If you’ve never visited Ireland, you are totally missing out. Beautiful countryside. Fantastic (and historic) pubs. Friendly locals. Just an all around travel bucket destination. But did you know that Halloween started in Ireland? Jack-o-lanterns have roots in Ireland when hollowed-out turnips held candles to keep evil spirits away. When the Irish came to North America, penniless and bereft of their homeland, they still clung to Halloween, carving readily available pumpkins instead of turnips. Get ready to experience Halloween in Ireland, where it all began.
Halloween in Ireland
It’s not that anyone really needs a reason to visit Ireland, but for those who are fans of haunted tales and Halloween, have you considered planning your next vacation in October to celebrate Halloween in Ireland? If you’ve been there, you already know what a welcoming and enchanting (and sometimes hauntingly so) country. With a little help from our friends at Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland, we bring you Halloween in Ireland — and why you should visit in October. (Updated 10/28/20)
Why did Halloween come to be in the first place?
Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland shares insights on its upcoming October immersions into the worlds of the Druids of 5,000 BC, the later Celts (2,000 BC), and the early Christians.
Rob Rankin, founder and owner with Amy Rankin, explains:
“Iron Age, pagan Druids were superseded by the Celts for whom the Nov. 1 Samhain (pronounced “sah-win” or “sow-in”) marked a new year. At sunset on October 31, the line blurred between the real world and that of banshees and ghosts. Bonfires and scary masks kept away evil spirits. Food left outside doorways appeased these spirits. Colcannon of boiled potatoes, kale, and onions welcomed the visits of dead ancestors. Samhain morphed into the Christian calendar as All Hallows.”
Read More: 10 Samhain DIY Ideas & Recipes
Major Halloween Events in Ireland
Throughout Ireland, this mythology is recreated annually, dates varying but usually beginning the last week of October into the first week of November. Major events include:
- Galway: Macnas Halloween Parade, drawing upwards of 40,000 people who revel in the antics of costumed storytellers and Mummers.
- Dublin: Bram Stoker Festival, four nights of deadly adventures in the fashion of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
- Derry/Londonderry: Derry Halloween: Return of the Ancients with haunted harvest markets and a monster funfair
- Belfast: Halloween Monster Mash and Fireworks Display.
What are Ireland’s Halloween Traditions?
- Slices of fruit-filled Barnbrack Cake that contains a coin, a ring, or a rag, each portending an event of the new year;
- Costumes, a tradition dating to the Celtic Druids who believed that this would help them blend in with spirits up from the dead;
- Bonfire’s embers tied to dreams of a loved one.
Why You Should Visit Ireland in October
The charms of visiting Ireland in October, says Rankin, include:
- more elbow room with fewer visitors around;
- crisp but comfortable temperatures of around 57F with misty mornings;
- lots of kale to make colcannon;
- apples for ciders, blackberries, and raspberries;
- migrations of geese, ducks, swans, and wading birds moving south from the Arctic;
- Nature’s russet hues
Culturally Immersive Tours of Ireland
Now that you’re ready to plan your vacation to Ireland in October, Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland offers two styles of culturally immersive travel.
For October touring, the company recommends these two itineraries:
1. A 6 Day Ancient Ireland Tour helps shed light on Halloween.
Driftwood Journeys of Discovery has designed this mentally stimulating exploration of Ireland’s east coast for imaginations that yearn to burrow into bogs, scale crenelated towers, and shimmy up mountains for glimpses of Iron Age Celts sifted into Stone Age sands. These tours offer an intimate and in-depth looking and lingering pace, sans the physical exertion of the below Vagabond Adventure Tours.
Stories of buried bodies under ancient stones begin while passing through the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin where a wealth of spooky stories are stored. Visions of Vikings landing longboats, Norman invaders, medieval monks chanting, mineral-mad 19th-century industrialists and emigrants clutching destitute families abound. More than any other region of Ireland, this coastline defines how over 5,000 some years the Irish came to be.
Check their website for tour departure dates and pricing.
2. Wild Irish Rover Tour
Vagabond Adventure Tours are for active travelers who want to mix up hiking and biking and other outdoor adventures with history, culture, dining, and shopping.
This 8-Day Wild Irish Rover Tour from Vagabond Adventure Tours allows guests to experience at a leisurely pace the west coast of Ireland and the peninsulas of the southwest all the way up to Connemara.
As with all Vagabond adventure tours, the itinerary blends history, culture, and fun activity options as far from maddening crowds as possible, often on ancient roads that only Vagabond’s 4x4s can navigate. Guests hike, horseback ride, bicycle, kayak, and boat; live overnight like kings and queens in a castle; and bar crawl for two nights amongst Dingle town’s 54 pubs.
“Every stone we walk over has a story to tell. Ruins and castles are, after all, about people – and ghosts!” adds Rankin.
Click here for departures dates and rates.
Read More: Ireland is 1 of 5 Must see Destinations for Drink Lovers.
Thanks to Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland for providing content and photos for this post.