Lisdoonvarna is a spa town north of Doolin on the N67, with a population of approx. 800 people. The name, anglicised from Lios Dúin Bhearna, means “Enclosure at the Fort by the Gap”. Originally famous as a mineral spa, it is now more popular for its 5-week Matchmaking Festival than its healing spa waters.
In the 18th century, a Limerick surgeon, Dr. Sylvester O’Halloran discovered the benefits of the spa waters, rich in iron, sulphur, magnesium and calcium. People came from far and wide to bathe in and drink the waters to gain relief from diseases such as rheumatism. The spa still houses a Victorian Pump House.
Meet Your Match in Lisdoonvarna
Matchmaking is one of Ireland’s oldest traditions, and every year Lisdoon becomes the centre of the matchmaking universe for the whole month of September and the first week of October. This festival can be traced back hundreds of years to when a time when farmers came to the matchmaker looking for a wife, once the crop harvest was in. Incumbent Willie Daly, is a third generation matchmaker with an impressive record of success over several generations. His daughter, Clare has now joined the family business.
The festival is now billed as Europe’s Largest Singles Event, with up to 20,000 visitors descending on the town to eat, drink and… dance their hearts out! Old-time dancing is a huge draw, with 5 big dancing weekends as well as dancing at the town hall every day from noon.
Folk Festival Legends
Lisdoonvarna was also famous for its annual folk music festivals which ran from 1978 to 1983, featuring folk legends such as Van Morrisson, Planxty, Jackson Browne and The Chieftains. This festival was immortalised in the Christy Moore ballad aptly named ‘Lisdoonvarna’.