A Dance Party In County Clare

The Town of Lisdoonvarna in County Clare, Ireland has an usual reputation for being the key matching matchmaking centre of Europe! It’s an old tradition – and for a few weeks in September, Irish people from every continent, return to this little place in search of that perfect someone or more often, the perfect party. So if you think that a little too much time has passed, and you want to find yourself a life partner – book a flight to Ireland, for the biggest dance event of the summer.


It all began in the 18th century when the town developed as a result of it’s natural resource – mineral waters. The small town was bursting at the seams with people taking the waters – and out of this, matchmaking parties and gatherings began to take place. The local bachelor boys and sedate farmers who were too busy during spring and summer to meet and socialise were able to take advantage of the holiday season. With the harvest gathered in, the rural community had the ideal opportunity to meet a potential spouse.

Matchmaker Matchmaker…..

Mr. Willie Daly is the last of the officially recognised matchmakers. Willie has been plying his matchmaking skills for about 40 years. Every night of the matchmaking season, Willy will sit in the front room of The Matchmaker Bar, with his ancient ledger, a memorial to the family craft. Through this he can trace all the matches made, weddings, pairings, and it’s stuffed with photographs and applications from those seeking a mate with the help of Mr Daly.  Women can sign up for free; men pay around 20 euro’s and that’s because there’s more men than women! It’s something that the older generation feel more comfortable with – and that’s reflecting in the dance styles. Old time during the day, and the more modern footwork happens at night. The majority of  “matches” are made after the event, although he might encourage a potential couple to have a little dance, on the same evening they sign up. Two of his children, Marie and Grainne are already following the family tradition – with the advantages of the internet to back this next phase of matchmaking.

The world has changed, and these days, people have lots of methods to meet and communicate.  When the matchmaking events were first held, men and women were usually only able to socialise in the heightened atmosphere of Victorian values. Now, Lisdoonvarna’s annual festival has evolved into a large single’s event. The village has one key street, and it’s around this area that the evenings liven up. People may no longer need to come looking for a husband or wife, but they still want a good time, and they come by the thousand! Dances run from 12.00 noon each day and carry on into the small hours of the next morning. Set dancing exhibitions are also a feature of the event and there’s live Irish music in most pubs, although getting to the bar can be something of a challenge. It’s fairly basic stuff – hand drawn posters, and small bands thumping out the music, but it feels genuine and there are lots of laughs to be had.

How To Get There

Head for Lisdoonvarna this September and early October. On the whol it’s very good natured and you’ll need your dancing shoes and lots of energy. Men are not backward in coming forward and are always happy to ask a girl to dance. There are a few local hotels such as the old Hydro Hotel, or try the Guest Houses along the coastal paths, with views of the  Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands.

Lisdoonvarna is located in Co. Clare on Ireland’s West Coast and 45 minutes from Shannon Airport. Or you could fly to Dublin via easyjet and drive which will take about 3 hours. Ennis and Galway are served by rail. For more information, contact the Tourist Board of Ireland.