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St Patrick's Day 2016 - Everything you need to know from parades and concerts to history and legacy

Your guide to St Patrick’s Day festivals and events in Belfast and across Northern Ireland for the whole family to enjoy.

Belfast

  • If you’re in the centre of Belfast on March 17, you will not be able to miss the festivities taking place in the city including the annual St. Patrick’s Day Carnival Parade and Concert.
     
  • Belfast city centre will be awash with colour as the parade leaves City Hall at midday, making its way down to Custom House Square, where a free concert featuring local musicians and dancers, along with special guests, will take place.
     
  • The atmosphere will continue in the coming days with a special St. Patrick’s Day Weekend at St. George’s Market, from March 18-20, featuring live traditional music throughout the weekend, special trader offers and lots of family fun.

Times: Parade leaves Belfast City Hall at 12 noon; concert begins at 12.45pm

The parade leaves City Hall at 12 noon, travels across Donegall Square North, down Donegall Place, Royal Avenue, turns right onto Donegall Street, onto Bridge Street, left onto High Street and ends at Custom House Square where the free concert will be held.

The rainbow city themed carnival, designed by Beat, will feature community groups from across the cultural spectrum alongside professional and amateur performers, musicians and dancers.

Free concert at Custom House Square

From 12.45pm to 3pm enjoy a free outdoor concert hosted by Cool FM’s Breakfast presenters Pete Snodden, Paulo Ross and Rebecca McKinney.

Co Antrim

  • Get into the St. Patrick’s Day mood early by celebrating all things Irish at the St. Patrick’s Day Festival at Giants Causeway. Taking place on March 12-13, there will be face-painting, balloon modelling and a treasure trail, perfect fun for the whole family.
     
  • On St. Patrick’s Day itself, the annual Ballycastle and District Horse Ploughing Championship will take place. A traditional event for more than 100 years, it promises to be fun for all the family with many skilled ploughmen taking part and a great bank holiday atmosphere.

Co Armagh

  • One of Armagh’s key events of the year, is the St. Patrick’s Festival which takes place from March 10-20, opening with a celebratory event honouring St. Patrick through words, music and dance, the John Anderson Choral Event.
     
  • Over the following ten days, a wide range of activities and events will take place including an Ulster Orchestra concert in the Church of Ireland Cathedral, a Celtic Spirit concert in the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and one of Northern Ireland’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day precessions on the day itself.

Co Down

  • From March 11-19, Newry will be playing host to its St. Patrick’s Festival, a week of fun and frolics for the whole family including a variety market, arts and crafts workshops, musical events and more, culminating in a parade with a Feasts and Wild Beasts theme.
     
  • Also, on March 17, you can pay a visit to St. Patrick’s Day at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum where a unique festival of music, seasonal food and crafts will be taking place, with costumed guides taking visitors back to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations of a hundred years ago as well as a themed quiz to be solved.

Downpatrick

  • Beoga in Concert, The Great Hall, Downpatrick, March 16. Beoga (Gaelic for ‘lively’) have become one of the most exciting and influential groups in modern traditional Irish music, whose unique sound features the twin duelling accordions of Damian McKee and Seán Óg Graham, pianist Liam Bradley, four times all-Ireland bodhrán champion Eamon Murray and Niamh Dunne on vocals.

    They will be joined by renowned Irish Dancers including home grown sensation Celtic Storm who have toured the world in various shows.
     
  • Following in the Spiritual Footsteps of Saint Patrick, Armagh and Downpatrick, March 19. An opportunity to follow in the spiritual footsteps of Saint Patrick, starting at Navan Centre and Fort, through Armagh City to Slieve Patrick, Saul and Downpatrick.

    There will be a screening of the film, “Footsteps of St. Patrick” during the day as well as a night of traditional music from Cathal Hayden, Donal Murphy and Seamie O’Dowd. Begins at 10.45am with a bus departing Downpatrick at 9.15am. Pre-booking is essential through either Armagh or Downpatrick Visitor Centres.
     
  • St. Patrick’s Landing and Food Banquet, Inch Abbey, Downpatrick, March 13. The re-enactment of St. Patrick’s landing will take place at Inch Abbey, using the River Quoile where visitors will have the opportunity to purchase food from the medieval banquet. Begins at 2pm, with free park & ride available from Down Business Park at 1pm.
     
  • Artisan Food Market, St. Patrick Square, Downpatrick, March 17. The market will offer excellent food produce of local provenance in a traditional style marketplace setting. Make sure to visit and enjoy a tasty treat. From 10am – 6pm.

Co Fermanagh

  • As is the case every year, the Enniskillen St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be a lively event for all the family with a colourful parade and a family fun day, all happening on March 17.
     
  • March 17 also marks the start of Easter Extravaganza at Share Discovery Village, Lisnaskea which will give families lots to look forward to. Until April 3, visitors can enjoy a variety of land, water and art activities in one or two hour taster sessions.

Co Londonderry

  • Children and adults alike will enjoy the fun and excitement at Hezlett House as Leprechauns have escaped from the trees of Downhill and hidden themselves around the house. To join in with the Leprechaun Hunt and discover the fascinating story of Hezlett House, come along on March 17 from 10am.
     
  • St. Patrick’s Day also marks the beginning of Legenderry Food Festival in Guildhall Square in Derry~Londonderry, with opportunities to try and buy lots of delicious Northern Ireland produce, with a host of activities such as cookery masterclasses, live music and craft activities for kids.

Co Tyrone

  • Omagh’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations this year have the theme “Sharing Heritage and Traditions” giving everyone the opportunity to come out, get involved and enjoy the multicultural atmosphere and amazing display of creative talent on offer.
     
  • Also on March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day – The Emigrants’ Farewell at the Ulster American Folk Park. Watch a dramatic re-enactment featuring music and songs of the so-called “American Wake” when thousands of people left Ireland in the 18th and 19th Century.

History and legacy

St Patrick is a figure that fascinates many as his profile is iconic throughout the world, even inspiring buildings and landmarks to turn green in his honour on March 17. 

For those who would like to uncover more about the history and legacy of this renowned saint, there are lots of activities, trails and walks to try out which will help you to understand more about his life.  Visit his grave in the grounds of Down Cathedral or explore Armagh where two impressive cathedrals bear his name.

Follow the Saint Patrick’s Trail through a host of Christian sites at Bangor, the Ards Peninsula, Downpatrick, Newry and Armagh to uncover the fascinating links between Northern Ireland and St. Patrick.

Saint Patrick’s Way: The Pilgrim Walk is perfect for those who like to get out and about whilst also finding out more about the history and heritage of an area. Starting at the Navan Centre in Armagh, this 82 mile signed walking trail takes participants through some of Northern Ireland’s most spectacular scenic landscapes before ending at Saint Patrick’s final resting place, in the grounds of Down Cathedral. Participants can stamp their Passports at the 10 locations along the route and then present their completed Passport to receive a certificate of achievement.

Places to take in along the way include the Palace Demesne, Acton Visitor Centre and The Saint Patrick Centre.

To find out more about what is happening in Northern Ireland over St. Patrick’s Day or for further information on places to stay or things to see and do click on discovernorthernireland.com or visit your local visitor information centre.

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