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'An iconic, bucket list experience': Major international Halloween festival set for Meath this year

Fáilte Ireland wants to attract a further 100,000 visitors to the country through the festival as part of the Ancient East initiative.

The Hill of Tara could be one of the locations chosen for the festival
The Hill of Tara could be one of the locations chosen for the festival
Image: Shutterstock/MNStudio

FÁILTE IRELAND IS set to spend €4 million on a new “large-scale international festival” to attract thousands of visitors to Ireland for Halloween. 

It wants this new festival to focus on creating a festival that will “celebrate Ireland as the original home of Halloween which began as the ancient tradition of Samhain – the ancient New Year”.

It wants to attract 100,000 visitors to visit the festival’s event in Meath and Louth as part of Ireland’s Ancient East with plans to generate €12 million in tourism revenue, according to the most recent tender issued by Fáilte Ireland.

Set to take place over three-days this year, it is hoped that the Samhain/Halloween festival will motivate people to come to Ireland at an off-peak time in the year, and disperse tourism outside of usual hotspots.

Fáilte Ireland lists multiple aims of the festival. This includes the curation and delivery of “an authentic, high-quality festival that is distinctive from other Halloween events in other cities in an exceptionally rich and historic setting”.

It also wants the event to become a “bucket-list cultural experience” that will motivate people to travel from around the world to visit.

Part of this will see the delivery of an “iconic and inspiring” outdoor night-time installation that will symbolise the ancient ritual of the lighting of the first fires in the surrounding hills in Meath, with specific consideration given to the Hill of Ward and the Hill of Tara. 

It is believed that the festival of Samhain first originated at the top of the Hill of Ward, or Tlachtga, near Athboy in Meath.

The Celts believed that was the spot where this world and the other world were closes to each other. The extinguishing of old fires and the lighting of new ones would be carried to other hills and light up the countryside. 

The installation must motivate significant numbers of visitors to come to it as well be captured visually and be shared globally. 

The programme must also incorporate existing festivals such as the Flame of Samhain Festival in Athboy and the Spirits of Meath Festival.

The proposed dates for this year’s festival is 31 October, 1 November and 2 November. It is hoped that this will grow to a 10-day event by 2022.

The number of visitors expected for this year’s festival is 20,000, with one in five of these coming from overseas. It’s hoped to increase that to a quarter of all visitors in 2020 and 30% in 2021.

Suppliers who win the tender to organise the festival will also need to make arrangements to accommodate the expected large number of visitors to the main site – whether that be the Hill of Ward, the Hill of Tara or Loughcrew – which may require the use of a shuttle service from nearby towns such as Trim, Kells and Navan. 

The project is set to formally “kick off” on 15 March, with a website launched and a draft programme confirmed by the end of June before its first event this October.

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Sean Murray

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