Our new home on Arranmore and its history

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This weekend Swell Music & Arts Festival celebrates its fifth anniversary at The Rannagh, Aphort on the west side of Arranmore Island, Co Donegal.

Our new hosts Arranmore United FC have gone above and beyond the call of duty to accommodate us at their home grounds at Rannagh Strand from July 27-29 for which we are ever so grateful.

The Rannagh is not only the sporting centre of the island, but is also one of the central hubs of Arranmore’s fishing community.

Aphort Pier, which is in direct proximity to the football grounds, is at the heart of Arranmore fishing life and therefore there is a lot of fishing gear kept in the area. We ask that you respect the fishermen’s property and working area.

The Old Boathouse is also located beside the pitch and is a building of huge historical and emotional significance to the island community.

Not only was it the original home of the RNLI, The Old Boathouse is also a memorial to the 19 souls lost at sea in the Arranmore Disaster in 1935. The Old Boathouse is hugely important to the community and we ask that you treat it with respect, if you decide to pay a visit.

We are delighted that Arranmore Lifeboat Station’s PRO, Mrs Nora Flanagan has agreed to give a slide show presentation and talk on the history of the RNLI on the island and The Old Boathouse on Saturday at 4pm on the festival grounds.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our hosts of the first four years of Swell Festival, Comharchumann Árainn Mhór, for their hospitality.

We look forward to welcoming you all to Arranmore Island, County Donegal, for the fifth annual Swell Music & Arts Festival, July 27-29. Tickets are still available here.

How do I get to Swell Festival?

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We have been getting a few queries on how to get to Swell Music & Arts Festival.

Swell Festival, July 27-29, takes place on the beautiful island of Arranmore, off the west coast of Donegal and can be reached by two ferry companies from Burtonport (details below).

Getting to Burtonport by Public Transport

If you are relying on getting to Swell via public transport, Bus Éireann has several routes to Donegal, none of which go all the way to Burtonport, though. Coming from Dublin, it’s the No 32 and from Galway you get the No 64, both of which will take you to Letterkenny where you will have further private options to choose from to take you further.

There are a number of private coach companies that leave from Letterkenny and go to The Rosses – John McGinley Coaches (Dublin route), Bus Feda (Galway route), Patrick Gallagher Coaches (Belfast route via Derry). Bus tables for all companies are available on their respective websites.

While John McGinley, Bus Feda and Patrick Gallagher all go to at least Crolly (and some Annagry) from their respective starting points (Dublin, Belfast and Galway), you would have to book a local Hackney Operator to take you the rest of the way (Suggestion: Charlie Mac 087 260 3757).

A direct way of getting to Burtonport from Letterkenny may also be the Route 271 Burtonport-Letterkenny Local Link Bus, or ‘the shopper bus’ as the Islanders call it. Click here to view the timetable, but please note that spaces and times are very limited on this service.

If you are coming from Dublin, you could even take a flight to Donegal International Airport, voted the most scenic landing in the world. Landing in Carrickfinn, you are only a short distance from Burtonport. Another Hackney Operator option to book here is Teague (087 641 5985).

Getting to Burtonport by car

Thanks to modern technology, there is no real need to write out long directions anymore, so here is a link to Burtonport in Google Maps and then simply click ‘Directions’.

Getting to the island

Arranmore (Red) Ferry and Arranmore Fast Ferry (Blue)  are two separate ferry companies operating services to and from Arranmore. Both have details of all their respective crossings online.

There may be additional ferries for festival goers that need to leave Sunday night/Monday morning. But these will only be put on if the demand is there. Phone the companies for more details.

Please note that if you decide to bring a vehicle you MUST book your crossing in advance to guarantee your place, otherwise you may be delayed as space on each ferry is limited.

While Swell works alongside ferry providers to accommodate festival goers, it is ultimately the responsibility of each individual to organise their own travel plans to and from the island.

We wish all those travelling to Swell Music & Arts Festival (July 27 to 29) a very safe journey. Please take care and we will see you all on Arranmore.

Tickets for Swell Music & Arts Festival, Arranmore Island, Co Donegal, July 27-29 are available to purchase here.

Camper van owners please book early

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Are you planning to come to Swell with a camper van? Please book early!

Swell Music & Arts Festival takes place on Arranmore Island, off the coast of West Donegal along the Wild Atlantic Way, from July 27 to 29.

This year we are very grateful to be hosted by Arranmore United FC on their home grounds, The Rannagh, Aphort, on the west side of the island.

We are once again offering free camping on a first come, first serve basis. There will plenty of space for tents in a section of the football pitch, in direct proximity to the festival (You will not be able to park a camper van beside your tent on the pitch).

The camping area will once again be split into a general public and a family section. We pride ourselves in being a very family friendly festival – Here is a review from Angela who brought her whole family to Swell last year.


There will be very limited parking spaces available for camper vans within the confines of the festival, but we ask that you please book your festival tickets as soon as possible and let us know via email to what kind of camper van you are bringing. Please note, when the spaces are gone, they are gone!

If you are bringing a camper van, booking your vehicle onto a ferry to and from the island is also a MUST! There are two great companies to choose from. Contact either The Arranmore Red Ferry or The Arranmore Blue Ferry.

Arranmore United’s home ground is based in an area used on a daily basis by many islanders, especially the fishermen and women. The island’s helicopter landing pad is also in direct proximity, as well as The Old Boathouse, which is a very important historical building to the community (more details to follow). We ask that you treat the area and people’s property with respect.

The festival team will always do its best to accommodate people attending Swell within our capabilities and we thank you in advance for your cooperation and understanding.

We have a beautiful new location, fantastic acts and if the weather is once again on our side, it will be another unforgettable Swell. We hope to see you there!

Swell Music & Arts Festival takes place from July 27 to 29 on Arranmore Island Appearing are The Wood Burning Savages, Ryan McMullan, Accidents In The Workplace, Jinx Lennon, Orchid Collective, Ye Vagabonds and many, many more. Tickets are on sale now here!

Swell is a homecoming for Spats Colombo

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WHEN Spats Colombo perform on the Stáitse na nGael (Irish Stage) at Swell Music & Arts Festival on Arranmore later this month it will very much be a homecoming.

The band has been together for several years now and the current line-up features no less than three Donegal natives – Not bad for a Connemara-based band.

Spats Colombo features Donegal’s own Caroline Ní Dhubhchoin from Falcarragh (vocals), Stephen Curran from Castlefinn (drums) and Letterkenny man Micheal Ó Ciaraidh (fiddle).

The band’s line-up is completed by founding member, Simon Noble from Oxford on vocals, Grainne Bleasdale (vocals) and Brendan Feeney on bass.

Micheal said: “We have a lot of different members of the group all from different schools of musical thought. Caroline brings a traditional Irish quality to the vocals while my background in classical violin playing is probably noticeable.

“Simon (who writes the music) has a diverse taste in music – from the likes of The Beatles to the Mamas & Papas and people can tell us that they can hear these influences in the close harmony, easy-listening nature of our songs. So – alternative Irish language music is probably a safe summary of our style!”

Jokingly known amongst referred to as the unofficial TG4 House Band by friends, as a lot of them work at the Irish language station, it is only fitting that Spats Colombo will be one of the highlights on this year’s Stáitse na nGael at Swell Festival which will be compered by RTE Raidio na Gaeltacht broadcaster Donall Mac Ruairí.

Micheal said: “Although our musical tastes differ, we definitely all share a common love of the Irish language and culture.

“There has been a real new energy and life to the Irish language in recent years so it’s great to be a part of that in some small way.

“There are also some amazing individuals and groups who are doing great things musically for the language. The likes of Muireann NicAmhlaoibh and IMLÉ.

“We were nominated for Banna na Bliana at this year’s Gradaim Nós in the Sugar Club in Dublin and I remember talking to a music reviewer on the night who complimented the performances as progressive musically…and that the music just happened to be in the Irish language.

“I thought that was really well put. And, I suppose because of our strong Donegal connection we’re particularly excited about playing Swell.

“We’ve only been able to do one tour of Donegal as a band, so it’s great to get back up there again to play for our friends and family.”

Spats Colombo are well experienced in getting festival crowds going having performed at most of the major festivals in Ireland. “We played the Pobal Gaeilge at Electric Picnic the last two years running and really enjoyed playing the Bulmers Tent at Body & Soul, as well.”

Meanwhile in his day job, Micheal will be going into his fourth year in the television business this September and with that is taking on some new roles including starting work on a brand new online platform for young adults launching soon on TG4.

“I can’t say too much about it yet, but the details will be publicised soon. It’s been a busy year between fronting the 10@10 schools campaign with Operation Transformation, Dancing With The Stars and working with Art Parkinson and Miriam O’Callaghan as ambassadors for Seachtain na Gaeilge earlier in the year. Outside of television and social media, I’m enjoying working on my radio show with Galway-based station Raidió na dTreabh.

“Check Spats Colombo out on Facebook and give us a like to follow our progress. We have links there to our Soundcloud and iTunes pages. I’m a bit of a Snapchat addict so anyone of a similar disposition can find me on @irishmike-carey or on Instagram: @_mickyc_.”

The Stáitse na nGael will also feature Moya Brennan, Clann Mhic Ruairi amongst others. Other highlights at this year’s Swell include Mundy, Mark Geary, Orchid Collective, The California Feetwarmers, The Emerald Armada and many more.

Click here to buy your tickets online and follow the festival on Facebook: Swell Festival, Instagram: Swell Festival and Twitter: @SwellFestival

We have lots of comedy talent at this year’s Swell

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We are delighted to announce that we have a host of comedy acts once again performing at this year’s Swell Music & Arts Festival on Arranmore.

Both Saturday and Sunday, comedian Barry Mack will be hosting the comedy showcase from 3 to 4.30pm on the Kinnegar Stage feauring some great talent such as Gary lynch, Peter E Davidson, Kieran Mena, Jessica Harkin, Sara Ni Cuireann, Mary Flanigan, Liam Harris and Brian O’Toole.

In the past year, Barry Mack has written for RTE Radio, appeared in a short film that was featured in the Underground Film Festival and another that was short-listed for RTE Short Screen. He is currently touring his fourth one man show ‘The MackDaddy’ about fatherhood, social networking and Shakespeare.

Ireland’s leading mid-Life crisis comedian, Gary Lynch has performed all over Ireland, UK & Scandinavia, and has made over 600 appearances at the Edinburgh Festival alone over the past five years.

Sara Ni Cuireann, a bearded culchie from Gaoth Dobhair, has been living the dream in Belfast and is looking forward to performing at Swell having attended previously.

Jessica Harkin is a children’s entertainer trying desperately to break into adult market because children are terrifying and drunk people love magic.

Liam Harris is a Dublin-based comedian who has performed around the country. This is his second year performing at Swell Festival after a stellar headline gig last year he is not to be missed.

Brian O’Toole is a young comedian from Carlow who has performed in clubs all over Ireland as well as Longitude and the Edinburgh Fringe. If you see Brian on the street please give him a hug. He needs it.

Mary Flanigan has been gigging for three years, making a name for herself in the comedy circuit across the UK and Ireland. She was a semi-finalist in the Funny Women 2016 awards, has been featured on BBC Radio Ulster, and has written for Late Licence on BBC NI. She is taking her one-woman show to the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe, ‘Mary Flanigan Is A Pisces, Obviously’.

With a delivery as rough as the Belfast estate he grew up in, Kieran Mena gives his eccentric outlook on life, Donald Trump and time travel, having supported well know names such as Rich Hall, John Bishop. Kieran has preformed internationally to wide-spread acclaim.

As a member of sketch group Love the Concept, Peter E Davidson has performed at the Dublin, Belfast and Edinburgh fringe. As a writer he’s written for BBC Radio 4, 4 Extra Ulster and BBC NI. He is one of the regular host of Masons Comedy Club. In 2016 he performed his new stand up show “Guns N’ Rose” as part of the Belfast Comedy festival and appeared as a guest panelist on BBC’s The Blame Game.

Tickets for this year’s Swell Music & Arts Festival on Arranmore, July 21 to 23, are available here and follow the festival on Facebook: Swell Festival, Instagram: Swell Festival and Twitter: @SwellFestival


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McGettigan Coach Travel are putting on a coach for all you lovely people travelling from Letterkenny and its surrounds, leaving from The Old Orchard Car Park, Letterkenny at 4pm Friday and again at 10am Saturday, returning from the ferry port at Burtonport at 2pm Monday.  Tickets are available on here alongside your festival tickets for the very reasonable sum of €10 (+€1.23 bkg fee). No ticket, no travel!