WITH St Patrick’s Day just around the corner, Northern Ireland has a jam-packed programme of festivities lined up to help people celebrate the patron saint of Ireland.
From street carnivals to open air concerts and food events to storytelling, there is something for everyone during this year’s celebrations and Pauline Gormley, Destination PR Officer for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) is encouraging people to make the most of what is on offer and explore Northern Ireland.
“Every corner of Northern Ireland is action packed with events and festivals to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. There is plenty of family fun, parades, carnivals and music with a great event or happening to suit every taste.
“If you fancy following in the footsteps of St Patrick and discovering more about his life and legacy with the St Patrick’s Trail which takes you through Christian sites at Bangor, Newtownards, Downpatrick, Newry and Armagh to uncover just how strong Northern Ireland’s links are with the patron saint. The 92 mile linear driving route links 15 key sites, all identified as having some connection to his life, legacy or landscape – they are all just waiting to be explored,” Pauline added.
To help get the celebrations underway NITB has put together a guide to St Patrick’s Day festivals and events across Northern Ireland:
Belfast St Patrick’s Celebrations promises a great day out for the whole family when the city centre becomes awash with colour and splendour during the annual carnival parade which takes place on Sunday March 16. The parade will depart from Belfast City Hall at 12 noon and community groups from across Belfast will take part along with professional and amateur performers, musicians and acrobats. It will finish at Custom House Square where the day’s festivities will continue with an exciting outdoor concert including Shane Ward.
St Patrick’s Day at Slemish in Ballymena gives visitors the chance to learn about St Patrick and his historical legacy plus the history, wildlife and geology of Slemish. Storytelling, traditional music and children’s entertainment will be part of the event at the Ecos Centre between 12pm and 4pm. People can also enjoy delicious traditional Irish fayre at the Ecos Cafe.
The Londonderry Arms Hotel, situated in the picturesque Glens of Antrim in the small coastal village of Carnlough, invites people to enjoy An Audience with Hector McDonnell on March 14. Hector is one of Ireland’s leading artists and people can join him for an informal talk on St Patrick where he will consider St Patrick’s life.
Celebrate St Patrick in his chosen city of Armagh with a lively and varied festival from March 13 – 17, showcasing the best of the city’s culture, music, song and dance. Highlights of the Saint Patrick’s Festival include The Poet, The Pier & The Painter at Navan Centre & Fort, Comedy Weekend at The Market Place Theatre and Armagh Trad Trail in Armagh City Centre.
The Saint Patrick’s Festival Concert in Market Square on March 15 will see the Red Hot Chilli Pipers take to the stage with support acts including local band Castlestreet, The Legend of Luke Kelly, and Catherine Grimley & The McCuskers. There will also be a special appearance from mentalist David Meade who promises to astonish the crowd with his unique talent.
The Saint Patrick’s Day Carnival Procession will see the city come alive with a spectacular display of colour, music, dance and entertainment for all to enjoy. The celebrations will begin with a high energy carnival procession departing the Palace Demesne, making its way through Armagh City Centre complete with colourful floats, marching bands and street performers.
Living History special for St Patrick’s Day is taking place at Navan Centre & Fort from March 15 – 17. The Living History department will reopen the Iron Age Dwelling especially for visitors to Navan enjoying the Saint Patrick’s festivities. Recreating Celtic life through cooking, weaving, weaponry and much more the dwelling brings to life the sights, smells and sounds of the Celtic era. Join in all the fun as the Celts transport you to a bygone age!
The St Patrick’s Day Spring Carnival 2014 in Derry on March 16 and 17 is packed with fun for all the family including on street entertainers who will dazzle and bemuse, a fantastical carnival parade which will enchant, traditional musicians who will make your toes tap and a mythical children’s treasure trail which will lead you through a taste of ‘Music, Myth and Magic’.
The LegenDerry Food Festival in Guildhall Square from March 15 – 17 showcases the wealth and range of local food on offer in the city and across Northern Ireland. With themes from ‘plot to plate’, ‘grown here not flown here’ and ‘catch and cook’, it celebrates food and includes celebrity chef demonstrations, family activities and live cook offs.
Join in the craic and celebrate a memorable St Patrick’s Day in the Roe Valley Arts & Cultural Centre with music from the amazing Blackthorn. Fun and laughter is guaranteed with this lively and entertaining band.
What better place to celebrate St Patrick’s Day than in Downpatrick, one of Northern Ireland’s most ancient and historical towns and reputed to be the burial place of St Patrick. And once again, Down District Council is offering a seven day programme of events with the St Patrick’s Festival from March 10 – 17.
More than 30,000 spectators are expected to gather to see the highlight event, the traditional Cross Community Carnival Parade through the town on March 17.
Session trails throughout the festival will offer opportunities to celebrate St Patrick’s life through song and dance. An artisan food market offering food produce from local provenance will get your taste buds tingling and there will be lots of entertainment including a busking competition and an open air concert.
Downpatrick lluminations Show – come visit Downpatrick at night over the Festival period and see three of the local iconic buildings, Down Cathedral, St Patrick’s Church and The Saint Patrick Centre illuminating green in colour to celebrate our Saint.
The St Patrick’s Centre is bursting with great things to see and do including a special U105 broadcast on March 14 when Frank Mitchell will host his Morning Show at the centre with special guests and topical discussion. Also on the March 14 you can get hands on with some snakes, said to have been banished by St Patrick, at the St Patrick’s Centre Reptile Display plus tortoises, spiders and much more. On March 14, there is the Brigid O’Neill Trio in concert with Bill Johnston and Barry Kerr featuring Country Blues, Folk, Jazz and Bluegrass (tickets available by calling the St Patrick’s Centre).
Downpatrick Racecourse will host its first Drive-Thru Mystery Movie so make sure you pick up a free ticket at the Visitor Information Centre.
St Patrick’s Day celebrations at Castle Espie in Comber invites people to take part in a shamrock trail, meet St Patrick’s snakes and sample homemade traditional Irish cuisine.
The Newry & Mourne St Patrick’s Day Festival starts at 12 noon with the annual parade which departs from the Quays Shopping & Leisure Centre and finishing in the Cathedral Quarter Hill Street. There will also be an open-air concert and street entertainment including a traditional street ceili and lots to keep children entertained. In addition to this, there will be events taking place in the Town Hall, Sean Hollywood Arts Centre, Newry & Mourne Museum and Newry Variety Market.
The main St Patrick’s Day parade in Enniskillen starts from Lakeland Forum at 3.30pm and then circles the island town. Visitors can look forward to seeing battling Vikings, wake boarding leprechauns as well as St Patrick’s arrival in his traditionally unusual manner. There will be other family activities at Broadmeadow at 1pm with attractions including inflatable assault courses, bouncy castles, face painting, gelato’s, candy floss and chocolate fountains as well as music and Lough based displays.
Enjoy free admission to Enniskillen Castle Museums on St Patrick’s Day. Enniskillen Castle, situated beside the River Erne in County Fermanagh, was built almost 600 years ago by the ruling Gaelic Maguires. Today, the historic site houses two museums, Fermanagh County Museum and the Inniskillings Museum.
The Saint Patricks Day Festival in Omagh, from March 10 – 21, features many wonderful events starting with the ‘Building Bridges’ Primary Schools Exhibition at the Strule Arts Centre on March 10; a screening of the Bafta nominated Good Vibrations at the Strule Arts Centre on March 14; an open air concert and colourful St Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17; culminating in a tuneful musical session by popular Ulster-Scots group, Kilted Konnections, on March 21 at the Strule Arts Centre, to name a few.
The Ulster American Folk Park invites people to celebrate the “American Wake”. Countless thousands of people left Ireland in the 18th and 19th Centuries and for many, the hours before departure became known as the ‘American or Living Wake’. Watch this dramatic re-enactment complete with music and songs.
To find out more about what is happening in Northern Ireland over St Patrick’s Day or for further information on places to stay or things to see and do contact the Northern Ireland Tourist Board on Callsave 1850 230 230 or click on www.discovernorthernireland.com