8 Great Alternative St. Patrick’s Days…

15th March 2010
Pól Ó Conghaile

Tired of the same ol’ St. Patrick’s Day parades? You don’t have to be. Here are eight great alternatives… from potato picking in Connemara to VIP entry for Patricks at the Guinness Storehouse!

Life’s a Beach in Duncannon, Co. Wexford…

Duncannon hosts Ireland’s only Beach Parade this St. Patrick’ Day. The parade starts outside the town church at 12.30pm, travels down Main Street and veers onto the strand. Expect local scouts, girl guides, sporting clubs, vintage vehicles and… top tractors (above).

Details: visitwexford.ie

Plant Potatoes in Connemara…

St. Patrick’s Day is the traditional time to start sewing potatoes in Connemara, and Cashel House Hotel has come up with a novel opportunity for guests to lend a hand. “The sea is right beside us, so we just go down and harvest it to leave on the ridges,” says manager Ray Doorley of the fertiliser of choice: Atlantic seaweed. Two-night mini-breaks at the Blue Book property include an Irish coffee and scones on arrival, as well as complimentary tickets to Kylemore Abbey and Gardens. Samples of the potatoes you plant will be sent for you to enjoy in early June, too.

Details: 095 31001; cashel-house-hotel.com.

Irish Craft Beer and Food Market, Dublin

Entering into its third year, the Irish Craft Beer & Food Market in Dublin’s Docklands is set to once again set the city alight throughout the St Patricks Day weekend. Teamed up with the St Patrick’s Festival, the market will move to a new home – not too far from its former – inside the CHQ Building on George’s Dock. it takes place March 13-17, and promises a range of over 50 local craft beers and ciders, as well as a varied set of food stalls.

Details: Daily, 10am-8pm, free. www.irishfest.ie.

Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail Walking Festival, Co. Mayo

St. Patrick spent 40 days and nights on this 2,500ft reek, soaking up inclement weather. Thousands of pilgrims follow in his footsteps every March 17th, many of them barefoot. But there is an alternative to all the martyrdom – namely the three-day Croagh Patrick Walking Festival. Norman castles, Neolithic tombs, modern sculptures and ancient villages are all highlights of the handsome, 61km heritage trail, and the craic is promised to continue into the evening. Get yer boots on.

Details: The Croagh Patrick Walking Festival (094 936-6709) takes place from March 19-21. There is a daily registration fee of €10.

VIP Patricks at the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

Yes, we do lattes now. And we can tell our Burgundies from our Bordeauxs. But the quintessential measure of Irishness is still a pint. If you’re in doubt, head to the Guinness Storehouse from March 14-17, where live music and other festivities are on offer, and anyone named Patrick gets a VIP (Very Important Patrick) pass waiving the entry fee. Everyone else will have to make do with a free drink in the 360-degree Gravity Bar.

Details: The Guinness Storehouse. Admission costs €15/€5.

St Patrick’s trail, Northern Ireland

Fed up of Paddy’s Day festivals? Why not take the holiday at your own pace by following a trail of saintly sights in Northern Ireland. Saint Patrick’s Trail is a 92-mile driving route taking in stops like the Saul Church in Strangford (where Patrick began his mission), Down Cathedral (where he is buried) and the Holy Wells at Struell (erm, where he is said to have sung psalms all night whilst naked). Don’t miss the interpretive Saint Patrick’s Centre in Downpatrick or St. Patrick’s Trian in Armagh, which takes a closer look at the saint through writings found in the ninth century Book of Armagh.

Details: discovernorthernireland.com/stpatrick.

National Leprechaun Hunt, Carlingford

Ok, it’s a little after paddy’s Day (March 30th, to be precise). But Carlingford takes its Little People seriously. So seriously, in fact, that we’re told Slieve Foy is protected under the EU Habitats Directive as “the habitat of leprechauns”. Do we detect a spot of paddywhackery? Whatever your take, you can search for the elusive creatures (albeit, of the ceramic variety) yourself when the National Leprechaun Hunt sets off from Carlingford village. The “original” clothes of the last captured leprechaun will be displayed on the day, and there are prizes for any captures.

Details: The National Leprechaun Hunt costs €5 per person.

Tourism Ireland’s Online Parade

Tourism Ireland has got an alternative St. Patrick’s parade this year – a virtual parade on Ireland.com. ‘The Fantastic St Patrick’s Parade, as it’s called, is certainly an alternative to the real life processions of floats and fanfare parading through cities all over the planet. The idea behind the campaign, or online game, is to get prospective holidaymakers around the world thinking about Ireland and involved in the parade – by creating and personalising their very own virtual float.

Details: Mix and match your parade characters on ireland.com/joinourparade.

Kilkenny TradFest

Kilkenny TradFest, (March 14 -17), will kick start St. Patrick’s weekend with a free open air concert on the opening night  at 7pm. It’s performed by the legendary Kíla, who are one of Ireland’s most innovative and exciting bands. The celebrations don’t stop there, as there will be two more free concerts on St. Patrick’s Day – with Beoga on the main festival stage on The Parade (3.30pm), followed by Dervish at the City Library at 6pm.

Details: www.kilkennytradfest.com