Vagabond Invites Adventurers to experience Halloween in Ireland ·

Vagabond Invites Adventurers to experience Halloween in Ireland

Jack-o-lanterns have roots in Ireland when hollowed-out turnips held candles to keep evil spirits away. When the Irish came to North America, penniless and bereft of their homeland, they still clung to Halloween, carving readily available pumpkins instead of turnips.

Why did Halloween come to be in the first place? Then, what makes Ireland the home of Halloween?

Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland shares insights on its upcoming October immersions into the worlds of the Druids of 5,000 BC, the later Celts (2,000 BC) and the early Christians.

Rob Rankin, founder and owner with Amy Rankin, explains: “Iron Age, pagan Druids were superseded by the Celts for whom the Nov. 1 Samhain (pronounced “sah-win” or “sow-in”) marked a new year. At sunset on Oct. 31 the line blurred between the real world and that of banshees and ghosts. Bonfires and scary masks kept away evil spirits. Food left food outside doorways appease these spirits. Colcannon of boiled potatoes, kale and onions welcomed the visits of dead ancestors. Samhain morphed into the Christian calendar as All Hallows.”

Throughout Ireland this mythology is recreated annually. Major events in 2018 include:

  • Galway: Macnas Halloween Parade, Oct. 28, drawing upwards of 40,000 people who revel in the antics of costumed storytellers and Mummers. See:
  • Dublin: Bram Stoker Festival, Oct. 26-29, four nights of deadly adventures in the fashion of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. See:
  • Derry/Londonderry: Oct. 26-Nov. 3, Derry Halloween: Return of the Ancients with haunted harvest markets and a monster fun fair.
  • Belfast: Oct 31, Halloween Monster Mash and Fireworks Display. See:

Ireland’s Halloween traditions also include:

  • slices of fruit-filled Barnbrack Cake that contains a coin, a ring or a rag, each portending an event of the new year;
  • costumes, a tradition dating to the Celtic Druids who believed that this would help them blend in with spirits up from the dead;
  • bonfire’s embers tied to dreams of a loved one.

  • The charms of visiting Ireland in October, says Rankin, include:
  • more elbow room with fewer visitors around;
  • crisp but comfortable temperatures of around 57F with misty mornings;
  • lots of kale to make colcannon;
  • apples for ciders, blackberries and raspberries;
  • migrations of geese, ducks, swans and wading birds moving south from the Arctic;
  • Nature’s russet hues

Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland offers two styles of culturally immersive travel. Vagabond Adventure Tours are for active travellers who want to mix up hiking and biking and other outdoor adventures with history, culture, dining and shopping. Driftwood Journeys of Discovery follow similar itineraries but at an intimate and in-depth looking and lingering pace, sans the physical exertion. For October touring, the company recommends these two itineraries:

  • 6 Day Ancient Ireland Tour helps shed light on Halloween. Driftwood Journeys of Discovery has designed this mentally stimulating exploration of Ireland’s east coast for imaginations that yearn to burrow into bogs, scale crenelated towers and shimmy up mountains for glimpses of Iron Age Celts sifted into Stone Age sands. Stories of buried bodies under ancient stones begin while passing through the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin where a wealth of spooky stories are stored. Visions of Vikings landing longboats, Norman invaders, medieval monks chanting, mineral-mad 19th century industrialists and emigrants clutching destitute families abound. More than any other region of Ireland, this coastline defines how over 5,000 some years the Irish came to be. The per person double rate is €1,729. Close-to-Halloween 2018 departures are Oct. 14 and Oct. 28.
  • 8 Day Wild Irish Rover Tour from Vagabond Adventure Tours allows guests to experience at a leisurely pace the west coast of Ireland and the peninsulas of the southwest all the way up to Connemara. As with all Vagabond adventure tours, the itinerary blends history, culture and fun activity options as far from maddening crowds as possible, often on ancient roads that only Vagabond’s 4x4s can navigate. Guests hike, horseback ride, bicycle, kayak and boat; live overnight like kings and queens in a castle and bar crawl for two nights amongst Dingle town’s 54 pubs. “Every stone we walk over has a story to tell. Ruins and castles are, after all, about people – and ghosts!” adds Rankin. The per person double rate is €1,919. A close-to-Halloween 2018 departure is Oct. 14.

On all its tours, the Vagabond staff curate locally owned accommodations, pubs and restaurants that help serve their goal of authenticity. In the end the mission is to have guests “love Ireland as much as we do.” Transport is in a custom 4×4 Land Rover or Mercedes ‘Vagatron’ that allows access beyond where regular tour buses go.

For details on all of Vagabond Small-Group Tours of Ireland itineraries, availability and for 2018-2019 reservations, please visit Call toll free (from the US) 1.833-230-0288; in Ireland 00353 (0) 1 5634358; or email:

About Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland
Since 2002 Vagabond Adventure Tours has been creating opportunities for visitors to embrace Ireland by walking, biking, horseback riding and kayaking its lands and waters, imbibing history and culture along the way. In 2013 the company was honored by National Geographic Traveler with a Top 50 Tour of a Lifetime distinction. In 2015 and 2017 Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland was named the “Best Adventure Experience” at the Irish Tourism Awards. In 2017, Vagabond became Ireland’s first tour operator to achieve Ecotourism Gold Level Certification and in 2018, Vagabond Tours won The Green Tourism & Entertainment category in Ireland’s most prestigious Green (business) Awards.

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