Love is in the air as the people of Lisdoonvarna prepare for Ireland’s annual matchmaking festival.
Lisdoonvarna in County Clare has been playing cupid for over 160 years when flocks of single men and women gather in the hope of finding their soul mate.
From Friday, August 30 until Sunday, September 29, the otherwise sleepy streets of this quaint spa town come alive with music, dance and romantic spark at Europe’s largest matchmaking festival.
Partying begins during the last weekend of August where headline bands and talented musicians head west.
A massive marquee sits ready to host some toe-tapping country favourites while the pubs of Lisdoonvarna stock up their shelves.
The iconic Matchmaker bar in the heart of the town gets ready to welcome up to 40,000 visitors over 6 weekends while the streets come alive with love and laughter.
Irish rock band, The Riptide Movement, will kick start the celebrations in the marquee this year before a mix of country bands and DJs showcase their talents.
The Hydro Hotel and Royal Spa Hotel are just two of the venues to host musicians during the matchmaking festival as well as offering comfortable accommodation for visitors.
Regular appearances from the music band, Blue Ridge Country, and DJ Pat, to name but two, will continue over the weekends of September.
While the Ritz Bar will host a fantastic variety of musicians during weekdays.
Matchmaking in the west of Ireland is an age-old tradition but became increasingly popular in Lisdoonvarna after the opening of the West Clare Railway in 1887.
More visitors brought new life to the area and during the month of September, many bachelor farmers would take holiday after harvest time and head into the spa town in search of a suitable wife.
Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, local matchmaker Willie Daly has been the face of the festival for 50 years and has set up around 3,000 marriages.
He is a firm believer in the success of traditional ‘courting’ and the power of romance witnessed in Lisdoonvarna during the month of September.
“Love is waiting there for everyone, its there just waiting to be found,” says Willie.
“When it is, it’s a lovely feeling.”
Willie’s ‘Lucky Book’ plays a big part in the matchmaking process and he can be seen walking around the festival clutching his precious love bible.
It holds 150-years worth of love-seeking profiles and is believed to have romantic powers bestowed to anyone who touches it.
“If you touch this ‘love ledger’ you’ll be married and in love inside of six months,” Willie promises.
“If you are already married, you will recreate the honeymoon period you first had.”
The power of romance
While some traditional aspects of the matchmaking festival have developed over the years the main focus is still very much to gather single people together in one place.
Rather than the more instant gratification of simply hitting ‘like’ or swiping to the next potential mate, in Lisdoonvarna hopeful romantics are encouraged to communicate.
Prospective couples are invited to meet around the table with Willie and simply chat about their dreams for the future and whether they might be suited.
After which they are told to go and have fun dancing at the festival to encourage any physical attraction to blossom.
Without a hint of Instagram, the Lisdoonvarna matchmaking festival may appear somewhat old fashioned but it is a tried and tested event for people to find their fairytale ending.