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Finding music

We're planning a one week trip to Ireland as a warmup for a two week Scotland trip. This is our fourth trip to Ireland, and have seen most of the "things" we care to. Our priority is to find trad every night. We'll be going in the first week in June, and our past experience is that even in music towns like Killarney or Clonakilty, before July the music is usually one or at most two nights a week - never on the night we're there. This is a 2021 trip, so I'm guessing things will be back to the new normal by then.

So our plan is to spend three nights in Dublin, three nights in Galway, and two nights in Dingle, where we've never been, and driving the peninsula would be new. . Our usual trip is one night stands in many places, so spending more time in one spot is novel - and hopefully a little slower paced.

I know where to find music in Dublin and Galway, but Dingle is an unknown, I had thought about substituting Doolin for Dingle, but our last visit to Doolin (many years ago) seemed to feature more American and German musicians than locals - and it was crowded, even in May. Dingle is a lot of driving if we're going to be disappointed in finding trad sessions. Shortening the drive and going to Sean's in Athlone and Clarke's in Lanesborough would be a lot easier!

We've never been to N. Ireland either, but between distance and Brexit complications, I'm not very excited about Belfast instead of Dingle, although I'll look at it. As an Ulster Scot, it would be an opportunity to look for family connections.

Thoughts?

Posted by
5017 posts

Dingle is full of great trad, you will have no trouble finding all you want. I enjoyed a session in a hardware store (Foxy John's Pub & hardware), with a couple guys playing fiddle and guitar in front of a wall filled with screw drivers, wrenches, rat traps and cans of WD-40. The music was great and the venue was real.

Although that night of trad was wonderful, and was one of the highlights of our trip, the rest of what we saw and did around Dingle was even better than the music. I would not go all the way there just for the music (and I do love the trad). Don't miss the beauty of the land just outside town (don't miss a day trip to Great Blasket Island).

No shortage of trad to be found in Galway, too. That said, no way would I burn 3 nights in Galway on a short trip. It's an OK town, but just nearby....go to Inish Mor in the Aran Islands, spend 2 nights and 3 days there....I'd trade any day in Galway for another day there.

Posted by
32 posts

We were on Inish Mor last trip, and the music was so-so - early June was slow. Our favorite sessions of last trip were at The Crane Bar and Carrol's Pub in Galway. I thought we'd try Trad on the Prom for something a little different. In Dublin, the Brazen Head Sunday afternoon session was magical, as was the Cobblestone all day long. I'm considering The Merry Ploughboys as another thing we wouldn't normally do. I'd appreciate any warnings about both "packaged" events.

I planned to do the Dingle peninsula circuit, though not Blasket. We enjoy exploring the odd ruined castle more than abandoned houses, and there's plenty of hikes without spending the time fitting into the ferry schedule.

Our first trip was a total ad lib (no real plan, no reservations) and was wonderful. I think those days may be past, although it's just two of us this trip, so maybe...

Posted by
5017 posts

Just to be clear: I would not go to Inish Mor for the music. If you're there and catch some decent music, that's an extra bonus. I'd go to Inish Mor for the landscapes, the isolation, and the experience of being alone in some of the most spectacular, evocative scenery in the world. To each their own. Enjoy.

Posted by
3046 posts

I’m in precautionary quarantine at the moment, away from my Rick Steves Ireland book. But his book has details on Foxy John’s, as well as other venues. One that’s exceptional, but only with music certain nights each week, and could require advance purchased tickets at busy times (maybe less so in June) is at a small church. Sit in the pews and have outstanding trad with outstanding acoustics. It’s a very reasonable concert, no beverages involved, early evening. Then you can head to a pub for more the same night!

Posted by
32 posts

Sitting at my desk typing this, I can see snow covered mountains in the distance, where it's not blocked by thick forest and wildflowers. I appreciate solitude and beauty more than most, I think, although I may have become slightly complacent, living where I do.

Besides listening to a good Ullian piper, our favorite parts of Ireland are when we stumble on something like Carey Castle or Carrowkeel, where we're the only car at the car park and have the place to ourselves. Those moments are getting rarer.

This may be way off, but my experience of music in pubs over 25 years is that although I'm happy to see the cigarette smoke gone, the spontaneity seems reduced. In the 90s, people just interrupted their conversation and pulled instruments out of nowhere and played, then put them away and continued drinking and talking. Then there seemed to be a little more quid pro quo in the playing (free meals or drinks), and now it's just gigs, where the players march in, set up, play for 2.0 hours and leave. Maybe I'm just going to the wrong places. Of course miss-remembering the good old days is what got the US into our current pickle!

BTW, I googled enough about Trad on the Prom and Merry Ploughboys to scratch them both from the plan. What was I thinking?

Posted by
3046 posts

Again, without my book as a reference, or doing an Online search for you, I won’t attempt his last name. But a Dingle local, first name Eoin, may be the finest piper who ever swung an elbow. He’s the one who organizes the church performances, different performers from one night to the next. At our visit, he played the opening tune, then turned things over to others. There’s a great record store in Dingle, too, described in Rick’s book, with recordings of Eoin’s and lots of others, too, if you want some trad to take back home.

Two years ago, we passed thru Derry (aka Londonderry) one afternoon, where a downtown music and food festival was going on. A decent- sized Ulster city, it’d be a good place to start considering your trad quest.

Posted by
1155 posts

Just make sure that whatever you book is refundable if you are not able to travel. Please check with the CDC, the State Department and the airlines before traveling to make sure it is safe to travel. This virus is not going away anytime soon and until we have a vaccine available to the public, we need to be mindful that travel may not happen even in 2021. It is important to consider that getting the virus, you may pass it on or get very sick or have to be in lockdown and the last thing you want is to be stuck somewhere you can't get home from. Just something to consider as you make plans. I know this is not what you asked, but something to think about.

Posted by
70 posts

We visited Dingle a few years ago. It was early March and Trad was available every night, (some of sessions were "Tradder" than others). The highlight was a session featuring Eoin Duignan. We had stopped by the music shop and the proprietor told us that we should not miss the opportunity to see the renowned Uilleann piper that was playing that evening. I believe the venue was O'Sullivan's Court House Pub. Great memories.

Posted by
32 posts

Made a note to see Eoin. Maybe I'll spend three nights in Dingle (and add Blasket as a day trip).

Posted by
3046 posts

Right you are, Dave! His hair and beard have sure gotten lighter since 2011. We’re all a bit older, but glad to hear Eoin’s still going strong in Dingle. May music continue to keep things going.