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St Patrick’s Day 2024: Your guide to what’s on across Northern Ireland

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Many parades and parties planned for the weekend to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint, writes Jessica Rice

Colourful floats, dancers and musicians will help celebrate Ireland’s patron saint, with events and celebrations taking place across the country.

This year, the day itself falls on a Sunday, with the Bank Holiday instead taking place on Monday March 18.

And with a long weekend to look forward to, there are plenty of activities to enjoy across Northern Ireland.

Gaelscoil Lios Tuathail pupils playing for St Patrick – aka Christy Walsh – Front, from left, Eva Kelly, Clodah Lynch, Christy Walsh and Ryan Lyons. Back, from left, Thaids Quirke, Matthew Murphy, Aoibheann Daly and Alexia Belova Flanagan. Photo by John Kelliher.

Belfast

Belfast will host Northern Ireland’s biggest parade, as a dazzling display of costume, music, dance and theatrical performance weaves its way through the city centre.

Local dance troupes, schools, community groups and musicians will also be taking part in the spectacle.

The parade route starts from Belfast City Hall at 1.30pm on Sunday, weaving its way through the city centre via Chichester Street, Victoria Street, High Street, Castle Place and Donegall Place, back to City Hall.

There will also be a range of traditional music performances across the city from March 15-17 as part of the St Patrick’s Music Weekend.

On St Patrick’s Day itself, the Festival Village in Cathedral Quarter will feature live performances from Clare Sands, John Spillane, Pure Blarney, Drumlough Pipe Band and Glengormley School of Traditional Music alongside bagpipers, Highland dancers, Irish dancing and other activities.

There will also be music and dancing on the acoustic stage in Saint Anne’s Square and a céilí in The Mac.

At St George’s Market, members of Ards Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann will be performing traditional Irish music from 12-1.30pm on March 16 and 17.

For those feeling a bit more energetic, the Spar Craic 10k St Patrick’s Day race will begin at City Hall and end at Ormeau Park, and is part of the wider Belfast City Council efforts to create an all-inclusive celebration.

Antrim

The Whitehead Railway Museum is offering special St Patrick’s Day train rides, with entertainment on the platform and Irish dancing from noon on Sunday.

There will also be a chance to hunt for sacks filled with gold. Seasonal food is available in the Platform 3 cafe, with live music from 12-2pm.

Also on Sunday, the traditional St Patrick’s climb of Slemish will take place from 9am with traditional music adding to the fun.

The one and a half kilometre walk at Slemish takes approximately one hour up and down, with suitable clothing and strong footwear advised.

Armagh

The ecclesiastical capital of Ireland since Patrick founded the city, Armagh has strong links to Ireland’s patron saint. It is the only city in the world to have two cathedrals named after the same saint.

Its annual parade offers a spectacular display of colour, music and entertainment.

The procession makes its way through the city centre, starting at the Christian Brothers’ School at 2.30pm. It proceeds onto Cathedral Road, past the Shambles Market, before finishing in the grounds of Cathedral Road Recreation Centre at 3.30pm.

The Home of St Patrick Festival runs all week up to March 17. Comprising history, culture, traditional music and dance, most of the festival activities are based in city centre venues.

One of the highlights is the St Patrick’s Eve vigil walk on Saturday. The torchlit procession is led by the two Primates at 7.30pm, starting from the Church of Ireland Cathedral and moving to the Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Down

St Patrick is said to be buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, and the town will be the focus of the county’s celebrations.

On Saturday morning from 10.15am to 11.30am, a pilgrimage walk from Saul Church to Down Cathedral will be led by representatives of different churches.

A cross-community festival service takes place at 11.45am followed by the lighting of a symbolic beacon and wreath laying ceremony at Patrick’s Grave.

Then on Sunday and led by St Patrick himself, the main parade will start at Downshire Estate at noon, proceeding through the town and finishing at Rathkeltair car park at around 4pm.

St Patrick’s Village, located in St Patrick Square and Market Street Car Park, includes live music and dance, Ceili and artisan market and children’s activities. In Newry, the parade of swirling dancers, community floats and costumed characters will depart from The Quays Shopping Centre at 1pm and follows the main traditional route via Merchants Quay, Sugar Island, Kildare Street and The Mall.

The main festival stage will be located at Marcus Square, compéred by Newry’s own Rozlyn Sheridan. Acts include Cloughmór Ceili Band featuring special guests, and award winning country music singer Lee Matthews.

Fermanagh

The fun begins on Saturday with Enniskillen’s unique flotilla event on St Patrick’s eve. From 6.15pm, the illuminated flotilla snakes its way from the Ardhowen to the Broadmeadow passing underneath the west bridges.

Then on Sunday, Enniskillen hosts Fermanagh’s St Patrick’s Day Parade. The day starts at the Broadmeadow with a family fun day and a host of live entertainment acts starting at 1.30pm. It includes face painting, balloon modelling and bouncy castles

The parade will start at 3.30pm and will be led out by 2024 Grand Marshalls.

In Belleek, the St Patrick’s Day event promises lively music and dazzling floats. The parade starts at 1pm on Sunday from the GAA centre.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy, and circus performer Louise Glendinning join local musicians and representatives from Belfast Tradfest, Conradh na Gaeilge and Féile an Phobail to launch Belfast’s St Patrick’s Day programme

Derry

A whole series of events are planned as the Maiden City celebrates St Patrick’s Day.

The events on Sunday include Legenderry Delights, featuring the vibrant sounds of Derry’s renowned music scene at the Guildhall Square from 1pm-6pm. The live music stage will feature a range of talented local musicians, from soulful ballads to foot-stomping jigs, showcasing the diverse musical tapestry that defines Derry.

You can also discover the magic of Irish-inspired culinary delights from some of Derry’s finest traders including Lo&Slo, Doherty’s Meats, La Tia Juanas and Offing Coffee.

There is also a Spring-inspired re-imagining of ‘Carnival of Colours’ — on a smaller, bouncier scale at the Peace Garden from 1pm-6pm. It comprises fun-filled circus workshops, incredible acrobatic and parkour performances, comedy, magic and interactive performers.

The Craft Village will come alive from 1pm-6pm with the thrilling beats of live traditional music and the infectious energy of Irish dancing.

The St Patrick’s Day parade is themed ‘Out of the Darkness Into the Light’, and leaves Bishop Street at 3pm on Sunday. The route takes in The Diamond, Shipquay Street, Whitaker Street, Foyle Embankment, Harbour Square Roundabout and Strand Road, ending at Strand Road Car Park.

Tyrone

Omagh is host to one of the county’s main events. From 1pm on St Patrick’s Day there will be a selection of cultural music, dance, family parade and entertainment. Creative arts will be on display throughout Omagh town centre, the Strule Arts Centre and more.

At the Ulster American Folk Park, from 10am-5pm on March 17 and 18, there will be live traditional Irish music stretching across Ulster and America, alongside Irish dancing performances.

The Mellon House will be filled with traditional foods like colcannon and apple tart, while visitors can watch traditional craft demonstrations like basket weaving, follow the ‘Shamrock Selfie Trail’ and get involved in St Patrick’s themed crafts.

Outside NI

In Dublin, half a million spectators and 4,000 parade participants including marching bands from across the globe take part in Ireland’s national St Patrick’s Day parade.

The parade will begin at noon on Parnell Street, passing Parnell Square, along O’Connell Street over the bridge to Westmorland Street. At College Green, the parade will turn right onto Dame Street. Then on via Lord Edward Street, Nichols Streer, Patrick Street and finishing on Kevin Street.

If you fancy celebrating St Patrick’s Day outside Ireland, Stena Line is offering passengers a mini cruise to France and back this weekend.

The cruise costs €170 for two people and will see you leave Rosslare to Cherbourg on March 15, arriving back to Rosslare from Cherboug right on time for St Patrick’s Day, allowing you to enjoy the final stint of the national holiday on Irish soil.

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