Ireland has a long sporting history with famous names around the world in sports like soccer, rugby, golf and motor racing, but it’s horse racing that Ireland perhaps enjoys it’s greatest connection with. Some of the finest jockeys, trainers and indeed horses that the world has ever seen have some from Ireland. Names like McCoy, Walsh, O’Brien, O’Neill and Murtagh are all synonymous with Irish horse racing, and famous the world over in racing circles. Irish racing festivals are an experience like no other, and if you are planning a trip to Ireland over the next 6 months, here’s a guide to horse racing festivals to try and get along to.
6 Race dates in Ireland to pencil into your diary
1. Bellewstown Summer Festival
First up this summer in Ireland is the Bellewstown summer festival, which is a 3 day racing festival from 4th – 6th July. Located in county Meath on Ireland’s east coast, Bellewstown racecourse has some great views of the Mourne Mountains and the Irish Sea, Bellewstown is a simply stunning racecourse. With racing at Bellewstown dating back to 1726, this meet epitomises everything that’s great about summer racing in Ireland. The Crockafotha Hurdle Festival is the highlight of the festival.
2. Killarney Festival
Killarney is one of Ireland’s most popular holiday destinations, and with attractions like Killarney National Park, Ross Castle and the Lakes of Killarney, it’s easy to see why this town is so popular. If you’re planning a holiday in Killarney this summer, be sure to get along to the Killarney Race Festival which takes place from 14th – 17th July at Killarney Racecourse. Killarney’s ladies day is the highlight of the festival.
3. Galway Summer Festival
Perhaps the most popular of all race festivals on the Irish summer calendar is the Galway festival, which lasts 7 days (28th July – 3rd August). This festival attracts thousands of visitors to Galway City, with the highlight being the Galway Plate, a race that dates back to 1869. Again, ladies day (Thursday 31st July) is perhaps the most popular date on the calendar during the festival, but the city of Galway is one big party during race week, and well worth trying to get along to if you are in Ireland in August.
4. Listowel Harvest Festival
The final major summer racing festival in Ireland is Listowel Harvest Festival, a 7 day festival where there is a mix of flat and jump racing. The Kerry National Chase is the highlight of the festival, while ladies day once again proves to be popular. Situated in Kerry, this is a spectacular racecourse set in the stunning surroundings of the kingdom of Kerry.
5. Fairyhouse Premier Jump Racing Weekend
One of the first pre-Christmas meets, the Fairyhouse Jump Festival takes place at Fairyhouse Racecourse in Meath. Fairyhouse was the home of the 2014 Irish Grand National, and attracts a large crowd for the 2 day meet at the end of November. With the winter chill the air, be sure to wrap up if you plan on visiting this festival.
6. Leopardstown Christmas Festival
Last on our list is one of Ireland’s most popular racecourses, Leopardstown. Leopardstown Racecourse is situated in Dublin, and for many is the heart of racing in Ireland. If you happen to be spending Christmas in Ireland, mark this date in your diary. The Leopardstown Christmas Festival attracts visitors from all over Ireland, and indeed further afield, as they enjoy the 4 day action of racing, and the local hospitality. This festival has seen some big names in recent years and kicks off on St Stephens Day, which also happens to be the most popular day at the meet.
One more for the diary:
While it may not fall within the next 6 months, one of the busiest dates in the Irish racing calendar is Punchestown Festival, which will take place from 28th April – 3rd May in 2015. The track in Kildare is the home of Irish National Hunt Racing, and attracts thousands of visitors over the 5 days.
Whether you are a fan of horse racing, or simply a fan of festivals, a trip to an Irish race meeting will delivery you with an action packed day of fun, and you might also make some money along the way. If you’re planning on visiting Ireland in the future, try to get along to one of these race meets; you won’t regret it.