Best Maritime Festivals 2018 Edition | Essential Guide


We’re already excited for all the maritime festivals taking place around Ireland in 2018. Now is the time to get planning for those exciting weekend trips around the country. We’ve made it nice and easy for you by getting together a list (in chronological order of course!) of the best maritime festivals our island has to offer in 2018.

Keep an eye on this page as we’ll be keeping the list updated throughout the year as soon as dates get confirmed.

Best Irish Maritime Festivals 2018

Best Maritime Festivals 2018 Essential Guide

Sailing through Rathlin Sound (Credit Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival)

1. Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival  

MAY/JUNE   25th May – 3rd June

First Maritime stop of the year is up to Antrim to the Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival and what a fantastic start to the Maritime season! Located along the spectacular Causeway Coast and Glens, the festival is centred on Rathlin Sound, the body of water that lies between Rathlin Island and Ballycastle. There’s a Sailing Regatta and races as well as exciting have-a-go activities, craft markets, guided walks, exciting talks and tours, exhibitions and demonstrations, fun competitions, laid back lunches, friendly giants, curraghs and Viking ships.  Start the season on the beautiful north east!

For more info:  Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival

A celebration of wooden built boats (Credit Sinead McCarthy)

2. Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival

MAY  25th – 27th

The Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival is a celebration of the traditional timber sailing boats of Ireland. Come celebrate the revival in traditional boat building and forge links with lovers of wooden boats from other areas and countries. Sailors and boat-lovers from near and far, you’re invited to join to Baltimore in May for a weekend of sailing, talking, learning and partying in true West Cork style!

Run in conjunction with Baltimore Seafood Weekend, on shore there will be the best of food and drink in the restaurants and bars. In the food tents lining the pier, West Cork’s finest fish smokers, cheese makers and organic gardeners will ply their exotic, world-famous wares. Delicious!

For more info: Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival

Ocean to City – An Rás Mór Ireland’s very own long-distance rowing race attracting hundreds of participants annually (Credit Clare Keogh)

3. Cork Harbour Festival  

JUNE  2nd – 10th

The Maritime festival season continues in Cork with Ireland’s very own long-distance rowing race. The Cork Harbour Race embraces everything from traditional wooden working boats, currachs, skiffs, gigs and longboats to contemporary ocean racing shells, kayaks and canoes. With thousands of spectators each year, the race is a real flagship event for Cork Harbour.  Alongside the race is the Cork Harbour Festival which is growing from strength to strength each year and is now a firm favourite in the Cork festival calendar.

For more info: Cork Harbour Festival

Tall ships sails into Dublin Port (Credit Ann Robinson)

4. Dublin Tall Ship Regatta

JUNE – 1st – 4th

If you love beautiful looking ships cancel all your plans this June bank holiday weekend and head into Dublin for the Tall Ships Regatta!

The event takes place this weekend (1st – 4th June) and there will be ship tours, sail training opportunities, street performers and water-based activities all in and around the Dublin Docklands area. We definitely recommend heading out to Poolbeg to watch them sail into port as there’s nothing quite like seeing these beauties in full sail.

For more info: Dublin Tall Ship Regatta

Tall ships at Drogheda Port (Credit Ann Robinson)

5. The Irish Maritime Festival, Drogheda Port, Louth   

JUNE  16th – 17th

The Irish Maritime Festival takes place each summer on the quayside at Drogheda Port. This award-winning festival attracted over 40,000 visitors last year and continues to grow. Last year was a number of exciting tall ships lots of excitement on and off the water, a Viking Village, an artisan food and craft beer zone, a fashion health and beauty zone, loads of family-friendly activities for the kids and some spectacular musical performances.

For more information: Irish Maritime Festival


Sea Shanties galore! (Credit Rosses Point Shanty Festival)

6. Rosses Point Shanty Festival, Sligo    

JUNE – 15th – 17th June

If you love good traditional seafaring music in a lively and fun atmosphere, this is the one for you! Rosses Point with its rich maritime history will be once again hosting the International Sea Shanty festival and it’s going stronger than ever. There will be an exciting range of musicians and bands singing a range of shanties from home and abroad. The festival is run entirely on a voluntary basis and it also promotes the work of the RNLI. For the whole family and for a good cause!

For more info : 


The best of traditional music (Credit Fastnet Maritime and Folk Festival)

7. Fastnet Maritime and Folk Fest Ballydehob, Cork  

JUNE – 15th -17th June

Who can resist beautiful West Cork? And who needs a great excuse to go during the Summer? Well the Fastnet Maritime and Folk Festival takes place in the picturesque village of Ballydehob, West Cork and it’s just the ticket! There’ll be sea songs and shanties, a craft market and even a sea songwriting competition. They put up the main stage at Ballydehob Community Hall and there’s also music in the pubs.  Most events are free so your next step should really be a quick google of ‘B&B Ballydehob’.

For more info:

Strangford Lough at Portaferry (Credit Bernie Brown)

8. Portaferry Sails & Sounds – Classic Boat & Music Festival, Co. Down  

JUNE/JULY  28th June – 1st July 

Portaferry Sails & Sounds is set to be a big attraction this year with a sizeable fleet of traditional sailing craft racing on Strangford Lough, Skiff racing by the ‘St Ayles Skiffs’; a farmer’s market, street theatre along Portaferry Shore Street, Arts and Craft stalls along Shore Street, a classic car and motorcycle exhibit, RNLI open day and displays.  In conjunction with the sailing festival, there’s set to be a music festival throughout the whole town, Irish Dancing, a busking competition and various other musical themes running all weekend.

For more info: Portaferry Sails & Sound


Barrels of family fun! (Credit Wexford Maritime Festival)

9. Wexford Maritime Festival

JULY– 23rd- 24th June

The Wexford Maritime Festival is typically a jam-packed affair with Maritime and Children’s activities as well as there being other entertainment, food stalls and exhibitors.  The Wexford Festival was established in 2012 to honour the memory of the founder the US Navy Commodore John Barry in his hometown of Wexford – known in the U.S. as ‘Father of the American Navy. 

For more info: Wexford Maritime Festival

Ireland’s marine research vessel Celtic Explorer at Galway docks (Credit Ann Robinson)

10. SeaFest 2018, Galway

JUNE/JULY  29th June – 1st July

SeaFest, Ireland’s national maritime festival and once again will return to Galway. This festival looks to celebrate Ireland’s incredible ocean wealth by showcasing our abundant maritime resources and coastal life. The festival gets bigger every year and runs in conjunction with the Our Ocean Wealth conferenceLast year’s programme included a seafood fair, seafood cookery demonstrations with celebrity chefs and seafaring family fun, tours of Ireland’s most important vessels, the incredible fly-boarders, exhibits on marine life and all manner of festival entertainment for every age group. Expect this years to be even better! See you there!

For more info: Seafest

Impressive fireworks display behind the tall ship The Phoenix (Credit Martin McKeown)

11. Foyle Maritime Festival, Derry/Londonderry   

JULY  14th – 22nd 

For the Foyle Maritime Festival, Queens Quay is transformed into a maritime wonderland full of fun, activities, music, arts and crafts. The festival will host the stopover of the Clipper Race 2017-18 as they near the end of their Round the World Journey. Expect water athletes displays, pirate style treasure hunt throughout the city, concerts,  the Walled City Market and the Continental Food Market. This will be great craic!.

For more info: Foyle Maritime

Off with a bang – fireworks display (Credit Deidre Gregg)

12. The Red Sails Festival, Portstewart, Derry/Londonderry  

JULY  22nd – 28th

In the picturesque seaside town of Portstewart, a festival that has grown so much since it’s inception in the early 70’s.  After many years known as the Carnival, the name was changed to the Red Sails Festival in 2000 to commemorate the famous lyrics written by Jimmy Kennedy in the song ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’, which was penned overlooking Portstewart Bay. Expect music, drama, Irish and Scottish dancing, art, cheerleading and fancy dress. There are lots of competitions and challenges for the whole family and a firework display finale.

For more information:  Red Sails

Arklow Harbour bustling with activity (Credit Arklow Maritime Festival)

13.  Arklow Maritime Festival, Wicklow   

AUGUST – 4th – 6th

Arklow has a rich Maritime tradition and along with having an excellent Maritime museum at the Bridgewater centre it also has a great Maritime festival.  The Arklow maritime festival presents a great range of events for the whole family down by the Quay; from Viking boat races and bouncy castles to BBQ’s and live music. This is a great event brings out the best of a place with such a deep maritime tradition.

For more information:

Ship leaving Inishbofin harbour (Credit Drow69)

14. Inishbofin Maritime Festival

AUGUST 10th – 12th August

The Inishbofin Maritime Festival will take place on the weekend of August 10th to the 12th  this year. This weekend will expand on the successes of the recently rejuvenated Inishbofin Currach Regatta, extending the programme to include kayaking, paddle boarding and sailing dinghies.

Find out more Inishbofin Maritime Festival

Picturesque Cleggan village (Credit Cathal O’Malley)

15. Cleggan | Claddaghduff Festival of the Sea

AUGUST – 3rd – 12th

A wonderful festival set in the seaside villages of Clegan and Claddaghduff located in beautiful Connemara. The week long festival is a celebration of the sea with lots of family fun and events including treasure hunts, traditional music, nature walks, island trips seafood buffets and so much more.

More information:

Ireland’s longest running maritime festivals (Credit Gardiner Mitchell)

16. Greencastle Regatta, Donegal

AUGUST  16th – 19th

Greencastle Regatta is one of the longest running Maritime Festivals in Ireland, and its four days of fun packed festivities celebrating maritime heritage along the Foyle. There will be activities for all ages on the shore and on the water, plus live music each evening on the main stage with some of Ireland’s biggest headliners. If it’s anything like last year expect the full itinerary to include Kayak lessons, Kids treasure hunt, Fun Fair, Fisherman’s games, local artists, Pet show, a Darts competition, annual blessing of the fleet, Dance sessions and much more. Come along and enjoy the Ceol agus Craic!

For more info: Greencastle Regatta

Beautiful Galway Hookers sailing on the bay (Credit Brian Lynch)

17. Cruinniú na mBád / Galway Hooker Festival   

AUGUST – 10th – 12th August

This one’s a bit special, and you get to finish out the Summer in Galway.

Before gas and electricity came to Kinvara turf was the main fuel used for cooking and heating. The majestic Galway Hookers sailed between Connemara and Kinvara laden with this fuel as the Kinvara area has no bogs.  Kinvara in turn filled the hookers with grain and produce for their return journey.  A strong trade developed between the two regions using these great old cargo boats. Founded by Tony Moylan in 1979 as a celebration of the traditional commerce that existed between the coasts.

In August at Kinvara you can see the mighty Hookers in action once again.  There’s lots of other types of craft sailing and competing with each other and another highlight of Cruinniú na mBád, Kinvara is the Climin. A Climín is a ‘raft’ made from seaweed blocked and tied for transportation to a collection point on the shore. Seaweed harvesting was once a thriving industry along the west coast of Ireland, including Kinvara.

For more info:


Myth, magic and madness at Connemara Sea Week (Credit Conamara Environmental Education & Cultural Centre)

18. Connemara Sea Week 

OCTOBER – 21st – 29th

Conamara Sea Week is a celebration of the rich Marine Heritage of the region. The multi-disciplinary festival takes place over two weekends blending of a sense of myth, magic and madness into a unique festival for the whole family. This festival has been running for over 3o years and highlights include music workshops, art exhibitions, walks, talks and wonderful ‘After the Light’ parade.

More info: Conamara Environmental Education & Cultural Centre


About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22