The Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, one of Ireland’s oldest traditional festival takes place in the small spa town every September. The festival now over 150 years old attracts up to 60000 people from all over the world, who come for the music, the dancing and the ‘craic’. Dancing takes place in venues all over town and in the newly reopened Spa Wells. Third generation matchmaker Willie Daly is on hand to bring hopeful singles together and boasts many marriages to date. While the Festival has very much come of age over the years, moving with the times to appeal to people of all ages – its essence as a place to ‘meet, match and make a life’ remains true.
Matchmaking is an Irish tradition that’s as old as time. It began in Lisdoonvarna when visiting gentry came to ‘take the waters’ at this spa town and looked to match their children with someone suitable from the upper classes. Parents would bring their children together at social gatherings, sporting events and musical evenings – and all being well, courtships would blossom. The opening of the West Clare Railway in 1887 meant Lisdoonvarna increased in popularity as a tourist destination and the matchmaking tradition grew. With the harvest safely in and September being the peak holiday month, many bachelor farmers began to flock to Lisdoonvarna for a spa town vacation – and in search of a wife.