Finding her match in Ireland

by Monday, January 21, 2019

Continuing this month’s festival theme, here is Guest Traveller Ngaire Keane’s dispatch about Europe’s biggest singles gathering, the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, in County Clare, Ireland…

Ngaire Keane.

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival is one of Ireland’s oldest traditional festivals, with a 160-year history. Whilst now a tourist attraction that is all about the craic [news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, in Ireland], originally, it was for bachelor farmers seeking a bride.

I’ve been meaning to go ever since I first visited Lisdoonvarna in 1995 (where some of my Irish relatives live) and I decided to make it happen since I’m young(ish), single and ready to mingle. I’ve probably been to Lisdoonvarna at least 15 times; Christmas, Easter, Summer holidays – always to see my wonderful family who have embraced me with love and excellent hospitality, simply because I was one of the Australian cousins.

The last weekend of the Matchmaker Festival in September (which is now a month-long celebration) saw me witness the little town as I had never see it before. Pubs filled to the brim, day and night, friendly faces and a whole lotta dancing.

All ages, from 18-88, are catered for at this all-singing, all-drinking, all-jigging good time. The day sessions are reserved for the ‘older’ crowd (read 60+) but don’t imagine that it is reserved. The music and song is LOUD, LOUD, LOUD and also don’t think you can sit to the side and quietly watch the oldies perform their well-perfected dance moves learnt from yesteryear. Be assured, some old codger is going to grab you, despite your insistence that you don’t know their style of dance, and whisk you around the dance floor till you’re breathless from dizziness and the high energy of it all. Everyone is friendly and happy and cups of tea, hot chocolate and the occasional beer or tipple of some spirit are a flowing. And then the night session begins.

The younger attendees have arisen from their vampire-like slumber and they are ready to PAR-TAY. Again, the music is loud, but the singing and conversation are louder. Drinking establishments that I have previously seen with a handful of people are choc-a-block. It’s a choice to take your life in your own hands when you decide to approach the bar. Some places are so busy, they leave bottles of soft drink/mixer on the bar, so when you order a spirit, you’re given it in a cup and expected to take care of the rest of the drink yourself. It’s a fabulous experience.

At 2am, you can expect to see the Main Street awash with people (despite the rain) and anyone foolish enough to want to drive through there can expect a bit of a wait as no one’s really bothering to get out of their way! And the lines of the local take-away shops in the wee hours of the morning are so long, they must be doing more business in a night than they would do in a week in the off-season. Hot chips with curry sauce anyone? Don’t mind it I do! To be sure!

I have never tired of visiting Lisdoonvarna, as I love my family there so much, but this was surely one of the greatest trips I’ve made, and all done and dusted in a whistle-stop, 36-hour trip made from London. Shannon Airport is only an hour away, making it really accessible. I would definitely go the festival again – my friend Dawn and I met loads of wonderful, friendly people as the Irish sure know how to have a good time.

Ngaire’s Top Tips when attending the Matchmaker Festival:

  1. Pack your dancing shoes!
  2. Book accommodation well in advance – up to 60,000 people attend over a month in a town that has under 750 residents.
  3. Hire a car and check out local sites such as the nearby Cliffs of Moher, Ailwee Caves and The Burren.
  4. Weather can be changeable – take clothes for Summer and Autumn wear.
  5. Talk to everyone!


For more information about the festival, click here.