Ireland is known for its famous traditional Irish music – folk music overflowing with fiddles, harps, tin whistles and the bodhran, a traditional drum.
Any night of the week, you’ll find any number of pubs with a local group of musicians – an experience every visitor to Ireland. Though music in Ireland has evolved somewhat, it has never lost its importance in Irish culture. Need proof? Here’s our Ultimate Irish Playlist.
While traditional Irish music is still a prominent part of local culture, Irish music is so much more than that. To help ameliorate your Irish music knowledge, we’ve compiled our Ultimate Irish Playlist – a list of over 90 songs that represent the wide variety of Irish music. From pop hits to folk tunes to traditional music, you’ll be surprised to discover how many of these songs you know – and how many more you’ll want to download!
Music has a power over us – it transcends borders, languages, cultures. You can’t help but tap your foot at a merry tune, or shed a tear at a sad one. Music introduces you to the culture, traditions and dreams of the local people as well as to pop culture trends. Music is often tied to landscape as well – with regions or places becoming immortalised in song (and sometimes dance!).
Music has always been important in Ireland. The Irish are known for their traditional Irish music (nicknamed ‘trad’ music), and there is a rich collection of folk songs.
If you’re looking to listen to trad music, go into nearly any pub most nights a week (or at least a Thursday, Friday or Saturday) after 9pm, and there’s a good chance you’ll find a local band playing a bit of trad music.
From more universal instruments such as harps and fiddles to more traditional instruments like the bodhran (a type of drum), the tin whistle (a small wind instrument), a bouzouki (imagine a guitar meets banjo) or the uillean pipes (Ireland’s response to the Scottish bagpipes), you’re sure to tap your foot while listening to the ensemble of these instruments!
Our team got together to choose the best Irish music. From folks songs to rock music to modern day pop, take a look at some of our favourites.
Use our Ultimate Irish Playlist to accompany you on your next Irish adventure – or even in preparation of your journey to Ireland! Check it out on Spotify below.
This cheerful little town on the Dingle Peninsula has long been known as a musical must-do in southwest Ireland. Full of pubs and near a prominent Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) community to the northwestern tip of the peninsula, Dingle proudly holds on to its heritage as a shrine to traditional Irish music. Any night of the week you can catch local bands playing in the pubs – some days, you may even have the chance to take classes yourself!
Also in the area? Swim with Fungie the Dolphin – Dingle’s beloved marine resident, hike portions of the Dingle Way, head down to the beautiful Inch Beach, or drive out to Slea Head for amazing ocean views!
This small coastal town in Clare clinging to the Cliffs of Moher is widely recognised as the home of Irish music, largely due to Doolin being a rural community that was for a long time fairly cut off from the rest of the world. Though this is no longer the case, the influx in visitors to the Cliffs of Moher has made this little place even more determined to hang on to their musical heritage. Expect over 35 sessions per week in summer!
Also in the area? Park your car here and walk to the Cliffs of Moher (see more info on the hike here), take the ferry to Inisheer of the Aran Islands, head out for a hike in the barren landscape of the Burren, or head underground to Doolin Cave!
Though far less visited than either Dingle or Doolin, Sligo acts as the music lover’s paradise of the north. With over a dozen pubs in town or in nearby villages like Strandhill, Sligo always has something going on. Because it’s far off the beaten track, tap your foot along to a tune in local haunts like McGarrigles, Shoot the Crows or Hargadons while you rub shoulders with Sligo locals.
Also in the area? Try your hand at surfing in Strandhill, hike to Queen Maeve’s tomb atop Knocknarea Hill or climb Ireland’s icon table mountain Ben Bulben. The area is also famous for seaweed baths (either at Strandhill or Enniscrone), as well as Irish poet WB Yeats’ grave in Drumcliff. The gentle rolling coastal landscapes are perfect for biking!
Though Galway is a city, north of Galway is the rural hills and bogs of Connemara, where the of agricultural communities still embrace their musical traditions – in fact, Connemara is often regarded as the cultural heartland of ancient Gaelic culture. Many locals from those communities have moved to Galway for work or studies and with them, they have brought their musical heritage – and musical instruments! – with them. Galway is dotted with bars and pubs where you can expect to hear a trad session most nights of the week!
Also in the area? Explore the picturesque fishing harbour of Roundstone and the cheery centre of Clifden, then head over the Connemara National Park for a lovely day of hiking. Be sure to stop by the iconic Kylemore Abbey (tip: the Victorian Walled Gardens are gorgeous!) – or get muddy at the Lost Valley Farm!
In the heart of the Ancient East, medieval Kilkenny is a bustling market town. Only about 1.5 hours from Dublin, Kilkenny is a melange of modern bars as well as your typical Irish pub with the roaring fire and wood panelling. In cosmopolitan Kilkenny, you’ll find a wide range of live music, as well as poetry readings, theatre or modern music.
Also in the area? Be sure to visit the spectacular Kilkenny Castle! Just under an hour away is the Rock of Cashel, an ancient fort-turned-monastery atop a massive rock.