If there’s anything that motivates humans, it’s love. I’m no different. Until recently, I’ve participated in the usual social activities to cross paths with a special someone. So how the heck did I end up at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival this past fall? Well, a couple of months ago, on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Ireland, the friend I was visiting suggested we change our already last-minute plans and see what the craic (fun) was at Europe’s largest matchmaking festival. I couldn’t resist the idea. One thing was for sure – it would make for an excellent story.

At the tail end of the pandemic as a single 30-something who recoiled in horror at the thought of online dating, I was intent on meeting my next partner in real life. A proper meet-cute. A spark. A story. It was only after several months of neither a conversation nor a smile exchanged with a handsome stranger that I began to contemplate using said dreaded apps. Then one week’s appointments hurled me into their soulless swiping depths.

I got more “action” that week in my medical appointments than I had in, well, a while. “I’m too young for this to be my story!” I thought, both chuckling at and disheartened by my luck.

To be clear, my medical professionals were very, well, professional. The point here is, I caved and plunged into the world of online dating. Most first meet-ups didn’t make it to a second rendezvous. Which brings us to the end of this summer. Why not spontaneously attend a nearly 200-year-old matchmaking festival? For the craic, like!

Travel with TMc at The Ritz during the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival

What is the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival

The Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival is Europe’s biggest singles festival. For the last 165 years, romance seekers have flocked to Lisdoonvarna for the month of September. The annual festivities take place in the rural village in County Clare, in the middle of the winding Wild Atlantic Way. Thousands of people, the young and the young-at-heart, come from all over the world to meet their special someone. There’s music and dancing from noon until the early hours of the morning.

Ireland’s only traditional matchmaker, Willie Daly, does what he can to add a little magic to people’s quest. A man of tradition, he is a third generation matchmaker, following in his family’s footsteps. Should you be looking to meet him yourself, his office is at The Matchmaker Bar. There’s a festival legend that says if you touch his lucky matchmaking book with both of your hands, you’ll be married in 6 months! Spoiler: I did not meet Mr. Daly and I am most definitely not getting hitched in the coming months. There’s always next year?

Wide View of Lisdoonvarna Matchmakers Bar

Where is Lisdoonvarna?

Lisdoonvarna is on the west coast of Ireland in County Clare on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. It’s about an hour’s drive south of Galway or just under a 4 hour bike ride should you attempt a Hail Mary at increasing your fitness level before hitting the dance floor.

Why Should You Attend the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival?

You should attend the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival if you’ve a friend or few to go with you. Nothing’s more fun than sharing a night out with your friends, regardless of how many people you meet of the gender you desire. I went with one of my best friends and now we have another memory to share. It’s also a good idea to go with friends because the men are courageous at the matchmaking festival – and fair play, I guess, given the event!

Another reason you should attend the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival is if you love superlatives. Who doesn’t love the Best or Worst or Oldest or Most Fantastic thing out there? Since Lisdoonvarna’s festival is the biggest in Europe, you can tick that off your travel list.

Live Music Dance Floor at Matchmaker's Bar in Ireland
Dance Floor at The Matchmaker Bar

If you’re still not sure why you should attend the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, I think the most important reason to attend is because time with people in real life is umpteen times more awesome than time with people over screens. Call me old school, but I will always take meeting people (of the romantic or friendly sort) in person when the opportunity arises. If you love live music, dancing, and a night out, then there are 3 more reasons why you should attend the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival!

Perhaps it goes without saying, but here it is anyhow… If you’re looking for love, why not? How fun of a story would it be to tell your grandkids that you met your life partner at Europe’s largest matchmaking festival in rural Ireland? Imagine the questions they’d have! Plus, there are events for all ages and dancing abilities.

Couples Dancing at The Ritz during the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival in Ireland
Dance Floor at The Ritz Hotel

Why Shouldn’t You Attend Europe’s Largest Matchmaking Festival?

Do not attend Europe’s largest matchmaking festival if you hate being in crowds, because the dance floor is bumping and the energy is buzzing. Do not attend the Lisdoonvarna fête if you cherish your 9pm bedtime. This party goes all night long. Another reason not to attend would be if you’re not a fan of alcohol or drunk people, because there will be plenty. Last, if swiping is your jam, stick to it. There’s more than one way to start the spark and people find love online too!

What to Expect at Europe’s Largest Matchmaking Festival

It’s free to attend the festival, however you’ll want to budget for accommodation, food, beverages, and transportation if you’re not staying nearby.

Venues

All of the venues are within a 10 minute walk of each other.

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival Venues

The Hydro Hotel Lisdoonvarna is the main venue with traditional Irish music and dancing. The Rathbaun Hotel is on Main Street, though they’re all quite close to each other. The Ritz Hotel is smack in the town centre. A family-owned establishment, you’ll find set dancing here with a more mature crowd on the dance floor in The Ritz House’s Function Room and Ballroom. When we popped into here (it was where the taxi dropped us off), there was a mix of country music and Irish music playing.

The Ritz Hotel in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland

The Ravine Hotel is a restaurant and bar with live traditional folk music. The Roadside Tavern is a neat spot since it is one of the oldest pubs in the area. You’ll find some good ol’ country music on the dance floor there. Next door to the Tavern is the The Burren Storehouse; perfect if you want to bop back and forth between two places. The Royal Spa is another family-run hotel, café, and spa, located on the Main Street. There you’ll find live music at main bar and reportedly some of the best Seafood Chowder of your life! And last, though definitely not least, the colourful and iconic Matchmaker Bar is in the Imperial Hotel in downtown Lisdoonvarna. It’s a must visit for energetic music, if you’re hoping to visit Willie Daly, and well, the name!

Travel with TMc in Mirror at Matchmaker Bar in Ireland

Did I Find Love at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival?

If you’ve read this far, I’m curious to know how you stumbled upon this blog post and whether you have been or are planning to attend the festival. Send me an email and let me know!

As the best nights tend to unfold, my time at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival was improvised from the get-go. The original “itinerary” on this visit to Ireland was to spend some time in the county where my Irish roots originate. Clearly, those plans flew out the door! I always say timing is everything, and if a major or quirky (or really any) festival happens to coincide with my travels, you can bet I’ll attend.

I wasn’t quite sure how the evening would go. For starters, my friend was understandably wiped from the work week and not in the mood to do much, let alone get dolled up for a night of dancing. When we arrived on the west coast, we headed right for Lahinch Beach. It was a gorgeous 25 degrees Celsius. She napped while I read and dipped my toes in the Atlantic Ocean. There’s nothing like sea air to revive the mind and body!

Travel with TMc at Lahinch Beach Ireland
Hot Sunny Day at Lahinch Beach in Ireland

Feeling rested, it was time to fuel the batteries with a little meal. We hopped over to the famed Gus O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin. I ordered their delicious Atlantic seafood chowder and homemade brown soda bread. As we headed out the door to our campsite, we were treated to trad musicians warming up their instruments. Oh yes, did I mention that I convinced my tired (yet very adventurous) friend that we should car camp that night?

After getting ready, we hopped in a taxi. The driver proceeded to equally entertain and forewarn us about the madness we were getting ourselves into. We asked him which venues to visit and he told us we’d be better off to find ourselves a nice farmer and to turn around! Apparently the festival was a bit of a sh*tshow. We assured him we weren’t on an actual mission to find a partner. Upon arriving, we saw what he was talking about. The ground was full of litter and across the sidewalk a middle-aged man’s hand was finding its way up a woman’s shirt.

We were dropped off in the centre of town, across from The Ritz Hotel. There were people everywhere – outside, on the dance floor, and at the bar. The crowd was older than we anticipated, but love has no limitations, right? While at the perimeter of the dance floor taking things in, an elderly gentleman very sweetly asked my friend for her hand to join in the set dancing. She was not thrilled. We headed to the bar for a bevy.

Not really feeling the vibe at The Ritz Hotel, we left to find our next spot. That’s one of the pros of the festival – there are several venues with different ages and different vibes. Neither of us had much to drink that night and I could tell her energy was waning, but I was itching to find a fun dance floor. There was a lineup outside of The Matchmaker Bar. We agreed to leave if the line didn’t budge, but it moved quickly enough. I knew we had to see what the craic was at the festival’s iconic bar.

Lisdoonvarna Matchmakers Bar at Night

Immediately it was a better-matched location for us, with a younger crowd, live music, and dancing. In other words, it was what you’d find at most other bars in Ireland. We ordered a drink and joined the festivities. As also happens in Ireland, or bars in general (though I find less often in Canada), we got chatting to a few lads. One of them invited me to dance. Who was I to turn down a dance with a handsome guy? He was quite good on his feet and quick witted too. I later learned that he took social dance lessons – smart! It was clearly working out for him.

Unfortunately, it seemed all the air had been sucked out of the room and drippy is not my best look. I left him to find sweet sweet air conditioning. There was a singular aircon unit adjacent to the dance floor. I nimbly carved a spot for my friend and I under its blasting vents. It wasn’t long before the same lad charmed me back onto the dance floor until the lights came up.

As one does after a night out in Ireland, a small group of us went across the street for chips (thick fries) and chats. A geography teacher who didn’t seem to know very much about his subject and a friendly woman joined our group, as strangers do on the friendly isle. It turned out the dancing man was a farmer (our taxi driver would have loved that) and owned a campervan. What were the chances?!

The night was a success, by all accounts. My legend of a friend and I added quite a few new stories to the vault. I can now say I’ve been to the largest matchmaking festival in Europe. Dance floors were danced on and new people were met. Another fantastic memory was made in Ireland.

As for whether I found love at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, well, this blog has never been a space to share my personal relationships. It’s a travel blog, after all! What I will leave you with is this: saying yes to spontaneity and unlikely adventures is always a good decision. A full life is jam-packed with memories of your experiences. With that, I’ll leave you here and say adventure on, fellow travellers!

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About TMc

 

Me having a seat in front of one of the famous Brighton Bathing Boxes in Australia!

Heya! I’m Tara (Tar-ah)! Welcome to Travel with TMc where you’ll find quirky language tidbits, travel hacks for Canadians, and stories from the road. I hope you enjoy!
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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Marian collins
    April 3, 2024 12:36 PM

    Can you go to the listervarna festival if you are in a realtionship

    Reply
    • I don’t see why not, so long as your partner and you are on the same page! You don’t have to match with anyone there. You can just go to dance and enjoy the music too.

      Reply

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