This quirky local festival reinforces the phrase the “luck of the Irish.” How often does a single person go to a festival privately hoping they might be lucky enough to meet their soulmate? Well, here’s a festival primarily dedicated to that intention. But, before you imagine it’s just an evening of speed dating, read this review and you’ll see that there’s magic in the air and more than matchmaking going on in this tiny community of 1,000 County Clare farmers.
The Irish Match.com... in Real LifeThe Irish prize their matchmaking like they do their melancholic writers. The art of matchmaking has been passed down for generations and it’s incredibly important for the region. The fact is that young men tended to stay home to work on the farm, while many women would move to Dublin to seek employment. This created a gender imbalance that accelerated the need for a festival of dancing, drinking, flirting and frolicking. While there are other matchmaking festivals on the Irish isle, Lisdoonvarna may have been the first as it’s more than 150 years old and sprouted during the Great Irish Famine which accelerated emigration from the farms. Families would pay large dowries to successful matchmakers to help lure a wife for their young men.Today, the king of the matchmakers is Willie Daly, a local horse dealer, farmer, publican and third generation practitioner, who has hooked-up hundreds, if not thousands, of happy couples. Willie is called “the horse whisperer of matchmaking” due to his unique blend of intuition and quiet wisdom. He’s even written a book called “The Last Matchmaker,” which offers practical advice on luring love.
The Birds & the BeesThis month-long event crescendos with the final Thursday-Saturday nights of September with women holding a certain amount of power. With a gender imbalance just this side of Alaska, women are the prize and they are allowed to make the first move. Often, a young lass will approach a matchmaker and express her curiosity or potential affection for a lad. Amidst the barn dances, pub crawls, horse racing, and speed dating rituals, you’ll see men buzz like bees around an attractive female, ready to pollinate. It’s a fascinating spectator sport and it’s fun to take bets on who will end up with whom.The dancing at Lisdoon (most people drop the “varna”) is probably the highlight with country and Irish jigs being one of the primary ways for men and women to determine whether they’re well-suited for one another. You’ll also find a few hen nights and stag parties for soon-to-be-married brides and grooms who choose to do their last flings down in Lisdoon. It doesn’t hurt that the nearby Galway International Oyster Festival happens the same time as Lisdoon’s last weekend. Aphrodisiacal oysters and matchmaking? Sounds like a match made in heaven.
Mingle with SinglesFor those expecting decorum and etiquette, maybe you’ll find that with the ladies who lunch crowd in London. This festival is rural, uninhibited, uncouth, alcohol-inspired, and not for the faint of heart. You’ll find lots of gypsy ladies reading tea leaves, crystal balls, and dirty palms as, of course, when it comes to love and matchmaking, we’re often rather future-obsessed. Lisdoonvarna is now called, “Europe’s Biggest Single’s Event” so you’re likely to see birds and blokes from all over the UK and the continent. But, at the end of the evening and one too many pints, the language of love is universal so, if you’re single, be prepared for Cupid’s arrow to magically pierce your heart.