25 Of The BEST Festivals Across Northern Ireland

Summer and even the tiniest bit of sunshine means festivals, from food and music, to even a taste of the sea we’ve got it all here in Northern Ireland.

Here are some of the best festivals around to get you in the mood for the summer ahead.


Van Morrison – 18th International Guinness Blues on the Bay Festival

May 25 to 30, Warrenpoint

VAN Morrison is set to play two dates at Warrenpoint Town Hall on May 29th as part of this six-day festival, with proceeds from his shows going to Southern Area Hospice Services.  

In addition there will be 90 free events and international artists as well as local heroes Pat McManus, Rab McCullough and Crow Black Chicken.



Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival

May 27 to June 5, Ballycastle & Rathlin

Celebrating the body of water between Ballycastle and Rathlin Island there is a range of activities from a sailing regatta, tours, exhibitions, competitions, friendly giants and Viking ships and a full range of family friendly events. Based at Ballycastle’s marina and seafront there’s even a food festival.



Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival

May 28 – 30, Belfast

Ships, food and music: all around Belfast’s quaysides. Visit ships, take in the Titanic experience, and a Continental market to delight your taste buds. And, you’ll have a chance to see the city’s newest visitor attraction, HMS Caroline at Alexander Dock ahead of its official opening in June.

www.belfastcity.gov.uk maritime


Tonic Health and Wellness Festival

May 29 – June 4, across NI

With the belief in bringing out the zest for life through health, wellness and fun, Tonic aims to boost the soul.  With workshops, complementary therapists and traditional consultants, interspersed with Yoga and meditation, this is a perfect haven to rejuvenate yourself and learn how to cope with the stress of life.  



Holywood Harmony Festival

June 3 – 5, Holywood

Paying tribute to the finest acts in the world, venues across the County Down will host acts ranging from the top Beatles tribute, The Bootleg Beatles, and Bowie homage Rebel Rebel. There will also be tribute bands to the Eagles and Van Morrison in the shape of Desperados and Celtic Soul.



Shanes Castle Games Fair

June 25- 26, Antrim

City folks join up with all things country at the Irish Fame Fair & Fine Food Festival, including the Northern Ireland Angling Show. Three display arena will see everything from battle re-enactments, air rifle shootingh, archery horses and hounds and medieval jousting. And, all the food you can eat or take home!


Great Irish Game Fair and Fine Food Festival

June 25-26, Co Antrim

Embracing the NI Year of Food and Drink 2016, The Great Game Fairs offers the perfect opportunity for a relaxing weekend away. This fabulous festival celebrates local food, drink and produce from all over the province with traders on hand to showcase their talents.



Our Back Yard Festival

June 26, Gildford

Tucked away on an idyllic farm in Gilford, Our Back Yard is an independent newbie to the festival scene.  Back for its second year the OBY team are offering camping for the first time, so you can relax with a pint and a gourmet burger whilst listening to the tones of Gascan Ruckus, Wookalily, No Oil Paintings and many more.  Tickets are £15 for a day pass.



River to Lough Festival

July 2, Antrim Castle Gardens

Now in its 3rd year, this award winning festival showcases the unique cultural heritage of Lough Neagh and its Waterways. This year’s event includes cookery demonstrations in the Food Theatre, cookery lessons in the Cookery school, and an Eel Heritage Exhibition with story-telling, heritage boats and lots of activities and entertainment throughout the day. With a food and craft market, and traditional eel suppers available from the pop-up restaurant this is the ultimate food festival.



Foyle Maritime Festival

July 9 – 17, across Derry

Queen’s Quay will once again be transformed in to a maritime delight as it welcomes home Team Derry-Londonderry.

As an official host port for the Clipper Race 2015/16, the River Foyle will be awash with ships as they stop over towards the end of their round the world journey.



Dalriada Festival

July 18 to July 23, Glenarm, Co Antrim

The Dalriada Festival sees the castle grounds alive with Highland Games, Strong Man competition, Pipe Bands, comedy, food, music. Paw Patrol make a special guest appearance this year to delight the younger family members. Tickets are £12 for one day pass and £18 for two day pass.  Camping options are also available.



Ulster Fleadh/Fleadh Uladh

July 16 -24, Bangor, Co Down

Bangor hosts this year’s beautiful event, and visitors can expect a wide array of events such as workshops, Irish Trad sessions, food and drink and entertainment from Beoga, the headline act for 2016.  Events prices vary throughout the festival.



Belfast Guitar Festival

July 22-24, Belfast

Now in its third year, the Belfast Guitar Festival, organised by Paul McMordie, is one of the city’s newest events supporting up and coming artists.

Showcasing folk, Americana, blues, rock, flamenco, indie, jazz and percussive, this is an eclectic mix for all of you guitar lovers out there.  Pricing available shortly.



Armoy Motorcycle Road Race

July 29-30, Armoy, Co Antrim

The world famous road race set in the County Antrim village is a must for all bike and speed enthusiasts. The track has over 40 years of history, with Joey Dunlop being a regular on the 3 mile circuit, it is close to many much loved tourist attractions such as The Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and the beautiful North Antrim coast; perfect excuse to make a weekend of it.



Sunflower Fest

August 5-7, Hillsborough

One of Northern Ireland’s much loved family friendly music festivals, Sunflowerfest has a fantastic line-up of live music, and this year features The Strypes headlining. The planned entertainment includes performances in the Enchanted Glade, storytelling, poetry, interactive art, dance and music workshops, providing something to keep young and old busy all day long.  Weekend tickets begin at £69.95



7 Hills Blues Festival

August 11-14, Armagh

A much loved and established event on any Blues lover’s calendar, this event gets bigger and better each year with local bands preforming alongside top world-wide known acts bringing a quirky, fun feel to the area with over 50 bands and 60 gigs. Various prices.



Open House Festival

August 1 – 31, across Bangor

Elegant and inclusive, Open House is a beautiful mix of literature, music and food.  Famed for quirky locations such as court houses, islands, walled gardens and war forts, Open House is perfectly coordinated to bring culture with a sprinkle of joy and fun in a relaxed atmosphere.  

Events vary in price; many are free entry.



Stendhal Festival of Art

August 12-13, Limavad

Stendhal is an incredible experience.  

With a mission to establish itself as an innovative promoter of the arts, this festival is alive with music, vibrancy and fun, celebrating local talent alongside household names.  Tickets begin at £35



B/E Aerospace Festival of Flight

August 6, Co Down

From exhibitions and live music to street entertainment, craft stalls, food village and more, the Festival of Flight will see a host of family orientated activities fill the town.

Live entertainment from the big stage will entertain until the main aircraft display from 3pm.  Free events throughout the day.




August 9-29, Belfast

After enjoying phenomenal success over the past nine years, Belsonic is on its feet and moving over to the bigger location at Titanic Belfast.  Joining the party will be Ellie Goulding, David Guetta, Foals, Faithless, Biffy Clyro and many more. Tickets £29.95 plus booking fee.



East Side Arts Festival

August 10-21, East Belfast

Music, heritage, culture and community are the name of the game at East Side Arts Festival, promising a host of music, comedy, art, theatre, movies and workshops for young and old.  Various pricing for each event.



Tennent’s Vital

August 29-30, Belfast

With the mighty Red Hot Chilli Peppers hitting the stage on the first night followed by Avicii on the second night, Tennents Vital sells itself.  

A massive event that sells out fast, this is Northern Ireland’s much looked forward to event each year.  Ticked are £49.50 plus booking fee.



Belfast Mela

August 30, Belfast

The critically acclaimed Mela is a vibrant, global celebration with thousands of people each year queueing to experience this stunning one day event.  Organised by ArtsEkta, Northern Ireland’s largest ethnic arts organisation, it is a melting pot of fun, music, food and crafts.

Tickets in advance are priced at £4, or £5 on the gate.  Booking is advised.



Hillsborough International Oyster Festival

Aug 30 – Sept 4, various venues

The Hillsborough Oyster Festival is a renowned event that includes family activities, performances and eating experiences to tempt all visitors.

Now in its 24th year, the festival programme is eagerly anticipated with events such as the World Oyster Eating Championship, the Oyster Masters Golf Day, the Pearl and Oyster Ball and the Super Car Sunday and Soapbox Derby.  



Bluegrass Music Festival

September 4-6, Omagh

The 25th Annual Appalachian & Bluegrass Music Festival is a strumming, foot tapping, dancing in the (pretend) streets kind of festival.  

With the idyllic backdrop of the Ulster American Folk Park, this festival is a step back in time and a celebration of old time music.  Prices varies.



**Further reporting by Rebecca Armstrong

To add your festival to the list email tina@excaliburpress.co.uk

About the Author

Jonathan Traynor
Northern Ireland journalist. Rock & metal enthusiast and owner of belfastmetalheadsreunited.blogspot.com.