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To Ireland!

So... Trip alone for a month or two for a 21-yr-old new college graduate. I'm off to Ireland! I am going to be a music teacher; I love culture, nature and history. What do I need to see? What bars do I need to visit to hear the best music? Also, I'd like to collect some instruments while there. Any advice would be appreciated!

Posted by
31 posts

Congratulations on your graduation and upcoming trip! First I would get an RS Ireland guidebook, and then another one from a different company such as Lonely Planet because I think there might be more "young" stuff to do listed in those books.

County Clare, and especially the town of Doolin, is known for it's traditional music, but music is not hard to find anywhere in the country. If you start your trip in Dublin, do the Musical Pub crawl and ask the musicians about their favorite pubs (whether in Dublin or elsewhere) for music. They will take you to some of the best pubs for music during the pub crawl.

Try these websites: ...

Probably the best instrument to collect that is definitely Irish is the drum called a bodhran... the Irish bagpipes would be another possibility, but I understand they are difficult to play (and probably expensive). Then of course there is the Irish harp, but probably way too expensive to buy and ship! :)

As for nature, there's the Burren in County Clare, Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal...

I would be remiss if I didn't tell you to search this message board for previous posts like yours. Good luck and have fun!

***EDIT: Forgot to mention Donegal Sessions, something that I believe was a monthly event in County Donegal in the summer of 2007. We saw some local musicians as well as Tommy Peoples, a famous fiddler, at a church hall one night.

Posted by
333 posts

I'd suggest listening to some of the great Irish vocal artists like Christy Moore, Luke Kelly, The Dubliners, The Wolfe Tones, etc. if you haven't already. A lot of their songs will be about towns or places in Ireland and knowing the songs will give you a bit more meaning and background.

Also, every region will have a distinct style/sound which is usually because the musicians in that area all went to the same teacher. You'll hear about the Donegal Style, West Clare Style fiddle playing, etc. Cork is big for banjos.

A lot of the artists will tour small venues, community halls and music festivals so it's well worth knowing who you are interested in and check their websites to see their tour dates and schedules. has a great article on Bunbeg-Gweedore and the Donegal Style.

Walton's music shop in Dublin is supposed to be great although I don't know about their prices. Hundreds of people come in play, practice and try out all the instruments.

One last tip. Check out the internet for Irish radio streams. The pop channels will have Lady Gaga and 80's hits all day but there are some great finds on some of the smaller stations.

Posted by
3 posts

You guys are fabulous. Thank you!

I've done a lot of studying on Irish music, being my heritage. As America is a country of immigrants, I am determined to teach music from an entirely cultural standpoint. That's why I want to collect instruments! I plan to travel a lot in years to come, collecting information and instruments and getting to know people. I'm excited! The Irish are so steeped in musical tradition it'll be like an auditory Candyland for me!

Posted by
124 posts

I am also a music teacher and have visited Ireland in 2006 and 2009. The first trip was from Dublin, around the South half of the island to Doolin, and back over the center of Ireland to Dublin. Doolin was fabulous for music, but our best session was in Dungarvin the 2nd night. A group of 15 guys on a golf outing (all from Cork) came in and 8-10 of them sang, mostly laments. They were awesome. Most of all the other music we heard on both trips was instrumental, with an occasional vocal solo, usually w/o accompaniment. On the 2nd trip, we started in Shannon, with the first 3 nights in Galway. Galway was great for trad music. We liked Taffes Pub, and Tig Coeli, and the Crane pub had 2 floors, with music on both levels.

We found the music good in Westport also, most notably Matt Malloys Pub, of Chieftain fame. There were a couple other good pubs in Westport, but can't recall now the names.

The Donegal County and Town are well know for music, but we needed 1 night to rest up so didn't get down to the pubs.

A must see, as far as I am concerned is the Colman music center in Gurteen, a wee village just south Sligo. The center has a state of the art theatre where they hold sessions once or twice a week during the summer. Also nearby is the Michael Coleman Heritage sight, his home, all restored and open to view about 8 hours a day. The music center in downtown Gurteen is dedicated to him, and there is a listening center upstairs where you can hear thousands of recordings of trad music of all styles and instruments. The gift shop below has lots of CD recordings and also instruments and music books for sale. We spent the better part of 2 days there. Highly recommended! We ended up in Ennis, and did hear fairly good music during our last night in Ireland, but it was an off-night for Ennis, and there are more choices other nights of the week. Hope my spelling isn't too bad, as I wrote this quickly....any questions, I would be happy to try to answer.Dan

Posted by
1357 posts

If you're heading to Galway, make a side trip to Roundstone. They have some of the best handmade bodhrans. We picked one up years ago. A bit bulky to bring back home, you'll have to plan to have that as a carry-on, but well worth it. You can even buy a shoulder bag specifically for carrying it. Their website is

Posted by
710 posts

I read somewhere that a Irish tin whistle would be a good buy for musicians in Ireland. I just did a google search under "videos" for Irish tin whistle. There are many videos to watch it being performed. You could do the same under YouTube.
I also read there is a music store in Doolin. You might want to buy one at the beginning of your trip and learn to play it on your travels.

Posted by
710 posts

Hi Alex, I was wondering what was your major instrument in college? Vocal, Strings, Wind, Brass, Percussion, Keyboard? That might help you decide what you might want to start buying near the beginning of your trip, so maybe you can "join in" at local "traditional music" pubs on your travels.

Posted by
635 posts

On the Dublin musical pub crawl the musicians leading it talked about bringing something to a pub music session even if it's not traditionally Irish. It's entertainment for everyone and they believe everyone should join in.

One of them also said that he has a bit of a panic attack when someone he doesn't know pulls out the Irish drum (bodhran. There's a lot more to playing it than treating it as a small drum.

The Irish bag pipes appear to be more than a hobby type instrument. It is very complicated and has eight reeds that need careful adjustment. One musician described it has living in a small house with eight woman that don't like each other or you.

Posted by
3 posts

Yes, Uillean pipes are terribly complicated, I wouldn't dream of attempting that anywhere public and especially not in Ireland. I'm a brass player and I play horn (which if you've ever seen one is rather bulky and not a very good travel companion). I used to play fiddle and mandolin, but it's been so long I don't remember anything.