When you think of Ireland, what comes to mind? For many people, it’s the lush green landscapes or the wild, rugged coastlines. Others think of the warm and welcoming people, traditional Irish music, and cosy pubs.
Then, of course, there’s St Patrick’s Day! Every year on the 17th of March, communities from Belfast to Cork come together to celebrate the Irish spirit and pride.
The joyous nature of this celebration has seen St Patrick’s Day spread around the world. So much so, in fact, that people travel great distances to enjoy it in Ireland.
At Overland Ireland, our tours of Ireland are the perfect way to experience everything the Emerald Isle has to offer.
And if you’re planning a visit to coincide with St Patrick’s Day, we’ve put together this handy guide to help you get the most out of your experience.
If you have any questions for us in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Who Was St Patrick?
Did you know that St Patrick wasn’t Irish? Many aspects of his identity are a mystery, but he is believed to have come from Wales or Scotland.
As a teenager, Patrick was taken prisoner by Irish raiders attacking his family’s estate. These raiders took Patrick to Ireland and held him captive for six years.
During his captivity, Patrick was put to work as a shepherd. Outside, afraid, and alone, he found solace in Christianity.
Eventually, Patrick escaped and returned home. However, he soon had a revelation that he should return to Ireland as a missionary and spread the word of God.
After religious training and ordination as a priest, Patrick returned to minister to Ireland’s existing Christians and to convert the pagans.
Due to his familiarity with Irish culture and the native language, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional rituals and beliefs into his teaching as opposed to eradicating them.
Patrick left his mark across the island of Ireland, from County Mayo’s Croagh Patrick to the iconic Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary.
But his legacy is felt most strongly in the Northern Irish counties of Armagh and Down.
After his death on March 17th, 465 AD, he was laid to rest at Down Cathedral.
For an even more meaningful visit, consider learning Irish traditions before you travel.
Why is St Patrick’s Day Celebrated?
The date of March 17th commemorates the passing of St Patrick. However, the celebration itself is also known as the Feast of St Patrick.
As such, the roots of the occasion lie in celebrating St Patrick’s success in spreading Christianity around Ireland.
And as the word “feast” suggests, the consumption of food and drink has always been at the heart of festivities!
With time, St Patrick’s Day began to incorporate Irish culture and heritage more generally.
This is why, today, St Patrick’s Day celebrations involve festivals, public parades, céilithe, and the wearing of green clothing.
For even more travel inspiration ahead of your trip, read our Irish Adventure Bucket List: 10 Things Every Adventurer Must Do!
What are St Patrick’s Day Traditions?
Interestingly, large-scale St Patrick’s Day events such as festivals occurred in the US before Ireland. They only started happening here in the 20th century.
However, they are now a firm fixture in the calendar. From cities to towns and villages, you can find multi-day festivals celebrating St Patrick’s Day across Ireland.
Keep scrolling down to find our recommendations for some of the best places in Ireland to visit for St Patrick’s Day.
As touched on above, it’s now traditional to wear green clothing — preferably with shamrocks!
The connection to green lies in our country’s association with the colour. It comes from our flag and our nickname of the Emerald Isle.
The shamrock became a national symbol as, according to legend, St Patrick used it to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans.
Modern festivities include traditional Irish foods, such as soda bread, and the quintessential Irish tipples, both Guinness and whiskey.
If you’re a whiskey drinker, you can also partake in the tradition of “drowning the shamrock”.
This involves putting a shamrock in the last glass of whiskey on St Patrick’s Night. You then see the drink off, toast to St Patrick, and toss the shamrock over your left shoulder.
Start planning the rest of your Irish adventure with our recommendations for the must-see sights when visiting Ireland.
The Best Places to Visit in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day
Of course, choosing the “best” place to visit on St Patrick’s Day is entirely subjective.
But to help make your decision easier, some of the leading contenders include:
A mass of green-clad people totalling around 100,000 is evidence enough that Dublin’s St Patrick’s Day Festival is hugely popular.
The main event is the wonderful parade on O’Connell Street, but there’s far more to enjoy, including a funfair, carnival rides, Irish music, street theatre, crafts, and Irish language activities.
As you’d expect from Ireland’s cultural capital, Galway puts on a show for St Patrick’s Day.
The city showcases community groups and local artists, so you can expect plenty of great entertainment, from watching talented performers to hearing live music.
St Patrick himself also makes an appearance!
The picturesque setting of Dingle is another brilliant option for St Patrick’s Day.
The abundance of local pubs host parties that go on into the wee hours of the next morning.
You can also enjoy the Dingle Fife and Drum Band marching through the streets.
As one of Ireland’s most beautiful historical cities, Kilkenny is already a wonderful place to visit on St Patrick’s Day.
But with the relatively recent addition of the city’s TradFest, Kilkenny has festivities to rival even Dublin’s!
TradFest is a show that includes the best of traditional dance, song, and music, not to mention workshops and family activities.
Get the Authentic Irish Experience with Our Tours of Ireland!
Whether you’re visiting Ireland for St Patrick’s Day or any other time of year, we’d love to show you around the place we call home.
Browse our range of tours in Ireland to find the perfect fit for your needs. And if you’re looking for the ultimate in freedom and flexibility, we can design one of our tailor-made tours in Ireland around you!
For more information about any of our tours, please feel free to get in touch.