We recently met Mark Graham, a man who makes his living from attending festivals in Ireland, (this must be right up there on the list of ‘dream jobs’, yes?) Some years ago, Mark opted out of a broken banking system and did something completely different.
Using the deposit he’d been saving for a house he never bought, Mark set out on a quest to attend three festivals a week in Ireland for a year. Tired of hearing that Irish people ‘got carried away’ during the boom, he wanted to explore our towns and villages for himself and meet these people who had allegedly ‘lost the run of themselves’ in better economic times.
What he discovered was the best of us – a countryside alive with weird and wonderful festivals, organised by people who work hard to make their communities better places to live. Festivals like our own Earagail Arts, or Electric Picnic, Swell and The Ballymaloe LitFest of Food and Wine. His experience details the range of entertainment on offer on any given day, from storytelling on Cape Clear, to bog snorkelling in Monaghan and cloud appreciation in Cork. But festivals are only as good as the people that go to them, so it’s up to us to get out there and experience them.
On the strength of his blog, Mark landed a weekly column with The Ticket in The Irish Times, so you can keep up to date on his adventures there. He’s also written a book and is currently touring the country with ‘Festival Heads’, a photographic exhibition of his travels.
And while we’re on the topic of festivals, anyone heading to Knockan Stockan this weekend, have a blast! And congratulations to all involved in this year’s Lennon Festival – a great weekend culminated in a spectacular fireworks display on the quays in Ramelton (as captured by Damien O’Connor in these great photos)…
Having worked in Dublin for years, we’re now spending a lot of our time in the northwest and it has occurred to us that a lot of people never consider Donegal as a place to visit. After a quick over-the-phone survey of our ‘down-the-country’ friends, the general consensus is that we’re very far away. But that argument should have gone out the window with the Slane, Ardee and Monaghan bypasses. They shortened the journey from Dublin to approx three hours, which is pretty much on par with other destinations on the western seaboard.
Here’s our top ten reasons to head northwest this summer (it’s worth pointing out that some of those included in this list are clients, while others are featured because we admire what they do)…
1. Wild Atlantic Way – get away from it all with breathtaking views, rugged beaches and stunning scenery. We have it all, and more…
2. Earagail Arts Festival – there’s no doubt that these two weeks in July (12 – 26) are a brilliant time to visit the county. It’s a two week celebration of music, theatre, visual arts, film, literature, circus and carnival. It’s also one of the flagship Donegal events along the Wild Atlantic Way and there’s something for the whole family to enjoy.
3. Donegal is one of the best places in the world to experience the traditional authentic Irish pub. We’re absolutely spoilt for choice from Conways in Ramelton to Nora’s in Kilmacrennan and The Traveller’s Inn in Milford. Sip a pint by the fireside, meet the local characters and listen to traditional music sessions you’ll never forget
4. Sample our home brew – Kinnegar Brewing produces a delicious range of farmhouse beers, including Baxters 1867, which is exclusive to The Traveller’s Inn, Milford. Visit the brewery to get the inside track on the brewing process and sample some of the range
5. We have accommodation to suit all styles at really affordable rates, from period homes like Rathmullan House, Castle Grove and Frewin (pictured below), to alternatives like the wonderfully luxurious Donegal Glamping in Portsalon
6. We live outdoors so come and enjoy our beautiful landscape. Go hill walking or surfing, climb our mountains and swim in our lakes. We’re also reliably told that Donegal has some of the best golf links courses in the country – Rosapenna, Portsalon and Ballyliffin
7. Cliffs of Moher eat your heart out, because we have the highest sea cliffs in Europe at Slieve League. Take a boat trip to appreciate the sheer size of the cliff face.
8. We’re brimming with creative types, from artists to designers and everything in between – you never know what or whom you might discover… like Ramelton artist Zara McDaid, who recently won the opportunity to have this piece displayed in Times Square
9. Visit our islands – when’s the last time you had an island picnic off the west coast of Ireland? What’s stopping you? Check out the ferry timetables and make it happen. And why not schedule your visit to coincide with Arranmore’s inaugural Swell Festival?
10. Finally, don’t just take our word for it, take a leaf out of Hollywood star Paul Rudd’s little black book – after all, (to paraphrase his Anchorman character) ‘60% of the time, he’s right every time!’. Here he is telling David Letterman about his recent trip to Donegal…
Enjoy your summer, wherever it takes you and feel free to send us your suggestions for future posts… email [email protected]