Your guide to 30 of the best Autumn experiences in Ireland


Viral footage of whales breaching off the Irish coast have been appearing on Instagram feeds all summer. 

But did you know autumn is the best season of the year to experience our largest marine life? 

September and October are the months when many species like humpbacks migrate through our waters with crisp, still autumn days offering some of the best chances of a sighting.

Tours available, with tickets at €60 from:

A taste of cider in Armagh’s apple orchards

Armagh is Ireland’s very own apple country so the harvest season makes the perfect time to explore the Orchard County. 

A smattering of scenic cider farms in the area offer visits, from a blossom-to-bottle tour at Ballinteggart Farm to an afternoon at Long Meadow Cider where you can even bake some traditional griddle bread dolloped with homemade apple chutney.

Stay in a house, a very big house in the country

Staying at a country house is always a dream but when that Virginia creeper starts to redden and the first fires of the season start to crackle, there’s something even more atmospheric about a stay. 

Collections such as Hidden Ireland and Ireland’s Blue Book have some dreamy properties: some of my favourites include Carrig House, in Kerry, Kilmokea House, in Wexford and Roundwood House, in Laois.

Take a walk around Doneraile Estate

For Downton vibes — but without the heating bill — a visit to a country estate always makes an inviting autumn activity. 

Some of my favourite spots open to the public include Westport House, in Co Mayo, and Castletown House, in Co Kildare, while Doneraile House, in North Cork, is a wonderful spot with its manor tours and parkland walks. 

Afterwards, enjoy afternoon tea at the Townhouse Café in Doneraile village.

Limerick plays home to Ireland’s national contemporary art exhibition

EVA, Ireland’s contemporary art biennial has returned for its 40th edition this year and is running in venues from a cathedral to a vegetarian café in Limerick City and beyond. 

The theme for EVA International this year is Citizenship and curator Sebastian Chicocki has created a guest programme featuring over 50 artists from Ireland to Ukraine.

Pictured at the Cork Opera House, Bricknasty brought the crowd to their feet as they kicked off the first night of the 2022 Guinness Cork Jazz Festival. Pic: Naoise Culhane Photography
Pictured at the Cork Opera House, Bricknasty brought the crowd to their feet as they kicked off the first night of the 2022 Guinness Cork Jazz Festival. Pic: Naoise Culhane Photography

Jazzmatazz and forward-facing sounds for Cork’s October Bank Holiday

October means jazz in Cork with the 45th edition of the famous festival taking place in the city from Oct 26-31. 

You can expect performances from top billing artists like Macy Gray, Morcheeba and Corinne Bailey, as well as all genres of jazz from avant-garde to bebop everywhere from the Cork Opera House to St. Lukes.

Hit the roads of Ireland and go antiquing

Love your interiors? And the open road? 

Then why not combine both with a weekend road trip to source the ultimate souvenir. 

Antiques have never been more in demand with the shift from fast furniture and whether you’re seeking a dream Davenport or simply a willow pattern cup, you’ll find a trove of options for various budgets. 

  • Check out the Gaiety Antique and Vintage store in Westport for inspiration.

Go mushroom-picking in Co Offaly

If you’d like to elevate your risotto game this autumn, pack the boot up for a mushroom picking excursion with a foraging expert Mary Bulfin (aka Wild Food Mary), in Co Offaly, who offers wonderful guided tours through the foothills forest of the Slieve Blooms where you’ll learn about everything from hedgerow herbals to native chanterelles. 

Tours include a lunch made from foraged ingredients and take place throughout the weekends of October.

Oktoberfeis melds the craic with the famous German festival

No, that ain’t a typo. Oktoberfeis is the Irish take on the famous Bavarian festival. 

But instead of Pils and pretzels, revellers can expect tankards of Irish stout, trad music, great local grub and an eclectic mix of craic. 

The event will be travelling across the island during September and October weekends with venues including the RDS in Dublin, the INEC in Killarney and Cork’s Rochestown Park Hotel.

Legendary artist Lavery celebrated in Dublin

For art lovers, the highlight of the autumn programme at the National Gallery in Dublin this year is Lavery. On Location. 

The exhibition in the Beit Wing will showcase the people and locations depicted by renowned Irish painter, John Lavery. 

Keep an eye out for his magnum opus, The Bridge at Grez

Food festivals are in the ascendant all over the country

The harvest season means a smorgasbord of food festivals taking place around the country throughout October and September. 

The fEast Cork festival is buzzing this very weekend in Midleton; in Meath, food lovers can indulge at Sheridans Irish Food Festival (hosted at the cheesemongers’ HQ in Kells on Sep 24), while one of the nation’s most lively events, The Dingle Food Festival, takes place Sep 29-Oct 1.

Púca Festival, Trim, Co Meath
Púca Festival, Trim, Co Meath

A festival in Ireland’s ancient capital, for a shape-shifting spirit at Samhain

Named after the shape-shifting spirit which appears during the Celtic new year, Púca is one of the biggest Halloween events in the country and takes place in Trim and Athboy in Co Meath.

This four day celebration of Samhain (Oct 27-31) will feature everything from contemporary Irish music to seanchaí storytelling all in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East.

Wexford Festival Opera is classically created – for everyone!

Whether you’re an opera aficionado or you don’t know your soprano from your baritone, The Wexford Opera always rolls out the red carpet to all guests. 

Along with gala concerts, daytime events packages include two recitals including lunch and an afternoon pocket opera. 

Spike Island’s transformation continues with after-dark tours

Spike makes a top destination at any time of the year, but come autumn this legendary island’s After Dark tours take the experience next level. 

From Cobh, you’ll travel to the island to experience a fully guided tour through the abandoned cells and ramparts of this former fortress and prison. 

Don’t miss the last boat home!

Enter the Marble City with a trip to Kilkenny Castle

The medieval streets of the Marble City are particularly magical at this time of year, not least when they lead you to Kilkenny Castle. 

The 13th century fortress features various exhibitions, guided tours while its parkland features acres of land for walks and they even host a 5K run every Saturday morning.

Boyne Valley Flavours Festival, Co Meath
Boyne Valley Flavours Festival, Co Meath

A Samhain celebration for the senses in the Boyne Valley – the ancient heart of the island

Celebrating all things Celtic and culinary, past and present, the Samhain Festival of Food & Culture takes place in the bountiful Boyne Valley from Nov 2-5. 

The event features demos, tastings, a food safari, and cooking workshops for children, while long table suppers and panel discussions include notable voices of the Irish food scene. 

Add visits to the Hill of Tara and Newgrange to the itinerary.

Take a Murder Mystery Tour at Dublin’s National Wax Museum

Who dunnit? You’ll find out by channelling your inner Poirot this autumn at The National Wax Museum in Dublin. 

The self guided murder mystery tour is an immersive experience, exploring the museum and wax figures of famous murders before solving the crime. Suitable for ages 16+.

Retail therapy abounds in Kildare Village

Ireland’s largest outlet centre where you can shop for some seasonal plaid while sipping a pumpkin spice latte from the on-site Starbucks. 

Make a day of it with a visit to the Japanese Gardens at the National Stud and Newbridge Silverware’s Museum of Style Icons while Hartes in Kildare is a great spot for dinner.

See the turning of the leaves in Co Wicklow

Okay, Ireland may not be New England when it comes to its autumn foliage but there are many pockets of deciduous woodland in Ireland for pretty epic leaf-peeping. 

None more so than Beyond The Trees Avondale in Co Wicklow where you can admire the kaleidoscopic colours of oaks and beech from their lofty treetop walk.

Head along the river on the Shannon Cruise

The Shannon Erne cruising season operates until the end of October with autumn offering far more competitive rates than peak summer season. 

Operators such as Emerald Star offer boat hire from Portumna and Carrick-on-Shannon.Three-night hire rates from €304, based on a three-berth vessel — a pretty good deal and timeline to explore Lough Derg.

Hike and climb your way around Ireland’s mountain ranges

Whether you’re thinking of braving the Comeraghs, the Galtees, or even the McGillycuddy Reeks, autumn often delivers wonderful hiking conditions of great weather and fewer tourists.

Kerry Climbing has a full events calendar in autumn with guided hikes to Carrauntoohill and Torc Mountain.

For a more moderate level, there are walking gatherings happening across the country too.

The Skibbereen Walking Festival (September 22-24) has outings for all abilities while the Ballyhoura Walking Festival takes place from October 6-8.

See the best of the silver screen at Cork and Kerry International Film Festivals

The red carpet will be rolling out on Leeside for the 67th Cork International Film Festival (November 9-16). 

For the first time, the festival expands to also include the county, its prestigious awards will feature an inaugural Best New Irish Feature category. 

Elsewhere in Munster, the Kerry International Film Festival takes place in Killarney from Oct 19-22.

Belfast plays host to art from around the world during BIAF 2023

A weekend in Belfast is pretty tempting this autumn with competitive hotel rates and both the Belfast International Arts Festival (Oct 12-Nov 5) and the 23rd Belfast Film Festival (Nov 2-11) taking place in the city. 

BIAF welcomes a new season of contemporary arts and culture in dozens of venues across the city and will showcase international and homegrown artists in theatre, dance, music, visual arts, literature and film.

Pic: iStock
Pic: iStock

See the red deer clashing and locking horns in Killarney

Nothing says autumn like our national mammal, the red deer, appearing amid a scene of rusting ferns ands grasslands. 

Home to Ireland’s purest herd, Killarney National Park makes the perfect habitat to spot the animals with autumn being the time of year when stags lock antlers during the dominance-asserting rut. 

The Knockreer area of the national park is one of the best locations to spot the animals — just don’t stray from the walkways.

Grab your binoculars and go birding around the country

Grab the wellies and binoculars as autumn is an excellent time for birdwatching, be it as a family outing or as a seasoned twitcher. 

Along with nesting residents, many migrating birds visit Ireland at this time of year, from black-tailed godwits from Iceland to Brent geese from Arctic Canada. 

BirdWatch Ireland is an excellent resource on all the best bird-watching spots across the country, from Cuskinny Nature Reserve in Cobh, to Loop Head in Clare for some epic seabird watching.

See what glows in the dark as you kayak on Lough Hyne

Kayaking on West Cork’s most famous lake has become a bucket list pursuit for outdoors enthusiasts over the last decade. 

The lough is synonymous with its bioluminescence caused by the plankton in its waters glowing in a hue of blue in the right conditions and September and October are two of the best months of the years to experience it. 

Atlantic Sea Kayaking offer guided trips for €75.

Greywood Arts on Culture Night
Greywood Arts on Culture Night

Celebrate arts, music and culture everywhere in Ireland this Culture Night

September means Culture Night in Ireland, and come dusk on Friday, September 22, expect to find events popping up in cities, towns and even villages across the country. 

Greywood Arts Studios, in Killeagh, Co Cork, are hosting a Go Gallivanting evening where participants embark on an immersive tour of the village and help poet Kelly Mullins generate text as she creates her work live. 

The evening culminates with a live music performance.

Oyster season in our seaside cities and towns

Shucks away! The return of the ‘R’ months signals the season for shellfish lovers to neck back fresh oysters from the Irish coast. 

To savour some, attend the Galway Oyster Festival (Sep 22-25), enjoy an oyster farm tour with Sligo Oyster Experience or a shucking session at Flaggy Shore Oysters in the Burren. 

Or simply enjoy a helping of Joe Harty’s oysters at the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore.

Alright Pumpkin Patch, Co Meath
Alright Pumpkin Patch, Co Meath

A spot of Americana in Ireland’s pumpkin patches

Okay, picking turnips may be a more historically sound activity for Ireland, but this Instagram-friendly American tradition has been taking root across the country in recent years as a popular family pursuit. 

Options include the Galway Pumpkin Patch, Alright Pumpkin Patch in Meath and Joe’s Farm in East Cork. 

Some options even include corn mazes.

Fireworks at Derry Halloween
Fireworks at Derry Halloween

Halloween in the walled city of Derry

Derry is home to Europe’s largest Halloween celebration (apparently Salem, Massachusetts takes the global honours) with over 100,000 revellers descending upon the city annually for its much-hyped spooktacular. 

This year’s festival (Oct 28-31) includes the Awakening the Walled City Trail featuring a cast of real-life ghouls. 

Hotel beds are snapped up quickly for this event so now’s a great time to book.

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