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Map - Find out where to celebrate St Patrick's Day near you

The `biggest-ever festival of its kind', St Patrick's Festival in Armagh and Down features more than 100 events

IRELAND will celebrate St Patrick's Day with its annual merry-go-round of carnival parades, concerts, festivals, fun fairs and markets.

Among this year's highlights is a St Patrick's Festival which has already been underway for more than a week in Armagh and Down and billed as "the biggest-ever festival of its kind in the UK and Ireland".

In addition to the family-fun on offer across Ireland, the spiritual side of the patron saint's day can be marked with a series of church services at sites closely associated with St Patrick.

Terence Brannigan, chairman of Tourism NI, said it is keen to seen Northern Ireland" recognised as the most authentic cultural destination in the world for celebrating St Patrick and exploring his legacy".

Final preparations are underway in towns and cities across Ireland ahead of Thursday's event including the north's biggest annual carnival parade which takes place in Belfast.

BELFAST

* Carnival Parade from 12 noon: The city centre will be awash with colour as the family-friendly carnival parade gets underway at noon. The `rainbow city' theme will feature community groups "from across the cultural spectrum" alongside professional and amateur performers, musicians and dancers.

The parade will travel from City Hall, across Donegall Square North, down Donegall Place, Royal Avenue onto Donegall Street, Bridge Street, High Street and end at Custom House Square where a free concert will be held.

* Free concert at Custom House Square

From 12.45pm – 3pm the free outdoor concert will feature X-Factor 2014 winner Ben Haenow, former Westlife member Brian McFadden and Britain’s Got Talent semi finalists Irish Dance group `Innova'.

Meanwhile, the Belfast Boys Model drummers and traditional music group `Altagore' will also perform, along with local singer/songwriter, Triona Carville.

The concert is free but entry is on a first come first served basis. Gates open at noon and under-16s must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information visit Belfast Welcome Centre on 028 9024 6609 or online www.belfastcity.gov.uk/stpatricks.

NEWRY

* Fun fair

Cullen's Fun Fair in St Christopher's Park has been open since Friday and will provide entertainment on St Patrick's Day.

* Market

John Mitchell's Place will play host to the St Patrick's Day Variety Market, face painting and food stalls among other attractions between 9am and 5pm.

*Arts and crafts workshops

Aimed at children, they will run from 10-11.30am in Newry and Mourne Museum

(£1.50, pre-booking essential).

* Musical afternoon

Newry and Mourne Museum will host "traditional, and not so traditional, music" along with a bowl of stew between 1-3pm.

(£3, pre-booking essential).

Sean Hollywood's Art Centre will host traditional music from Sonas Harp Ensemble and Henry McDonald & Friends with arts and craft workshops all day.

* Cross-community parade

It will depart at noon from the Quays shopping centre. This year the theme is be `Feasts and Wild Beasts'.

* Concert

Hill Street Events Space will host the open air concert between 1.30-5pm. It is free and will feature compere Gene Fitzpatrick and Declan Nerney and his band along with music from The Housem8's.

* On-street entertainment

Free children's on-street entertainment, street trading and charity stalls along Hill Street between 1.30-5pm.

ARMAGH

* Discovering the stars at Armagh

The Market Place Theatre will host the" engaging and enlightening talk" hosted by Armagh Observatory focussing on recent developments in astronomy, at an introductory level suitable for all. It take place at 11.15am and admission is free admission, but pre-booking is essential.

* Guided tour of Armagh Observatory

Including a look round the building, the Human Orrery, and an explanation of the new multi- speaker outdoor sound installation `Around North' by award-winning composer Robert Jarv. It will take place at 2.30pm and admission is free but pre-booking is essential.

* St Patrick's Tea Party

Held at Synod Hall, St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, Armagh between 3-7pm, admission is free to the special tea party to celebrate St Patrick in the lovely surroundings of the hall. There will also be a "feast of Irish traditional music and song".

* `From Pagan to St Patrick'

Held in Navan Centre and Fort at 6pm, Armagh Theatre Group will perform a family friendly show, which takes a fun and light hearted approach to the tales of St Patrick. Find out about the `not really true' stories surrounding Ireland's patron saint. The evening starts with music and traditional stew and finishes with a procession to light beacons near the Navan Fort, chasing `the snakes' out of Ireland. Suitable for eight years+.

(Adults £12 Children £5 - pre-booking is essential)

(More information www.armagh.co.uk or www.saintpatrickscountry.com )

DOWNPATRICK

* Service of Holy Communion with George Newell

At St Patrick's Church Of Ireland, Saul between 8-8.45am, with buses to Saul Church leaving from The Mall approaching Down Cathedral.

* Mass in Irish

Followed by Blessing of the Shamrock at St Patrick's Church, Downpatrick at 9am.

* St Patrick's Day Walk

At Castle Ward, Strangford, registration starts at 9.30am, closes at 10.30am, with the walk starting at 10.45am. Admission is free.

* Pilgrimage Prayer Walk

10am - From Saul to Down Cathedral

* Mass in English

St Patrick's Church, Downpatrick at 10.30am and a 45 minute pilgrimage walk from St Patrick's Church of Ireland, Saul to Down Cathedral, Downpatrick.

* St Patrick's Family Day

At Down Arts Centre between 10am-5pm. Attractions include circus performers, artists and storytellers, arts and crafts, clay pot throwing demonstrations, hand and drum carding and spinning.

Admission is free.

* Artisan Food Market

It will take place at St Patrick Square between 10am-6pm, offering excellent food produce of local provenance in a traditional style market place.

* Cross Community Service

Taking place at Down Cathedral at 11.45am, the preacher will be Bishop Harold Miller with the theme walking in

the steps of St Patrick.

*Festival fun

In St Patrick Square starting at noon it promises activities for the whole family, with face painting, stilt walkers and balloon

modelling. Admission is free.

DERRY

* St Patrick's Day Spring Carnival

This year's theme is The Land Of The Little People, covering a whole weekend of festivities, with four days of family-friendly events.

* Festivals

There will be Ubuntu Festival of World Traditions, LegenDerry Food Festival, Little Folk Fest and Pixies Paradise among the attractions.

(More details at www.derrystrabane.com/Subsites/St-Patricks/About )

DUBLIN

* City at Play: Funfairs

From 11am until 8/9pm at Merrion Square, D2 and Custom House Quay, D1 on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. There are waltzers, family attractions and carousels

* St Patrick's Festival Parade

Starting at Parnell Square at noon, `Imagine If …' is this year's theme "inspired by the imagination of the youth of Ireland as they look to the future". It the final instalment of a creative trilogy of past, present and future embarked upon in 2014.

Bands from Ireland will be joined by music ensembles from the USA, UK and Brittany.

* Irish Craft Beer & Whiskey Village

Running at Hall 1, Main Hall in the RDS from noon-11pm and now in its fifth year. The festival is indoors, with stalls, masterclasses and live music.

(€10 entry - includes live music and silent disco)

Belfast Trad Society is preparing to celebrate St Patrick's Day:

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