Dress up with a dragon ... at Shandon, Cork
Are you Cork’s freakiest family? No need to be modest, now. If you feel you meet the qualifications, then get in touch with Cork Community Art Link, who are currently looking for 20 of the city’s freakiest families to participate in the seventh annual Dragon of Shandon Parade. You’ll get advice on costumes, face-painting and so on from the organisers (though of course, you may already look the part), before joining hundreds of zombies, vampires and other ne’er-do-wells as they depart with the dragon from the Butter Exchange at 7pm on Oct 31. After coming full circle back to Shandon, a Monster Ball follows at 8pm.
Details: 021-4212914; www.dragonofshandon.com; free.
King Henry may spook the opposition, but Kilkenny’s hurling legend has nothing on Alice Kyteler. A wealthy 14th century innkeeper, Kyteler was accused of witchcraft after several of her husbands died in mysterious circumstances and, though she fled the city to avoid being burned at the stake, the present-day owners of Kyteler’s Inn swear she still watches over the place. You can hear — and sing along to — her story at the Alice Kyteler Musical on Wednesday, Oct 31 at 8pm. Families and the more fleet-of-foot may prefer the Witches’ Race (€5, charity event) taking place at 3pm. Entrants must be in witches’ attire.
Details: 056 7721064; www.kytelersinn.com; €10.
For thousands of years, Burren farmers have marked the end of summer by herding their cattle up onto winter pastures, a tradition known as ‘winterage’. From Oct 26-28, a new community festival celebrates a tradition dating back to the original Samhain (which literally means “summer’s end”). Events include fancy dress for kids at Kilfenora’s cathedral and graveyard, an outdoor concert by the Lismorhaun singers, and guided walks aiming to immerse guests in this ghostly landscape and Ireland’s pastoral heritage. On Sunday afternoon, everyone is invited to join in a re-enactment of a Winterage Cattle Drove from Carron.
Details: 091-638096; www.burrenwinterage.com.
Has Virginia’s pumpkin festival made a pact with the devil? That would certainly explain the rise and rise of an event which, although just a few years old, is expected to attract some 20,000 visitors in 2012.
Taking place from Oct 26-30, highlights include a headline concert by The Hothouse Flowers, a giant pumpkin weigh-in (last year’s winner clocked 1,320lbs), and spectacular fireworks displays over Lough Ramor, but there are small-scale scares for families and children too. Think of the spooky forest walk at Deerpark (Friday night) or most terrifyingly of all, a Garth Brooks Experience performed by country singer Trevor Smyth, at the Pumpkin Dome. Oh, and did we mention Ireland’s largest fancy dress party?
Details: www.pumpkinfestival.ie; Hothouse Flowers tickets from €15.
Lions, cheetahs and gorillas might seem scary enough without the addition of a Halloween horror-fest, but that hasn’t stopped the country’s top zoos. Dublin’s Boo at the Zoo features two days of tricks and treats on Sunday, Oct 28 and Wednesday, Oct 31, with activities like face-painting, scary arts and crafts, and creepy keeper talks taking place from 12pm to 3pm. Meanwhile Fota is running Halloween Scary Nights from Oct 27-30, with a special train ride giving close encounters with its animals (and other surprises) under cloak of darkness. It’s only suitable for children over the age of six.
Details: dublinzoo.ie (€15.50/€11); www.fotawildlife.ie (€15/€10).
Bunratty’s Halloween holiday adventure takes place from 1pm to 5pm on Oct 29 this year. As usual, expect the tourist village to be decked out with jack-o-lanterns and carved pumpkins, with old-fashioned games like coin-bobbing and snap apple, and with magicians, cackling witches and creepy-crawlies scattered throughout. Watch out for the “creepy crypt” set up in the castle basement, where Dracula and Frankenstein lie in wait, and definitely wear your scariest threads... prizes are on offer for the most creative attire, and there’s free face-painting on arrival to complete your look.
Details: 061-360788;shannonheritage.com; €33.60 for a family of four.
Between Vikings, Normans and Irish Rebels, there’s no shortage of spooky stories in Co Wexford. The county isn’t shy of Halloween events, either. Take Hook Lighthouse, where Spooky Hooky Ghostly Tours take place every evening from Oct 27-31, promising encounters with long-dead monks, lightkeepers and sailors wrecked on the neighbouring rocks. Or what about Fright at the Museum, where the Irish Agricultural Museum at Johnstown Castle hosts a spooky tour, birds-of-prey demonstrations and other events on Oct 28 and 31? Throw in a ghost hunt at Enniscorthy Castle (Oct 26) and scary story times, ghost trains and a monster masquerade ball at the aptly-named Gorey, and you’re made.
If you haven’t made it with your little poltergeists to the Traas family fruit farm just outside Cahir, Co Tipperary, make it your business to do so soon. It’s a peach of an operation, with freshly-plucked fruits and home-pressed juices sold from crates in an old warehouse, a cool little playground for kids, and picnic tables to wolf down any sambos you bring along. Over the Halloween weekend, children can pick their own apples too — with the youngest orchard opening on Sunday, Oct 30. The trees are small and easy to reach, you can take a trailer ride out there, and you only have to pay for what you pick. Bring wellies.
Details: 052 744-1459;
School is out for nine days straight (count them) from Oct 27, doubling the toil and trouble for the hard-working parents of Ireland. So why not make your way to Westport, where the annual family scare-fest can occupy your brood of ghouls for an afternoon? Running from Oct 27 to Nov 4, the festival includes storytime with the White Witch, jack-o-lantern carving, fireworks and even dance workshops aimed at choreographing the moves to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. The Pirate Adventure Park and tours of the (haunted) house — built on a dungeon once owned by Grace O’Malley — are perennial attractions.
Details: 098 27766; westporthouse.ie; from €18/€14.85 (online).
Some farms specialise in livestock, some tillage, some dairy. But Meath’s Causey Farm? Its focus is scaring the pants off people... during Halloween, at least. Its ‘Farmaphobia’ scare park combines a ‘nightmare manor’, ‘psycho path’ and ‘zombie morgue’ to frighten the bejaysus out of adults and teens, and there are Tiny Terror activities offering souvenir-sized scares for younger kids too (think Ghostbusters discos, crazy mazes and the like). Elsewhere in the Royal County, you can park your fear at Tattersalls Country House’s drive-in movie nights, where iconic horror movies like Friday the 13th and The Blair Witch Project can be viewed from just €20 per vehicle. In a clever touch, the movie soundtrack is broadcast on a special radio frequency, meaning additional scares are delivered via your very own car stereo. Details: tattersalls.ie/house; farmaphobia.com (€16, over 16s only).
Looking to add a macabre twist to your mid-term break? With Halloween and the school holidays falling together this year, there are options aplenty.
Killarney’s Castlerosse Hotel has a three-night special this mid-term, bundling together B&B, breakfast, and dinner for a family of four, from €375. The offer runs from Oct 29 to Nov 4, based on accommodation in a family room. There’s a supervised Halloween programme for kiddies, and tennis, football and basketball, and adults get free golf at the Castlerosse Golf Club. Or take the Killarney Ghost Tour (killarneyghosttour.com; €20pp).
Details: 1850 770000; castlerosse.com
There’s no shortage of events in Kilkenny over mid-term, from the Savour Kilkenny food festival (Oct 25-29; savourkilkenny.com) to candlelit tours of Shankill Castle (shankillcastle.com). At the Newpark Hotel, two nights B&B with one dinner costs from €149pp, with kids under 12 staying, eating and enjoying the Crazy Cats kids’ club for free. Kids also go free at the Ormonde Hotel, where a two-night family B&B break starts from €109 per night.
Details: 056-776 0502; oflynnhotels.com or 056- 775 0200; kilkennyormonde.com
Who knows what ghostly tales lurk in the ruins of an 800-year-old castle? Take the family to East Cork’s Castlemartyr Resort, and find out. The five-star retreat is offering three nights’ B&B in a family room, with one dinner for Mum and Dad in the AA Rosette Bell Tower Restaurant, a children’s high tea each evening, and a spooky treat on arrival, from €597. Fun and games will be organised for children throughout mid-term, and adults can bewitch themselves in the classy spa and swimming pool.
Details: 021-421-9000; castlemartyrresort.ie.
There’s no shortage of weird and wonderful events in Waterford this Halloween — from the Waterford & Suir Valley Railway’s ‘Spooky Express’ to children’s events celebrating the history of Halloween, at the Waterford County Museum, in Dungarvan. Dungarvan’s Park Hotel has two nights’ B&B for a family of four, plus one dinner (for adults only) from €199. The Cliff House has two nights for two adults and one child, with one dinner and a half-day at Ardmore Adventures Camp, just two minutes away, from €455 (a steal for this five-star).
The deal is available from Monday, Oct 29 to Thursday, Nov 1.
Details: 058-42899; flynnhotels.com and 024- 87800; thecliffhousehotel.com
At Parknasilla Resort & Spa, two nights’ B&B with one dinner (for adults) are available at Halloween from €199pps — kids under four stay for free; kids aged 4-12 pay €30 per night.
Activities include tennis, swimming, archery, a fairy trail and a round of golf.
Details: 064-6675600; parknasillahotel.ie.
Not all short breaks can (or should) be summarised as ‘2B&B+1D’.
If you fancy something a little more individual, why not go the old-fashioned, self-catering route?
Trident Holiday Homes has short breaks from €250, and a 10% discount on seven-night breaks at certain locations.
Going to press, seven nights in a mews house at the four-star Castle Oaks Holiday Homes in Castleconnell, Co Limerick, was available from €525 (sleeping five), with the Park Court holiday homes in Dublin 4’s Sandymount going for €735 (sleeping four).
Details: 01-2018440; tridentholidayhomes.ie.
NB. All offers correct going to press, but subject to change and availability.