Lisdoonvarna, or Lis Duin Bhearna, is a popular village on the west coast of Ireland, in the Burren region of County Clare. This picturesque little town is one of the main stopping points for tourists exploring the dramatic scenery of the Burren region, or those visiting the nearby Cliffs of Moher.
Lisdoonvarna is still sometimes referred to as a "spa town" -- a reference to time in the past when the village was known for the healing properties of its spring water.
These days, many visitors stop off in Lisdoonvaran for a bite to eat, or stay longer to sample some music and dancing, and to explore the area.
The town also features a visitor information centre, named Lisdoonvarna Failte, (Fall-Cha) meaning "Lisdoonvarna welcome". Here you can get maps and other information about what to do and see in the area. The town has several bars, cafes and hotels. In the evenings, particularly during the summer months, there is usually some traditional Irish music being played in one of the towns several pubs.
Matchmaking and Music Festival
The main attraction in Lisdoonvarna these days is its Matchmaking Festival in September, when romantic hopefuls -- usually, of a certain age (a lot of grey hair can be seen!) -- come to the village for the festivities. Originally a festival where bachelor farmers hoped to meet wives, these days most festival-goers simply come for the "craic" (fun). After some traditional music and dancing, any individuals who are willing are paired into couples by a local matchmaker -- whose family have been in the matchmaking tradition for centuries.
The festival, held annually throughout the month of September, attracts tens of thousands of attendees from all over the world. Traditional Irish music also features prominently as part of the festival.
The festival continues to evolve, with various events and activities spread throughout the month, including an LGBT matchmaking event.
Lisdoonvarna -- the Song
During the 1970s and 1980s, Lidsoonvrna became famous for its music festival, popularised in a famous song by Irish singer/songwriter Christy Moore by the name "Lisdoonvarna". The music festival ended in 1983 when eight of the attendees accidentally drowned. Christy Moore's ballad humorously recounts the tale of goings-on at the music festival.
I like to hit Lisdoon
In around Friday afternoon.
This gives me time to get me tent up and my gear together,
I don't need to worry about the weather.
Ramble in for a pint of stout,
you'd never know who'd be hangin' about!
Origin of the Name Lisdoonvarna
The name Lis Duin Bhearna, loosely translated, means "Enclosure at the ringfort by the spring." The name is believed to refer to an ancient earthen ringfort, or "fairy fort", which can be found about 2 miles / 3.5km outside the town, near the ruins of an old Norman-era castle.
These ancient circular mounds, mostly dating from pre-Christian structures, are common in Ireland -- there are many thousands dotted around the country. Historians believe they represent the homes of the old Gaelic Irish. Norman stone castles were often built, in the middle medieval period, on the sites of older ringforts.
Lisdoonvarna main street. Image: Doug Kerr