Dublin's Tradfest — a rare ould treat

Dublin's Tradfest — a rare ould treat

Lazy Bike's Hugh Flood on the tour

Dublin’s Temple Bar Tradfest has stormed the capital once again with more jigs, reels and balladeers than ever. Foot-tapping James Ruddy reports.

As the haunting strains of The Parting Glass floated across Dublin’s National Stadium, it was clear that Dervish are not just a great Irish band but a towering milestone on the nation’s unending musical journey.

Their sell-out concert showcasing their 2019 album, The Great Irish Songbook, was one of the undoubted highlights among so many as Dublin was treated to the country’s biggest traditional music festival.

From the rowdiest ancient pub in Temple Bar to the classical majesty of St Patrick’s Cathedral and the Great Hall at Malahide Castle, the music resounded.

Thanks to a well topped-up Leap public transport card, my partner and photographer Sue Mountjoy and I roared round venues on buses and trams at the speed of two teenage Riverdancers to catch as much music as possible.

We based ourselves at the comfortable and very central Trinity City Hotel and were even able to include a few off-festivals extras, like an e-bike tour, the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum, a look at the Irish Film Institute and a walk in the footsteps of such greats as The Rolling Stones and U2 at the iconic Windmill Lane Recording Studios.

But, apart from some fabulous concerts and plenty of Guinness and craic at the likes of the Victorian Palace Bar, we crowned it all with a visit to see the ancient musical instruments in the Archaeology Section of the National Museum of Ireland.

Alongside fearsome swords and battered shields were the bronze horns and rattles (crotals) that Celtic tribes would blow and shake to create fear in their enemy at the start of many a gruesome battle.

These are the first-known metal musical instruments in Ireland. Preserved in bogs for more than 3000 years, they struck me as the undeniable proof of the importance of music to the Irish heart and soul in both war and peace throughout time.

Pipers and bodhrán battle drums have also been used to create fear in foes and to propel Irish (and Scottish) warriors to even greater levels of courage in the face of imminent death.

It may well have started there – and even earlier with the discovery of the 4000-year-old wooden Wicklow pipes – but it is clearly continuing in the much less combative and far more entertaining surroundings of Tradfest. Long may it reign.

A great local guide

A few recommended Dublin experiences

While you're in Dublin why not try these non-festival experiences, try these:

A guided e-bike trip with Hugh Flood, of Lazy Bike Tours (www.lazybiketours.com) who took me on a quirky tour of the medieval remnants of the city, and the Liberties. This is where singer Imelda May grew up alongside the Guinness workers, happy to have a job and a house for life.

A look round, a coffee and a cake and even a movie at the wonderful Irish Film Institute (https://ifi.ie/) where Frances Wilde, acting marketing head, told me she was looking forward to the Oscars, in which Ireland has more nominations than ever. Fingers crossed.

Spend several hours (if you have them) marvelling at EPIC, the Irish Emigration Museum (https://epicchq.com/) where a pass takes you through a highly techno and interactive journey of the Irish leaving home. Such emigration has created a worldwide diaspora numbering 76 million today.

Walk in the footsteps of musical giants for a guided tour of the Windmill Lane Recording Studios (https://www.windmilllanerecording.com) where the guided tour reveals such anecdotes as the six months the Rolling Stones spent there recording Voodoo Lounge. Mick Jagger rang up reception asking for a tour but they hung up thinking it was a hoax, Luckily he rang back. Countless other clients have included U2, Kylie, Tom Jones, Lady Gaga and Ed Sheeran.

You could spend a whole day at the National Museum of Ireland www.museum.ie with its sections: decorative arts, country life and natural history, but I loved the guided archaeology tour which includes prehistoric musical instruments and the best ancient gold collection – some older than the pyramids – in the world (Greece, apparently, has more).

For some very useful information on the ‘proper’ pubs, cafes, shops, nightlife and everything the locals – and canny tourists – frequent, we used the book, Dublin – Like a Local ( DK Eyewitness £12.99).


To check out some of the best Irish folk and trad festivals this year, try: www.irelandbeforeyoudie.com/top-10-best-traditional-irish-music-festivals-in-ireland-ranked/

For Failté Ireland recommended trips and accommodation:

www.discoverireland.ie/accommodation and www.ireland.com/en-gb/

If you want the best Trinity City Hotel rates, go direct to: https://www.trinitycityhotel.com/en

For cut price flight deals from the UK to Dublin, try: https://www.skyscanner.net/

For cut-price deals on airport parking, hotels and lounges, try Holiday Extras to save at least £100 on the gate price. One night’s accommodation at the Novotel, with five days’ parking with Airparks Drop and Go at Birmingham Airport, for example, is available from £245.70. Visit www.holidayextras.com or call 0800 316 5678.