Top 25 Ir­ish Au­tumn ex­pe­ri­ences From black­ber­ries to Bram Stoker, JIL­LIAN BOL­GER, NI­COLA BRADY and PÓL Ó CONGHAILE have 25 things to do for a spec­tac­u­lar au­tumn

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the Cork coast­line, you can ex­pect to find minke whales up un­til Novem­ber, with hump­backs and fin whales ap­pear­ing later in the sea­son. Dol­phins, the lit­tle show-offs, ap­pear more reg­u­larly, as do har­bour por­poises. — NB DE­TAILS: Whale Watch West Cork ( whale­watch­west­cork.com) runs four-hour trips from Bal­ti­more Har­bour for €50pp. Cork Whale Watch ( cork­whale­watch.com) tours also cost €50pp, de­part­ing Reen Pier. IF YOU LIKE THAT, TRY: Take a boat trip to Lam­bay Is­land for bird (and walla- IR­ISH IN­DE­PEN­DENT by) watch­ing (from €45pp; sker­riessea­tours.ie). Bal­li­nasloe’s Oc­to­ber Fair couldn’t hap­pen any­where else (dis­claimer: I grew up in the town, mar­vel­ling at its sur­real trans­for­ma­tion every au­tumn). De­scribed as “the largest of its kind in Europe” by The Times of Lon­don in 1804, it’s no less of a won­der to­day, with ev­ery­thing from fil­lies to for­tune tell­ers packed onto the Fair Green at the heart of town. This is an old-school, spit-in-the-hand, dung-on­the-boots-style event, so for­ays onto the Green are not for the faint-hearted. Jiv­ing com­pe­ti­tions, dog shows, soapbox der­bies and fire­works are an­other story. — PÓC DE­TAILS: Oc­to­ber 1–7, 2017 ( bal­li­nasloe oc­to­ber­fair.com) IF YOU LIKE THAT, TRY: The Horse Coun­try Ex­pe­ri­ence in Fethard, Co

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16 Septem­ber 2017 Tip­per­ary, is a new mu­seum with in­ter­ac­tive dis­plays and the skele­ton of Sadler’s Wells (€7.50pp; fhc­ex­pe­ri­ence.ie).

Noth­ing says ‘au­tumn’ like head­ing out, bas­ket in hand, to for­age in the bushes and hedgerows for black­ber­ries. Take in­spi­ra­tion, as gen­er­a­tions have done, from Sea­mus Heaney’s poem Black­berry Pick­ing: “You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet / Like thick­ened wine: sum­mer’s blood was in it...” Or why not take a wan­der down the La­gans Road, where Heaney used to walk to school? It’s close to the new Sea­mus Heaney HomePlace in Bel­laghy, Co Derry. Best of all, black­ber­ry­ing won’t cost you a penny. — NB DE­TAILS: sea­musheaney­home.com IF YOU LIKE THAT, TRY: Want to get the kids in­volved in food? Make it fun with the Boyne Val­ley Food Se­ries ( boyneval­ley food­series.ie). Events range from spud cel­e­bra­tions to Strawfest, and run through to late Oc­to­ber.

Fancy a se­ri­ous scare at Hal­loween? Head for Wex­ford’s Hook Penin­sula. It’s home to Lof­tus Hall, said to be the most haunted house in Ire­land — a card game in­volv­ing the devil is just one of its ter­ri­fy­ing tales. With boarded-up win­dows, the creak­ing man­sion now hosts ghost tours and para­nor­mal lock­down in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Book ahead so you can re­cover with af­ter­noon tea (€20 a head) in the for­mal gar­dens. — JB DE­TAILS: lof­tushall.ie; day­time tours from €10pp. For more events tak­ing place in Ire­land’s An­cient East, see ire­land­san­cien­teast.com IF YOU LIKE THAT, TRY: Hike to the Hell­fire Club in the Dublin moun­tains. The city views are breath­tak­ing from the at­mo­spheric ruin, as are the tales of cloven-hoofed strangers and stormy nights ( dublin­moun­tains.ie).

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