Giddy up there horse!

March 28, 2013



April 23-27: Irish National Hunt Festival, Punchestown Racecourse, Naas, Co Kildare.

The late, great Irish sports journalist Con Houlihan, who died only last year, leaving scores of thousands of his devoted readers bereft, said of Punchestown: “It is a truly rural course. It is a kind of throwback to the last century, if not further. It has stone walls and double banks. It is a mixture of a point-to-point course and a racetrack. Its annual festival in late April is somewhat like that at Cheltenham but homelier and friendlier and less sanitised.”

Sadly, Con is gone, but his beloved Punchestown Festival lives on, attracting more than 100,000 spectators over the five days. Half of them are racing-mad, the other half (including yours truly) don’t know one end of a horse from the other, but everyone who goes to the track, win or lose, enjoys an unforgettable day out.

If you want to experience the electrifying atmosphere of the sport of kings in the country that produces the world’s fastest and finest racehorses ─ the superstars of the starting stalls ─ don’t miss the Punchestown Festival.

Back in Dublin, the barmen in Con’s two favourite pubs ─ Mulligan’s in Poolbeg Street and The Palace Bar in Fleet Street, where he drank nothing but brandy and milk ─ will regale you with fascinating stories of the great man.


April 1-30: Dublin: One City, One Book.

Tome it may concern, this year’s jam-packed month-long programme of events throughout the capital will celebrate James Plunkett’s ‘Strumpet City’ (last year it was James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’).

Plunkett (1920-2003), was a Dublin city centre working-class boy who became a radio producer, playwright and author. ‘Strumpet City’ is considered his masterpiece and widely regarded as the Great Irish Novel.
The novel is set against the backdrop of the lockout of 20,000 trade union members by employers in 1913. As a lifelong champion of workers’ rights, Plunkett was writing on a topic with which he was well familiar.Events marking the centenary of the seminal ‘Strumpet City’ include guided walking and bike tours, dramatic readings, concerts and lectures that will paint a sometimes disturbing but always fascinating picture of Dublin 100 years ago.

April 2-7: 42nd International Pan Celtic Festival, Carlow town, Co Carlow (trains from Dublin Heuston station).

One of the longest-established ─ and most enjoyable ─ festivals on the calendar brings together the Celtic cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall and Brittany for six lively days of music, dance, song and storytelling.

If you want to hear the same tune played on six distinctly different styles of bagpipes, Carlow’s the place to go (the old joke about a gentleman being someone who can but refuses to play the pipes doesn’t count here). One of my favourite festivals.

April 24-28: Dublin Bay Prawn Festival, Howth, Co Dublin (Dart commuter trains).

A celebration of all things Dublin Bay, plus tons of fun events and activities (tons of tasty treats too).

The programme offers an exciting mix of freshly-prepared street food, strolling musicians, walks, talks and seaside antics.

When you’ve finished feeding yourself, buy a bag of fish scraps from one of the stalls and feed the seals in the harbour.


Tom Sweeney's Travel Blog

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