Musical tours in Ireland
From traditional to new music
Hubs and I have been exploring moving back to Ireland for a couple of years now and have been housesitting around the Island looking for our forever home. One of the things that draw us to this beautiful country is the music and we are slowly ticking off musical tours in Ireland from our bucket list. Music in Ireland ranges from the traditional to superb blues guitarists, rock and roll, punk and all the modern incarnations. Recently I was contacted by Chill Insurance and given a copy of their new guide Discover Ireland’s Musical Drives in exchange for writing this post – have to say no hardship there.
This musical tour guide is really pretty cool and gives you plenty of information, destinations and background history on Ireland’s music scene. It can’t begin to cover all the music trails, history and venues in the country as this is a country with a very long heritage of songwriters, poets and singers.
Musical Tours in Ireland
When we first stayed in Tipperary, we searched high and low for a little pub called Jim o’ the Mill, which had the reputation of being Ireland’s best pub for traditional music. We only had this photo from the Irish Telegraph to go on. Only open one night a week on Thursdays they apparently only have one beer tap serving Guinness but you can get bottled beer, cider, shorts and wine. The place is incredibly hard to find but it is supposedly on route 503 between the villages of Ballycahill and Upperchurch in County Tipperary. Sadly, we never did find the place and so more than likely missed out on one of the most iconic trad music nights we might ever have seen.
However, from Tipperary to Donegal and over to Dublin there are literally hundreds of pubs with live “trad” music as it is called here. Or in the case of one of our Donegal friends the “diddly i di” music.
In Dublin, a Pub Crawl or tour is a great way to see some traditional and non-traditional music being played live. From the 12 Pubs of Christmas to literary, haunted, musical and more, pub crawls are a fantastic way to not only get to know the Irish themselves but to make new friends, and visit pubs you might just never see as a tourist.
Generally, these are led by professional musicians who perform tunes and songs while telling the story of Irish music and leading you through a series of pubs that offer a wide variety of Irish music. The crawl will show you some pubs where local boys used to perform and treat you to some authentic Irish Trad music.
For a more rock and roll, tour check out Best of Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Walking Tour by Letz Go City Tours. They will take you on a Dublin rock and roll tour from iconic sites like recording studios to checking out the buskers on Grafton Street.
Located 10 minutes from the City Centre in a beautiful 18th Century townhouse, The Irish House Party is a truly unique experience in Dublin. This new tradition began with serious Irish musicians revolting against what they considered the naff or cheesy Irish entertainment that was going around the pubs and local venues. It features traditional Irish music and Irish dancing at its very best, performed by All Ireland champion musicians, dancers and entertaining presenters.
A particular Don’t Miss in Dublin is the Christmas Eve busking performance by Glen Hansard on O’Connell Street. Hansard started this tradition in 2009, he usually tweets before the event to bring out the crowds, and all the money raised during the performance goes to the homeless organisations that Hansard supports. Over the years he has been joined by Bono, Imelda May, Hozier and many more.
You can’t talk about music in Dublin without a mention of the famous Molly Malone statue and the traditional Irish song In Dublin’s Fair City, which has become almost an anthem for Dubliners. Thousands of “handsy” folks have rubbed the statue for luck resulting in the bronze colour being rubbed away as you can see from the photo.
Since we are living up in Bangor (just outside Belfast) these days, we also wanted to check out some famous (or infamous) music venues in the City
Since 1862, the Ulster Hall has been the venue of choice for artists like Charles Dickens to Van Morrison. The Ulster Hall has been the site of many famous and iconic performances. Led Zeppelin first performed their single ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in the hall in ’71. Pink Floyd the Rolling Stones and AC/DC have all performed here. It is one of the smallest venues in Belfast but it still holds a central place in the hearts of music lovers here in the North. In 2018, there will be concerts here from Paul Weller to choirs, operas and orchestras.
The Limelight has been a live music venue in Belfast since 1987 it has recently been re-branded and since the 80’s it has showcased some of the best live music around. From bands like The Stranglers, Joe Strummer, Oasis, Primal Scream The Dropkick Murphys. The Limelight is still an incredibly popular place for live music, as a small venue, it provides a brilliant space to listen to live music in a more intimate atmosphere than the big SSE Stadium on the waterfront. Its recent refurbishment costing millions of pounds has made it the venue to see live music in Belfast.
Unfortunately, one of Belfast’s greatest record shops is now closed down. The Good Vibrations store run by Belfast’s “godfather of punk” Terri Hooley. Good Vibrations was made famous by the film Good Vibrations that documented the Belfast music scene from the 70’s when the shop first opened. Apparently, a photo of Hooley in a coffin holding an electric guitar accompanied the announcement of the shop closing. Sadly, this was on hubs to do list once he reached Belfast and now it’s gone.
It wouldn’t be a musical tour if we didn’t hit some vinyl shops though and according to the Belfast Telegraph, though these are the best vinyl shops in Belfast and I am sure they will manage to make it on to hubs “to do” list:
Head Record Shops Belfast
Along with a vast selection of the latest CDs, DVDs, games and merchandise, Head hosts an impressive array of vinyl albums from some of the world’s biggest artists and bands.
Dragon Records Belfast
A visit to Dragon Records is a must for vinyl-hunters. Start rummaging through an eclectic range of genres, including rare 7-inch records, and you could find yourself here for hours unearthing some true musical gems.
The true pilgrimage of any music fan (according to hubs) however is to attend the Rory Gallagher Music Festival in Ballyshannon where the musician was born. From all-night sessions to film screenings and live blues music, everywhere the festival is a huge draw for Rory Gallagher and the Blues fans alike. Tickets are available now for the 2018 Festival, which takes place at the end of May. If you get a chance this music tour is definitely one you should go for.
And while you are in Donegal at the Rory Gallagher Festival be sure to check out some of the pubs playing RA (IRA rebel songs).