Frightening Festive Fun

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Bored of the usual bonfire on the green and constant trick or treaters knocking down your door? Or are you simply looking for an extreme-scream mid-term break for the kids? We have searched the length and breadth of the country to bring you our favourite Halloween highlights.

The Hill of Ward in Meath, during medieval times was the site of great festivals, including Samhain, the pagan forerunner of Halloween. The most traditional of events is the torch-lit procession that takes place every Halloween from Fairgreen, Athboy to the Hill of Ward. This free event is part of the Spirits of Meath Halloween Festival which also hosts drive-in movies, haunted spooktaculars and a friendly witch event, to name but a few. More info here:

Another destination worth visiting is this year’s city of culture Derry. Their Halloween Hooley will take place on Queens Quay and Guildhall Square from 26th of October to the 3rd of November. This is allegedly Ireland’s largest FREE Halloween party. Highlights will include the Carnival Parade on October 31st, followed by a fireworks display along the River Foyle, the Shapeshifters Ball in the historic Guildhall, as well as lots of children’s activities. There’s plenty to keep the adults entertained too with Halloween-themed walking tours, a seasonal country market and continental market and the lucky few who got tickets for Chic and Nile Rogers. For more information visit:

The annual Virginia, Co. Cavan Pumpkin Festival 25th to 30th October is all about the pumpkin. Another tradition originating from Samhain is lantern carving. Originally turnips or beets were used and these were replaced with the better-known pumpkin when emigrants from Scotland and Ireland went to America bringing their traditions with them. Highlights from the festival include the pumpkin weigh in – pumpkins from around the world, almost bigger than a small family will be competing in stature, as well as the live theatre, music, pumpkin carving, haunted forest walks and of course fireworks. This is not a free festival – you will have to pay per event which varies in cost up to €15. More info here:

The pumpkin will also be centre of attention at Kilruddery House in Bray where you can go to their pumpkin patch and pick one out with the farmer, then design your pumpkin and watch a craftsman carve it out. A little less obvious but they’ll also host a scarecrow competition, where you can design and build your own scarecrow. More information at:

Another big old house that will don the cobwebs is 18th century Westport House in Mayo. Their annual Halloween Fest runs from October 26th to November 3rd and is most suitable for families, the main attraction being the Pirate Adventure Park. As well as fancy dress, they will put on events including a re-enactment of Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video in the formal large dining room. Tickets to Halloween Fest are priced per normal Pirate Pass ticket prices which cost from €11.55 to €52.50 for a family pass. For more info visit:

Closer to home there’s the Bram Stoker Festival, which began last year to celebrate the centenary of the horror novelist Bram Stoker’s death. From the 25th to 28th October this year the festival will bring you to lesser known parts of Dublin city to experience its Victorian macabre on walking tours. In honour of the literary theme there will also be writing workshops exploring horror writing with award winning authors for both teens and adults. More info:

For more adult fun you might have seen a bus around town trying to pass itself off as a cottage. Hidden Dublin’s bus, while not all that spooky-looking, will take groups on a Haunted Spooktacular tour to Meath every night this Halloween week. Once there, they promise a ‘four dimensional assault on the senses’ combining live actors, special effects and sounds over 10 acres of the Horror Farm. Cost €25 per person.

Above: Virginia Pumpkin Festival. Photo:
Below: Halloween Pumpkin Festival. Photo: Robert Michael Photography

By Emma Dwyer