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Who doesn’t love Halloween? People of all ages from around the world celebrate this holiday by going to cemeteries to visit their dead loved ones, wearing costumes, trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, and attending spooky-themed parties. But did you know that this commercialized holiday has a Celtic origin?
Halloween originated from an ancient Gaelic festival Samhain, a time when pagans honored their gods and remembered the dead. What better way to celebrate Halloween than doing it the Irish way?
Wherever you are in Ireland, we’re sure there’s at least one Halloween event and destination in store for you.
Here are 8 of the Best Ways to Celebrate Halloween in Ireland.
Visit Ireland’s Most Haunted Places
Ireland is a picturesque destination by day and a hotbed for paranormal activities when the sun goes down. Every county has its fair share of haunted destinations that aren’t for the faint-hearted.
To begin with, Ireland has a handful of haunted castles and mansions with a gruesome past to discover. We have Leap Castle and Charleville Castle in Offaly, Malahide Castle in Dublin, Ballygally Castle in Antrim, and Loftus Hall in Wexford, to name a few. We also have haunted asylums, gaols or jails, pubs, and even a lodge that used to be a place for worshipping Satan.
Find Spooky Night Tours
Ghost hunting and listening to horror stories are just weird when done in broad daylight. Halloween is best celebrated at night. The good news is, you can find several eerie night tours to enjoy.
Wicklow, for example, has “Wicklow’s Historic Gaol”, an atmospheric jail museum experience where visitors can mingle with the souls of the inmates who were tortured in one of the most haunted buildings in Ireland.
Stay in a Haunted Hotel
If visiting a haunted building for a few hours isn’t spine-tingling enough, why not stay in one overnight? Ireland has a couple of old houses and castles turned hotels in which hoteliers and former guests claim to be haunted.
There’s only one way to find out whether the tales are true or not: stay in one of these haunted hotels. Just beware of the random knocks on your door in the middle of the night: it might be a 250-year old housekeeper.
Attend a Unique Festival
If you’re into the classic Halloween tradition of pumpkin carving and parades filled with scary cosplayers and giant sculptures, you may check out local Irish festivals held during the last days of October and the first days of November.
Virginia Pumpkin Festival at the end of October is one event not to be missed. The festival includes a pumpkin maze, holiday parades, and Ireland’s largest fancy dress party.
If you’re in Belfast, witness Halloween Monster Mash, its biggest Halloween event. The event lineup includes an array of street theatre, wicked arts and crafts workshops, a range of food and drinks, fairground rides, and the largest fireworks display in the city.
Galway Ireland has Macnas Halloween Parade, the largest free event for Halloween which brings over 70,000 people onto the streets. Macnas is an award-winning Galway based theater company that collaborates with artists, audiences and communities. The parade includes Macnas giant creations, sculptural images, pyrotechnics, bespoke costumes, and epic performances to live music.
The Irish capital, Dublin City, has its own annual Halloween festival called the Bram Stoker festival. From the 25th to the 28th of October, Dublin celebrates the Irish novelist who created Count Dracula, the infamous vampire character. Expect spooky activities over the long weekend including a Seance, hours of ghost stories, and even a vampire-inspired food tour.
Join Haunted Ghost Tours and Pub Crawls
Irish people love folklore and ghost stories the same way they love their booze. Why not combine these things in a haunted pub crawl? It’s definitely a notch higher than your usual end of October Halloween party at a local bar.
Every city has an ancient past to discover. The guided ghost tours, which are a part walking tour and part pub crawl, allow you to stroll through the medieval and early Viking era, and visit pubs with histories of hauntings and stories. They’re best enjoyed by those who’re easily spooked.
Experience Halloween at Lullymore Heritage Park, Co. Kildare
If you’re a fan of horror houses and spooky theme parks, then Lullymore Heritage Park in county Kildare has a treat for you. “Halloween Happenings”, a weeklong event, combines terror and fun with haunted holograms, terror trains, and treasure hunts. And oh, watch out for zombie attacks too!
Your family will have a long yet fun day so make sure you pick a nice hotel in Kildare where you can relax and sleep comfortably. Of course, skip the haunted ones unless you’re ready for another spooky encounter!
Celebrate Halloween in Ireland, the Irish way by recognizing the holiday’s Celtic origin: the ancient Irish festival of Samhain, which marks the end of the harvest season in Celtic tradition.
The GAA Museum in Croke Park is one of the best places to spend this festival. The museum has specially themed tours and tales perfect for families.
Step Into a Haunted Maze
What’s scarier than getting lost in a maze? Perhaps getting stuck in a “haunted maze”. But if you’re in for a special treat, Greenan Maze in Wicklow hosts “The Haunted Maze” event each year. Aside from the fun-day event, the green landscapes also offer tea rooms and opportunities for seeing arm animals and taking scenic nature walks.
Disclaimer: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, make sure you check if the attractions listed above are open for tourists.