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
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
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).