Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival
29 August 2014 - 05 October 2014
Matchmaking is one of Ireland's oldest traditions and, for the last couple of hundred years, a good deal of it has taken place in Lisdoonvarna during September and early October.
The name Lisdoonvarna comes from 'Lios Duin Bhearna', which means the lios or enclosure of the fort in the gap. The town developed into a tourist centre as early as the middle of the 18th-century when a top Limerick surgeon discovered the beneficial effects of its mineral waters. People travelled from near and far to bathe in, and drink, the mineral waters. Rich in iron, sulphur and magnesium, the waters gave relief from the symptoms of certain diseases including rheumatism and glandular fever. The Spa Hotel was the centre around which the village developed. The opening of the West Clare Railway contributed towards that development, although the nearest railway station was seven miles away at Ennistymon. This station opened in l887 and from that time onwards, until the advent of the motorcar, tourists travelled from the train in pony and trap to ''The Spa''. It was due to the popularity of these mineral springs and the huge amount of people going there that led to the Lisdoonvarna "matchmaking tradition". September became the peak month of the holiday season and with the harvest safely in, bachelor farmers flocked to Lisdoonvarna in search of a wife. By the 1920s, matchmaking was still in vogue and people continued to come and "take the waters", including many of Ireland's clergy. It was around this time that one of Lisdoonvarna's most famous sayings was coined, describing the town as a place "where parish priests pretend to be sober and bank clerks pretend to be drunk".
Today, there is just one official Matchmaker left in Co. Clare: Mr. Willie Daly who runs the riding centre outside Ennistymon and practices match-making part time. With the exception of the pairings he plans and negotiates, very little genuine matchmaking takes place nowadays. However, Lisdoonvarna's annual festival has evolved into Europe's largest single's event. People don't necessarily come to look for a spouse - they come by the thousands in search of a good time. For the month of September, dances run from 12.00 noon each day and carry on into the small hours of the next morning. Set dancing exhibitions are also a feature of the event and there's live Irish music in most pubs, although getting to the bar can be quite a task, but don't worry or hurry, because the music carries on until the early hours.
If you can afford the time and you're single, head for Lisdoonvarna this September and early October. You never know - as well as enjoying all of the good-natured fun and grand "craic", you might also find the perfect mate!