Newstalk Goes spooky with Halloween Ideas on The Hard Shoulder

October 9th 2019

This week on The Hard Shoulder we are looking at some spooky travel for Halloween.

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Halloween is traditionally an Irish Festival beginning in Pagan times when the Celts celebrated Samhain, the end of the year, with a fire festival. It is also traditionally the time when the veil between this life and the afterlife was thinnest and the souls of the dead returned. The Jack-0-lanterns seen in the USA were originally made from cut turnips and Irish emigrants who brought the tradition to America used pumpkins in their place.

Starting with some Irish places to stay, not many know that Derry has the reputation of being the Halloween capital of Ireland with a festival that’s rated in top five in the world.


From October 26th – November 1st 2019 as the veil between this world and the other is at its thinnest, join supernatural beings and the walking dead as they surge and stagger into the city for a week long, internationally renowned Samhain spectacular.

Derry Halloween – Return of the Ancients’ International Halloween Street Carnival Parade
Photo by Lorcan Doherty

There’s a bumper harvest in store this year, from ancient mythology and ghostly tales of yore, to cutting-edge culture and a showstopping carnival and fireworks finale. The first ever LegenDerry Food Village in Waterloo Place will showcase the best local seasonal produce and celebrate the city’s thriving street food scene, with wood fired pizzas, fiery Latin American flavours and delicious autumnal sweet treats.

Still hungry for more? Local bars and restaurants will be concocting bespoke Halloween dishes and drinks for ravenous revellers as part of a LegenDerry Food Trail. It’s a great way to experience a city which has established a name for itself as a foodie hotspot.

Derry Halloween – Return of the Ancients’ International Halloween Street Carnival Parade
Photo by Lorcan Doherty

The historic Derry walls, which celebrated their 400th anniversary this year, will come alive for the three evenings before Halloween. Awakening the Walls is a free trail of more than 40 installations by artists and performers, all reflecting this year’s theme, The Other World Awakens. You’ll see Eyes to the Skies, an aerial dance spectacle, a wicked wonderland, haunted windows and more.

Now world-famous, Derry Halloween began as a party in a pub more than 30 years ago. It has retained its grassroots feel and the huge community-led carnival on October 31 will feature hundreds of participants performing a new work inspired by Celtic legends such as the shapeshifting Morrigan. A fireworks finale is a suitably epic note to finish on.

Other highlights during the week include Samhain Sessions, a series of live concerts in atmospheric venues. Meanwhile, ‘Count Dracula’ will be blasting out gothic tunes on the organ in the Guildhall, by the light of the stunning Samhain Moon.

The Heart of Samhain is located in the Guildhall Square and Waterloo Place, where, as well as the LegenDerry Food Village, you’ll soak up the sights and sounds of a haunted market, arts and crafts, live music and street performances, plus a festival information point.

There’s also a frightfully good line-up of Little Horrors activities to let children’s imaginations run wild. Events include the Return of the Morrigan show, ghost bus tours, Viking role play, Japanese storytelling, a bat safari and so much more. And beware of the giant – supposedly extinct – Saurus beasts who will be roaming the crowds in search of food.

Costumes are a key part of the fun, and festival-goers are being urged to dress up. (Who knows? You might just see a few Derry Girls – or Derry Ghouls). From bin liners to masterpieces, all are welcome, and there will be costume workshops and a freaky Junk Kouture fashion show in the Guildhall.

For a wallet-friendly Halloween with the wow factor, Derry has it all. Join us… if you dare!

For more information visit

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In Dublin the Bram Stoker Festival runs from October 25th to the 28th

Whether you’re a resident vampire or visiting from further afield, Bram Stoker Festival 2019 has something for everyone in its gothically inspired programme of events. Get ready for four days and nights of deadly adventures as Dublin gets gloriously gothic this October Bank Holiday Weekend.

The Bram Stoker Festival playfully celebrates the gothic, the mysterious, the after-dark and the supernatural, and delves into the legacy of one of Ireland’s most treasured authors. The packed programme of events devilishly mixes family-friendly adventures with late-night antics for mates, dates and everything in between.

From unforgettable spectacles on water, to seances in complete darkness, dress-up screenings in the dead of night to daring theatre in evocative churches, pop-up Victorian fun parks to foodie tours with a devilish twist, there’s intimate performances in unusual spaces, live music, instagram horrors, literary and once-off events – Bram Stoker Festival is full of surprises.

Events include a disco suitable for all the family on Bank Holiday Monoday

Dracula’s Disco

 Meeting House Sq Temple Bar

Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 Mon 28 Oct, 2.00 – 4.00pm Free Event The ever popular Dracula’s Disco is back! One of the festival’s annual highlights, we’ve summoned Dracula’s own DJ Will Softly back to Temple Bar, who’ll play all the latest hits for families to enjoy, complete with confetti cannons to inspire

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Go West for Halloween

Westport House will be hosting it’s annual Halloween Fest in the Basement from 26th and 31st October from 11:00am to 5:00pm.

Get ready for plenty of ghoulish delights, scary stories and creepy fun that all the family will be able to enjoy!

  • Head to the Haunted Basement of the Historic House, transformed for Halloween Fest.
  • Gather ‘round the cauldron for Scary Story Time, with wicked tales from the White Witch of Westport.
  • Brave souls can visit the dark dungeons, where the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley locked up her prisoners.
  • Carve a creepy pumpkin* and decorate some ghoulish goblin cakes at the Spooky Spoons Workshop.
  • Get your Michael Jackson zombie moves on at the Thriller Dance Class.

I’ve just returned from a lovely stay at Hotel Westport which is in the grounds of Westport house and hosts a Halloween Fest each year. I had my mum and daughter with me and we enjoyed the facilities and a spacious family suite with dividing doors – it’s a great idea for families with up to three children with a shared en suite but plenty of privacy.


Hotel Westport is located on the Westport House Estate in the beautiful town of Westport. 

Get a TWO-day Family Ticket for €52.50 to Halloween Fest in Westport House (normal price for 1-day is €52.50
Real Dungeons, Storytelling with the White Witch, Pumpkin Carving (€3pp additional or bring your own), Dance Workshops and much more in the Haunted Basement of Westport House – The Pirate Adventure Park Rides, Slides, Boats and Trail are all Open for the Midterm Break.

Winter Wonderland at Hotel Westport
Prices from €149 in total for a Family of Four to include One nights B&B Plus a Visit to Winter Wonderland in the 18th Century magical Westport House. Limited availability for certain dates. Book now.

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The Sunny South East Wexford

Pumpkin Power at Dunbrody House

Combine a wonderful 2 night escape to Dunbrody with some fabulous fun-filled Halloween treats for all ages. Enjoy a free Pumpkin Carving class for residents only on Halloween afternoon between 4pm and 6pm, followed by Halloween games in The Local until 7.30pm. All this combined with two nights accommodation with Spooky Halloween Dinner on one night and of course the legendary late breakfast until Noon each day.

Visit their Sunday market, enjoying the Sunday Jazz brunch in and sampling of the “craic” in their traditional Irish pub “The Local” are also Must Dos.

For those seeking to discover the delights of Ireland’s Ancient East we offer a host of packages featuring some of the top attractions from right here in the heart of Irelands Ancient East – the Hook Lighthouse, Dunbrody Famine Ship, Tintern Abbey, the Kennedy Homestead… and much, much more.

Valid from: 28.10.2019 – 01.11.2019

Price From: €265 per person

Dunbrody House is a member of Ireland’s Blue book, for more information visit or contact Dunbrody House directly on 051 389600

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Spooktacular Halloween events to take place at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and King John’s Castle

Monday 7th October 2019: Visitors to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park and King John’s Castle better beware this Halloween as Shannon Heritage has announced a range of frighteningly exciting Halloween events that are sure to thrill and terrify the entire family!

Suitable for all ages, “Monsters, Misfits and Mayhem” is the theme at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park this Bank Holiday as on Monday 28th October, for one day only, creepy creatures and mighty monsters are set to invade the castle grounds.

From 12 noon visitors can experience face – painting, bouncy castles, juggling shows, balloon modelling and the wonderful Monsieur Gusto the amazing street performer who will provide some light-hearted relief from all the mayhem. There will also be snakes, lizards, terrifying tarantulas, a talking head and several other creepy creatures roaming the park so even the older kids will be entertained!

Back by popular demand this year is the Halloween Spooktacular Train ride – so stay on the lookout for ghosts, grim reapers and zombies as they will appear from out of nowhere to give you a scare!

If you really want to be spooked then explore the creepy crypt in the castle basement complete with Dracula in his coffin, a screaming banshee, Frankenstein and a horrifying killer rabbit!

New for 2019, members of the Shannon Musical Society will also be surprising visitors with a impromptu flash mob performance of the electrifying hit “Thriller” on the village street at various times throughout the day.

But that’s not all. The much loved and illustrious children’s magician Joe Daly, best known for his hugely popular TV show ‘abraKIDabra’ will be performing his show in the Corn Barn full of modern magic and mini illusions, which is sure to be magnificent.

In addition to all these frightfully googlish goings-on, Shannon Heritage will also play host to some spooktacular  events – at King John’s Castle, over the course of the October midterm.

On Saturday 26th October boys and girls aged 6-12 years will have the unique opportunity to create their favourite Halloween themed game and movie characters out of LEGO® at the Halloween Workshop. Each participant will receive a special Halloween goody bag on completion of the workshop!

The wacky and wonderful team from Planet Science Kidz will be bringing their Spooktacular Slime Workshop to King John’s Castle on Tuesday 29th October. This is the ideal opportunity for kids to embrace the mad scientist within themselves while doing some fun (and messy) experiments. Some of the activities planned for the day include Gooey Bugs ‘n’ Slime, Giant Slime Bubbles, Slime Monsters, Spooky Trick or Treat Science & Test Tube Potions.

-Meanwhile from Wednesday 30th October to Friday 1st November kids will be able to explore Limerick’s hidden past at the Halloween themed archaeology camps at King John’s Castle. Run in conjunction with the School of Irish Archaeology the camps will introduce children to the mysteries and adventures of Limerick’s past in a fun, practical and hands-on way. Facilitators will use an ‘interactive’ approach so that children will get lots of time outdoors as they take part in excavations to explore Limerick’s hidden past with haunted historical quests around Limerick’s Medieval. Other highlights include a Horrible Histories Excavation, Haunted Historical Quests, Medieval Combat and Weaponry, Archery and a whole host of Halloween games.

Tickets can be booked online at and


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I got on to the lovely people at Abbey Travel and they say Disney Paris is almost fully booked so there’s little or no offers left and the flights are a crazy price.

For example 29 Oct x 3 nights for accommodation only with park tickets in the onsite 2* Santa Fe Hotel is coming in at €1,928 before flights or transfers.

During school holidays is peak period. So maybe plan this for next year?

Dawson Travel

You can however take the kids out of school with Dawson Travel and enjoy the spooky season a week early

A Spooky mist of mischief creeping over Disneyland!

3 nights

On 16th October 2019

Fr. €470 pp (based on 2 adults + 2 kids under 12)

Cheyenne Hotel
Flights Ex Cork or Dublin
4 day park passes
Airport transfers

To enquire about this offer

Call: 021 4274397 or 01 9066033,

Or email or

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Boston and Salem New England Massachusetts

My very favourite place to enjoy Halloween is Salem, home of the Infamous Witch Trials in the Seventeenth Century.

Here’s a sample package from American Holidays but I really would recommend planning this trip a year in advance. I enjoyed a stay with my son in Salem following the trails and trials and the town is at its most beautiful with fall foliage. For the entire month of October Salem revels in Halloween activities check out the Haunted Happenings here

New this year is the ferry from Boston to Salem and Boston is a terrific city with so much to do. Read my trip there a couple of years back with my son for some novel travel inspiration

Here is a last minute package with American Holidays

Flights, Hotel & Car hire

Departing  25th October 2019 1st Nov

  • 7 Night Stay flying with Aer Lingus from Dublin to Boston
  • 4 nights at 4 * Boston Park Plaza, Standard Room,
  • 3 Nights at 3* Ocean House Hotel at Bass Rock (Gloucester Mass 20 min drive from Salem)
  • 4 days car hire
  • Total Price for 2 adults is €4,282 / £3928 (Quote 52194773

Departing Friday 1st November the same itinerary is €3,314/£2,875 (Quote 52194912)

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If you don’t want to be in the country for Halloween and would like to take the kids with you off to the sun then there’s still availability for a last minute week to Greece with Sunway

Greece – Halkidiki – 25th October – 7 Nights

4* Golden Star City Resort Bed & Breakfast from €483 Per Adult

5* Athena Pallas Hotel Half Board from €499 Per Adult

5* Grand Hotel Palace Bed & Breakfast from €739 Per Adult

5* Athena Residence Half Board €1175 per person

Prices are per person based on 2 adults sharing for 7 nights and include flights & hotel


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