AS claims go, it’s a bold one. We may all think Halloween is a Stateside import but the Boyne Valley, on Ireland’s east coast is pitching itself as the REAL birthplace of the fright-fest.
This year it hosts its very first annual Puca festival, celebrating the origins of Halloween in Ireland.
The festival wants you to forget Halloween customs as you currently know them, such as trick or treating and apple bobbing, while getting back to the true meaning of why we celebrated it in the first place – honouring the dead and welcoming in the new season.
Puca is a Gaelic word, which translates as “ghost” and is also the name of one of several mythological characters that will be brought to life in the three-day event between October 31 and
November 2 at three historic locations, Trim, Drogheda and Athboy, all within easy reach of Dublin.
It kicks off with the lighting of the Samhain Fires in Athboy – a tradition dating back thousands of years when druids would light fires to signify the forces of winter and death were conquered.
Next, the spirits will process through the streets of Trim right up to the ramparts of Trim Castle – used as the location for York Castle in Mel Gibson’s blockbuster movie Braveheart.
The castle is brought to life every night with digital projections and live music. A Puca-themed food and craft market will also keep your Halloween appetite satisfied.
The gorgeous Trim Castle Hotel, where we stayed, is a stone’s throw from the action – and has amazing views of the castle from its rooftop bar.
But if the Halloween festivities don’t tickle your fancy, Boyne Valley still has plenty to offer including Newgrange, a mounded tomb made from 200,000 tons of rock and said to predate both the Great Pyramid of Giza and Stonehenge.
Or if, like me, you fancy yourself as a bit of a gin aficionado, then Listoke Gin School is right up your alley.
Currently the only gin school in Ireland and located just north of Drogheda, it offers the chance to create your very own one as well as sampling Listoke’s own brands. (£82pp).
But whiskey isn’t the only native spirit of Ireland, as you’ll find if you dare to visit the new £38million distillery in Slane, which is in the grounds of Slane castle and which offers tours. There’s also the Hill of Slame and ruins of the friary church to visit.
While the Puca festival is sure to tempt many for the thrills and chills, with so much else to appeal and that legendary Irish hospitality, you’ll be staying for the craic!
GO: BOYNE VALLEY
GETTING THERE: Daily Aer Lingus flights from several UK airports from £32.99 one way. See aerlingus.com.
STAYING THERE: The 4* Trim Castle Hotel, from £75per night. See trimcastlehotel.com.
The 3* Westcourt Hotel Drogheda has rooms from £52. See westcourt.ie
OUT AND ABOUT: Festival details at pucafestival.com, listokedistillery.ie/gin-school
MORE INFO: See discoverboynevalley.ie