm on October 25th and finishing with fireworks by the lake.
Treasure hunts: Belvedere House in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, is running treasure hunts on October 24th-26th, every half hour from noon-2pm. Booking advised. Adult €8; child €4. Tel. 044 934 9060; website.
Spooky express: For one day only, the Waterford and Suir Valley Railway will run a ghost train on October 24th, every 45 minutes from Kilmeadan, 5pm to 9pm. Adult €13, under 16 €10. Tel. 051 384 058; website.
Trick or treat trail: Test the grey matter with Castlecomer Discovery Park’s Halloween challenge in Co Kilkenny, October 25th to November 2nd. Families can register at reception between noon and 4pm to collect their question sheet before heading into the woods and, at the end, receive their treat – or trick. €10 family. Click here for more info.
Witch’s lair: The ancient hag of wisdom and Irish Folklore, the Cailleach, is in her lair underneath the National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin, the original site of the Jervis Street Morgue. Under-18s can visit her October 23rd to November 1st before 6pm, with over-18s only after 6pm. €7 for adult or child. See here for more details.
Halloween Happenings: Spooky days at Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park on the Bog of Allen, Co Kildare, from October 24th to November 1st, 10am to 6pm, with ghastly ghouls, haunted holograms and one terror train trip included for every family. Prizes for best fancy dress. Family €28. Tel. 045 870 238; website.