Belfast Telegraph

What's On: St Patrick's Day 2016 celebrations across Northern Ireland

By Linda Stewart

Fasten on your shamrock and paint your face - it's time for the world's greenest day.

From parades to leprechaun hunts, from Gruffalo encounters to American wakes - there are a host of ways to mark St Patrick's Day across Northern Ireland.

1. Downpatrick's annual cross-community parade features floats, bands, fancy dress and attractions. Themed 'Feasts and Wild Beasts', the parade leaves Ardglass Road at 2.30pm, arriving in the town centre at around 2.50pm. Face painting will be available at Knocknashinna playpark from 1-4pm.

2. Follow in the footsteps of St Patrick by taking part in the annual trek up Slemish, where the saint once tended sheep. Suitable footwear and outdoor clothing are needed for a moderate climb which is suitable for all the family. Free parking is available at Raceview Mill and Buckna Church Car Park, with a bus service - the last bus returns from Slemish at 4pm.

3. Belfast city centre will come alive with a colourful carnival parade leaving City Hall at noon and making its way to Custom House Square for a free outdoor concert headlined by Ben Haenow, winner of X-Factor 2014, and also featuring former Westlife star Brian McFadden. Access is on a first-come, first-served basis.

4. The Colin Glen Fairy Village will be launched today, along with a range of activities including the popular Gruffalo Trail, climbing wall, zip line, high and low ropes course, mountain biking, laser tag and archery. Colin Glen will be filled with music and entertainers and there will also be a craft village. Translink will provide a park & ride service from its Blacks Road site, running from 10.45am until 4.30pm.

5. Armagh Observatory is offering a free public tour of the buildings, grounds, astropark and human orrery - the first of its kind in the world - along with guided listening of 'aroundNorth', an outdoor sound installation by award-winning composer Robert Jarvis. The tour will begin at 4.30pm and last up to two hours.

6. Newry will host a cross-community parade leaving from the Quays Shopping Centre at noon - the theme is Feasts and Wild Beasts. It's part of a week-long programme of St Patrick's-themed events.

7. A fabulous multi-cultural parade will wind through Omagh town centre from 1.30pm, with the theme Sharing Heritage and Traditions. An arts and crafts fair will take place displaying authentic Irish and international items, including ceramics, jewellery, knitwear and tapestry.

8. Belfast's Fibber Magees will be staging its annual champ-eating contest, with registration opening at 4pm as contestants compete for the Champ of Champ title.

9. The organisers of the annual SPAR Craic 10k are inviting families to take part in the race, kicking off their celebrations in a fun, healthy way before joining the city centre celebrations later. The urban 10k starts at City Hall, linking west and east Belfast, taking in the cathedral and finishing at the Titanic slipways. Registration is open at www.aisling-events.com and www.athleticsni.org.

10. Leprechauns are on the loose at the National Trust's Hezlett House. To join in with the hunt and discover the fascinating the story of the house, visit from 10am until 4.30pm. It's also a good opportunity to visit nearby Downhill, with its Mussenden Temple, walled apple orchard and arboretum.

11. Ballycastle is hosting its St Patrick's Day Traditional Ballycastle & District Horse Ploughing March and Heavy Horse Show, which has been held in the area for more than 100 years.

12. Castle Ward is host to a special myths and legends edition of the fun family treasure hunt days held by Clearsky Adventure Centre, featuring the mischievous leprechauns and fairies of Ireland. Booking essential.

13. Enjoy a traditional St Patrick's Day with a unique festival of music, seasonal foods and crafts at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum. The event features set dancing to live music, storytelling and home-made foods.

14. In Enniskillen, a food fayre will take place at the Bridge Centre from 11am to 4pm, featuring treats from local producers including Baked in Belfast, Canavanagh Free Range Eggs, Cherry Tree Home Bakery, Erin Grove Preserves, Long Lane Pantry, Lough Erne Cakes and Tickety Moo Ice Cream.

15. The Ulster American Folk Park outside Omagh will be celebrating the American Wake, a tradition that arose when thousands of people left Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries to seek a new life across the Atlantic. The hours before departure were known as the American Wake. Performances will be taking place at noon and 2pm.

16. Armagh and Downpatrick are putting on a Saint Patrick's festival until March 20 that is featuring a rich mix of music and song.

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