Ireland Is the Birthplace of Halloween: Here’s Why It Makes for an Incredible Fall Getaway

by  Yvonne Gordon | May 6, 2024
iStock/Derick Hudson

Halloween, on October 31, is a time for fun and a maybe few ghostly scares. It’s a mischievous time of year when you might run into ghouls, witches, or costumed characters on the street, see a home covered in spider webs, be asked to give a treat to a stranger, or have a trick played on you. But did you know that all of this tradition dates back to ancient times in Ireland?

On the island of Ireland, November 1 was the time of the traditional pagan harvest festival, Samhain, with feasts taking place on that day and the evening before to celebrate the end of autumn and the start of winter. This time of year was also said to be the time when the veil between this world and the other world was the thinnest, with All Souls Day taking place on November 2, so spirits could pass through from the other world around this time.

iStock/Derick Hudson

Because of this, people dressed up in costumes to disguise their identity from the spirits when they were collecting for the harvest festival. As they went from door to door collecting offerings and treats for the festival, they would also carry lanterns made from carved turnips to light the way and to ward off evil spirits — the tradition of carving pumpkins at Halloween is said to have originated from this.

Nowadays, the last weekend in October is a three-day holiday weekend in Ireland, and special Halloween-themed festivities take place all around the country. Fall is also generally one of our favorite seasons in Ireland.

Keep reading to see why fall is one of the best times to visit Ireland:

Comfortable Temperatures


Autumn or fall is a great time to visit the Emerald Isle. Although the weather is a little cooler than in summer, average fall temperatures range from daytime lows/highs of 50F to 62F in September and 40 to 50F in November, with between 12 hours (September) and 8 hours (November) of daylight for exploring outdoors. There are often many bright, sunny days when the hills and forests display their autumn colors, and since the official tourist season runs until the end of October most attractions will be open.

Hiking and Whale Watching


Ireland has six national parks with great hiking trails that show off the dazzling fall colors, and autumn is also a good time of year to take a whale-watching tour along the Atlantic Coast to see dolphins, minke whales, and fin whales. Just make sure to wear warm layers. 

Music, Film, and Seafood Festivals

iStock/Derick Hudson

The end of October sees the legendary Cork Jazz Festival take place in the city of Cork, with venues coming alive with live jazz, swing, bebop, and fusion performances from Irish and international performers over three days. There’s music everywhere in the city, from large venues like Cork Opera House and the Everyman Theatre to brass bands on the streets and intimate late-night gigs in smaller pubs. This year (2024) will be the 46th year of the festival, and organizers expect around 100,000 visitors. 

Another popular fall festival to look out for is the annual Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival that runs for two days at the end of September. This festival celebrates the great food and live music of this region in the West of Ireland. During the festival, you can also attend the World Oyster Opening Championships, which sees competitors from around the world show off their oyster-opening speed and technique. There’s a festival kitchen, cooking demos, talks, and workshops.


Other events to look out for in the autumn or fall are the Dublin Theatre Festival, which runs for around 18 days with a variety of Irish and international productions taking place around the capital city; the Belfast International Arts Festival in Northern Ireland, which runs from mid-October to early November and has everything from music and dance to spoken word and other arts performances, and the Wexford Festival Opera, where the whole town comes alive with opera and other related events, and you can also enjoy free guided tours in Wexford town and county.

Halloween Events

In Co Meath, the Púca Festival is celebrated in the towns of Athboy and Trim over three days and four nights. This year, the festival, which is named after the Púca, a shape-shifting spirit, runs from October 31 to November 3. 

One of the highlights of the festival is the evening live music performances in the big top tent. There’s also a small harvest market during the day, with local foods such as farmhouse cheeses, meats, and honey, plus displays of some local crafts at the Déise craft village. 

Derick Hudson /iStock

Trim is home to the ruin of a magnificent Anglo-Norman castle and you can sign up for haunted tours of the town of Trim, boat trips on the River Boyne, and walking tours of the Hill of Ward. In the evening, watch fire displays with tribal drumming under the castle walls or see the colorful costumes and performances at the opening procession.

Then, there’s Europe’s largest Halloween Festival, Derry Halloween, which takes place over four nights. Events are designed for all ages, and many of them are free. 

Courtesy of Derry Halloween

The highlight of the festival in this stunning walled city is the colorful carnival parade, which boasts lots of creative costumes and designs. There are also fireworks, walking tours, and the (free) Awakening The Walled City Trail around the city streets and the walls, with music, pyrotechnic performances, drone shows, and acrobatics.

Everyone is encouraged to dress up at Derry Halloween so start planning your costume. Also, if you’re in Ireland for Halloween, try some barm brack — a fruit cake that often has “charms” hidden in it, such as a ring or coin, which were meant to tell the future (the ring symbolizes marriage, and the coin predicts wealth).

Courtesy of Derry Halloween

Other great Halloween events include ghost tours in the medieval city of Kilkenny in the southeast, the Boo experience at Leahy’s Open Farm in Co Cork, where kids can help a witch cast a magic spell, and the Halloween Trail and pumpkin picking at Mount Congreve Gardens in Co Wexford.

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