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freaky fests

8 family festivals to hit up this Halloween

Fiercesome (mostly) free fun.

AS IT’S THE last bank holiday weekend of the year, you might be enjoying some time on your hands. If those hands are also trying to keep some smaller people occupied, you should check out our list of the best family-friendly and free (or almost free) festivals around the country.

Dublin, Derry and Galway seem to be the urban centres on the island with most to offer in terms of organised free fests but there are a number of cool local events springing up around the country that we’ve mentioned here.

  • If there’s a great, inexpensive, Halloween event near you, be sure to drop us a note in the comments section.

Deadly Dublin

Bram Stoker Festival Bram Stoker Festival

The Bram Stoker Festival has grown beyond its literary origins into the premier Halloween attraction in the capital over the bank holiday weekend. Starting today, the events are tidily organised into night and day.

Of particular interest to those with children is the Macnas: Sleep No More spectacular Samhain parade, which will wind its way through Dublin’s northside, starting on Moore Street at 5.30pm on Monday. The other big free event isStokerland tomorrow and Sunday, from 11am to 4.30pm in St Patrick’s Park, a Victorian fun park with street performers, oldeworlde games, spooky family portraitists and more. Perfect for the easily-spooked under-12s.

Gruesome Galway

The Galway Aboo (see what they did there) festival is in the Latin quarter of the city today, tomorrow and Sunday. The Macnas parade is on Sunday at 5.30pm but there are some other interesting-sounding events including the Galway Ghost Ship which docks at Claddagh Quay and is inviting kids to trick-or-treat, tour the ‘ghost ship’ and listen to a seanchaí recount tales of terror.

Creepy Cavan

Virginia Pumpkin Festival Virginia Pumpkin Festival

The Virginia Pumpkin Festival is always a big hit for families. Alongside paid events for the adults and teens (barn dance, ‘Ireland’s largest fancy dress party’), there are pumpkin carving competitions, kids’ event on Saturday and a parade and fireworks display along the lake shore on Saturday. See more here.

Scary Sligo

Sligo Folk Park in Riverstown is always worth a visit butits Halloween event, Scare in the Park, running from today to Sunday from 6-8pm is great value for a fiver per child. (Adults free which is just as well as each child must be accompanied by one.) Come in fancy dress and tour the different event stations from pumpkin-carving to games and crafts to a trip through haunted Millview House.

Lethal Longford

Connolly Barracks in Longford has hosted the Dead of Night festivities in its atmospheric surroundings for several years now. A parade leads from Market Square on Sunday at 7pm to the barracks. The barracks itself is open from 6pm with fancy dress party for children and toddlers and fun activities especially for the under-14s.

Macabre Meath

shutterstock_46935526 The Stone of Destiny on the Hill of Tara. Shutterstock / Pyma Shutterstock / Pyma / Pyma

The county of Meath has a strong claim on the origins of Halloween, rooted in the Celtic festival of Samhain that was celebrated from 3,000 years ago in the Boyne Valley. And they don’t ignore their roots with the Spirits of Meath festival, which stretches over two weeks but has loads of activities focused around this weekend. “Fun by day, fright by night,” they tell us. Enough said – see schedule here.

Dastardly Derry

The Banks of the Foyle festival has the largest Halloween parade, not just on the island of Ireland, but in Europe. This is its 30th anniversary so it’s a good time to visit, especially for the fireworks display over the Foyle on Monday night which are generally amazing. Look here.

Chilling Cork

pv 271016 jazz 6 Michael MacSweeney / Provision Michael MacSweeney / Provision / Provision

A slight alternative to the spooky-centric festivals elsewhere, Cork’s Jazz Festival traditionally overruns the city on the October bank holiday weekend. It’s worth noting that there is a family jazz programme in the CIT Cork School of Music that children might enjoy, as well as the free street performances throughout the weekend. And if scares are necessary, it is just €5 per child for the Black Cat treasure hunt and other fun activities at the (we’re told) haunted Cork City Gaol museum from Halloween Monday through to Friday.

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