Outdoor Events Not to Miss this Summer in Northern Ireland

A round-up of the key festivals, open air activities and days out for families to soak up across the country over the coming months

Please note: This article was first published on May 31, 2016.

We all know the weather can be pretty unpredictable in Northern Ireland, however, it is good to know – come rain or shine - we are still willing to throw ourselves into a bit of outdoor fun. This summer is packed with events for individuals and groups of all ages to enjoy as nature intended – with fresh air in our lungs and (hopefully) blue skies overhead.

To help you make sense of the season ahead, we've compiled a guide to some of the key festivals, fairs and various other escapades happening across the province, and, who knows, the sun might even make an appearance as well.

Rathlin Sound Maritime FestivalMay 27 - June 5, Ballycastle and Rathlin Island

The communities of Ballycastle and Rathlin Island have teamed up to put on a festival that will showcase the best of food, culture and music within the two areas. Although the festival has already kicked off, there are still a plethora of activities to enjoy, including traditional Irish music sessions, street theatre, organised boat trips and great live music. See the programme below for full details.

Walled City Music Festival: June 2 -5, Derry City

For classical music enthusiasts, the Walled City Music Festival is a must. The weekend-long event has an endless string of talent coming to the north west this year, from international names like Ian David Rosenbaum, Jeremy Denk and Measha Brueggergosman to the festival’s Artistic Directors, Cathal Breslin and Sabrina Hu.

Gran Fondo Giro Italia: June 3 - 5

If cycling is your thing – or you just like the idea of cheering from the sidelines - then you won't want to miss out on Gran Fondo Giro Italia, a cycling event that first started in Italy in 1909 and is now running in Northern Ireland and other locations in Europe.

The Northern Ireland cycling tour will include two routes - the Mourne Route (175km) and Strangford Route (58km) - followed by a 'post ride pasta party' and prize giving ceremony at the Titanic, Belfast. As part of NI Bike Week, the event will also be hosting additional activities such as a Street Velodrome Competition and a 'Piccolo Fondo', allowing everyone the opportunity to channel their inner cyclist.

Belsonic: June 9 - 29; August 18 - 27, Titanic Belfast

Having recently announced even more major acts for August, the new-look Belsonic has a programme to keep music revelers entertained all summer long. The revitalized festival moves this year to its new home outside Titanic Belfast and boasts quite possibly its strongest ever line-up of stars, including Foals, Ellie Goulding, Faithless, The Chemical Brothers, The Corrs and Stereophonics. For full details and tickets visit www.belsonic.com.

Euro 2016 Fanzone: June 12 - 22, Titanic Belfast

Titanic Belfast will also play host to a festival of football during June as 10,000 supporters cheer on the Northern Ireland and Republic's national teams through Euro 2016. With full bar facilities, food options, a funfair and the biggest screen in the country, the free open air arena will be the next best thing to being in France for the tournament itself.

Summer Jamm: June 11 and 12, Strabane

Local performers Lisa McHugh and Jim Devine will be among many great acts helping to kickstart the summer at Strabane’s annual 'Country Fest' style event. The family-friendly weekend will also feature street entertainers, arts and crafts, a festival carnival, stalls, a jiving competition... and then some.

Salmon & Whiskey Festival: June 18 and 19, Bushmills

This increasingly popular festival in Bushmills focuses on the best of local food, drink, live entertainment, heritage and culture. Local businesses and chefs will be on hand to ply festival goers with tastings and on Saturday evening, Belfast group the Swing Gals will be serenading crowds with their lively tones. For full forthcoming programme details visit www.visitcausewaycoastandglens.com.

Bushmills Salmon and Whiskey Festival no.2.jpg

Dalriada Festival: July 16 and 17, Glenarm Castle, Co. Antrim

Combining sport, music and fine food inspired by Scottish and Irish cultures, the Dalriada Festival is unsurprisingly a hit. The weekend festival, leading into a wider week of events until July 23, will this year include special appearances from kids' favourite Paw Patrol and all manner of things to indulge in, from a vintage tea party to live wrestling and even a rowing regatta. For further information visit www.dalriadafestival.co.uk.

Red Sails Festival: July 24 -30, Portstewart

The Red Sails Festival in Portstewart always promises a great week-long programme of performances and interactive events on the stunning North Atlantic seafront, but the impressive firework display on the last night is what really what sets it apart. Top tip: Book a table for dinner at Harry’s Shack and watch the whole display unfold right in front of you.


Photo by Deirdre Gregg www.deirdregregg.com

Open House Festival: August 1 - 31, Bangor

Though arguably known more for its creativity when it comes to curating imaginative indoor venues, the Bangor-born Open House Festival will offer its fair share of events making full use of the seaside town's scenic hot spots. From its traditional Walled Garden film screenings and Folk on a Boat to music in Snow Patrol's spiritual home of Ward Park and the free, one-day Sunbeam mini-fest, the picture-esque resort will take centre-stage all throughout August. Be sure to pick up a beautifully printed programme at businesses within the area, or download one via the festival website.

Sunflowerfest: August 5 - 7, Hillsborough

Sunflowerfest has quietly grown into one of Northern Ireland's foremost summer festivals and this year's bill of fare looks to only improve its reputation even further. Characterised by its holistic outlook, campers and single day ticket-holders can escape through its signature blend of invigorating arts and quality live music. Familes are particularly well catered for by the range of activities on offer, but make no mistake, it's an exhilerating experience for any festival-goer. Why not enter our competition to win tickets?

Stendhal Festival of Art: August 12 and 13, Limavady

The Roe Valley will be alive with every facet of the arts again this year as the award-winning Stendhal Festival of Art makes a welcome return to Ballymully Cottage Farm. Twice named Ireland's Best Small Festival and improving year on year, an impressive string of performers from Badly Drawn Boy and Therapy? to DJ Yoda, Hayseed Dixie and Lynched have already been confirmed to headline, while families won't be left wanting with the usual array of creative crafts to take part in.

Hilden Beer & Music Festival: August 26 - 28, Hilden Brewery, Lisburn 

Hilden really got it right when it dreamed up this August bank holiday festival - a perfect brew of beer, good tunes and beautiful surroundings. This year’s festival is still being finalised but news will be shared on the event’s Facebook page so keep an eye on it for updates. Revisit last month's feature to discover more about Northern Ireland's booming beer industry.

Hilden Brewery 31 (1)

Ould Lammas Fair: August 29 and 30, Ballycastle

An oldie but a goodie, the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle has been running for almost four hundred years now and, although it underwent a bit of an image haul last year, it still retains its traditional charm; yellow man and dulse being sold on every street corner and crowds coming from far and wide.

Air Waves International Airshow: September 3 and 4, Portrush

Now firmly established as Ireland’s biggest free airshow event, Air Waves Portrush sees the return of the famous RAF Red Arrows over two days of aerial entertainment, as well as a packed programme of land and water-based activities. Also featuring will be the RAF’s stunning Typhoon jet, the Battle of Britain Memorial flight of the Hurricane, Lancaster and Spitfire trio, breath-taking aerobatics from the Wildcats display team and much more.

Air Waves Portrush