Tradfest describes itself as “a festival showcasing the full spectrum of traditional and folk music in some of Dublin City’s most unique venues. Feel every note.”
The festival is held annually and celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2016. It started out in 2006 as a niche traditional folk music festival but now encompasses a broader spectrum of musical styles like new age folk music and even rock-and-roll.
Tradfest is held in the Irish capital of Dublin, a city renowned for its Guinness, its music and its literature. Some of Dublin’s most famous musical exports are Sinead O’Connor, U2, The Dubliners and Thin Lizzy. Dublin’s ancient university, Trinity College has notable names like Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde on its roster and it is also home to numerable Nobel Laureates in Literature. Visit Tradfest and discover not only a unique winter musical festival but also a historic international capital city with a unique flavour.
There is a saying that Guinness does not travel well and is always best consumed at source. If that is the case then The Guinness Dublin is the place to visit! 2 and a half million pints of the dark drink are manufactured each day. Situated in an old granary (that Arthur Guinness purchased on 31st December, 1759 on a 1000 year lease) in the heart of the St James’s Gate Brewery, the Guinness Storehouse is Dublin, Ireland and Europe’s most visited tourist attraction.
The entry fee is a steep €20 but the lengthy queues and €2 can be saved by purchasing a ticket online.
A free-guided tour of the brewery will let you into the hidden inner secrets of the beer making process and the history of the brewery.
Popping into the Guinness Academy allows you to master the art of beer pouring!
The best part of the tour is at the end, drinking the best pint of Guinness in the world at the iconic top floor Gravity Bar where you have some splendid views of the city.
Kilmainham Gaol crams two hundred years of Irish revolutionary history into one fact-filled tour of the site of incarceration of several of the nation’s leading nationalist freedom fighters.
How to get there: hop onto a bus (No. 69, 79 from Aston Quay Dublin 2; No 13 & 40 from O’Connell St. Dublin 1 or College Green Dublin 2) and you’ll find yourself in the former home of many Irish characters in just a jiffy.
Trinity College: Book Of Kells
Imagine a vast 40-acre green oasis of learning in the midst of a crowded city and you have Trinity College. Founded in 1592, by the order of Queen Elizabeth I, the college claims to have produced respected literary stalwarts in the form of Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde.
The highlight of a visit to Trinity College is undoubtably a visit to the Long Room library for a glimpse of the famous Book of Kells. This is a Celtic-Christian illuminated manuscript written in spectacular Western calligraphy, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament. The Long Room itself, is a joy to behold for any bibliophile. It is the repository of over 3 million manuscripts and books.
The Glasnevin Cemetery, a 250 acre Parisian style cemetery and the final place of rest of several of the country’s notable sons and daughters, is located a short distance to the north of the city. A museum, located on the cemetery grounds provides an interactive exhibit that chronicles the history of Irish religious sentiment. The innumerable, grey gravestones and old cobblestone paths that form an intricate maze, create a long-lasting memorable impression.
The Glasnevin Cemetery is located to the north of Dublin, and can be accessed from the city-centre by local buses.
Top tip: Make sure you take a cemetery tour, which runs frequently throughout the day.
Museum entry and the walking tour will set you back only €6.
Adjacent to the Glasnevin Cemetery is a famous public house called the Gravediggers. The dark, cave-like interior has a welcoming iron fireplace to the rear of the establishment and an endless supply of Irish drinks; be it Guinness, an Irish Ale or whisky. The smoky ceiling of the pub provides testament to many years of concerted smoking and drinking and probably the walls have been privy to lots of good conversation.
Do not miss the opportunity to soak in this little piece of Irish culture and definitely be prepared to listen to tall stories of hearses being left outside the pub for days on end, during times of emotional upheaval.
Viking Splash Tours
What could be better than an amphibious tour of Dublin city via Viking Splash Tours? The tour even features elements of the city’s Viking history. A WW2-era amphibious vehicle, in the presence of knowledgable guides will set you back quite a bit, but it is worth every penny.
Cost: Adult €22
Where to buy tickets: online or at the departure point on St. Stephen’s Green North.
Listen to the Buskers on Grafton Street
If interested in music, do visit Dublin’s famous Grafton Street. Thisis the place musicians like Bono, Glen Hansard of ‘Once’ fame got their first opportunities. The entertainment is unending and free flowing and will cost you only a few pennies (or a crisp note if feeling generous) slipped into a busker’s hat.
Where to eat is a difficult but pleasant problem to tackle when you are presented with the enormous number of culinary choices that Dublin provides.
To minimize this problem we have a few suggestions: O Neill’s Pub (Suffolk Street, Dublin 2), perfect for traditional Irish food, soups, Cornucopia (19/20 Wicklow Street Dublin, 2) for wholefood and vegetarian fare, The Counter (20 Suffolk Street, Dublin, 2) for custom made burgers, Sheridans Cheesemongers (11 South Anne Street, Dublin 2) and Steps of Rome (Chatham Street, Dublin, 2) are some points to ponder.
Top Festival Tip
Some of the events at the Temple Bar Tradfest are free to attend like the Front Row Sessions which features the very best in Irish music.
Taking place in the intimate setting of the bars of Temple Bar, you can get the chance to see some of the biggest name in trad music like The Dublin Legends, The Fureys, Picture House, Declan Sinnott or Stocktons Wing. Visit the Temple Bar Tradfest website well in advance to find out details of how to book your free tickers to this event.
I listened to some superb musicians but my pick of the festival was listening to solo singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan (former lead singer of Crooked Still) who performed some tracks from her new album, In the Magic Hour. Meditative and melancholy, O’Donovan’s music is very evocative of her Cork roots and has a lush, beautiful voice. She’s definitely worth adding to your Spotify playlist.
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