One place you're sure to find music is at a fleadh-- or at one of the numerous summer schools, where you can take music and dance instruction or just enjoy nonstop sessions around town. The Irish Tourist Board (800/223-6470) can help you choose; some noteworthy ones are listed here.
Fleadh Nua May 21-25. Ennis, Co. Clare; 353-65/39328, fax 353-65/42525. Workshops and performances by fine musicians from every corner of Ireland.
Willie Clancy Summer School July 4-12. Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare; 353-65/84148. The biggest and oldest of the summer schools, "Willie Week" features the cream of Irish musicians. It's a mob scene, though; B&B's and pubs for miles around are filled to capacity, so start planning now.
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann August 28-30. Ballina, Co. Mayo; 353-96/70905, fax 353-96/70711. Musicians from all over the world convene for the prestigious all-Ireland championships (held in a different town every year). Some find the competitive nature of the event off-putting, but it does draw many fine players.
South Sligo Summer School July 12-18. Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo; 353-71/85010. In its 12th year, a popular week in the heart of a renowned musical region.
Frankie Kennedy Winter School December 28-January 1. Gweedore, Co. Donegal; 353-75/31639. Five days of extraordinary music in memory of a beloved flute player. See in the New Year with Begley and Cooney, the Donegal supergroup Altan, and other top musicians.
To find genuine traditional music in Ireland, skip the major tourist stops. Head instead for the counties along the west coast and ask around. Consider attending a festival or summer school. Or, to simplify things, take one of Mick Moloney's Irish Folklore Tours (Hemisphere Travel Service; 800/848-4364 or 207/282-8701, fax 207/282-8702).
Old Ground O'Connell St., Ennis, Co. Clare; 353-65/28112, fax 353-65/28112; doubles $150. This converted 18th-century residence in the center of Ennis is a perfect base for the Fleadh Nua.
Aran View House Doolin, Co. Clare; 353-65/74061, fax 353-65/74540; doubles $137. Beautifully situated country house hotel with views of the Aran Islands; a steep 10-minute walk from the pubs of Doolin. Ask for an upstairs room with a full bath.
John Doyle Main St., Dingle, Co. Kerry; 353-66/51174, fax 353-66/51816; doubles $93. A B&B above Doyle's esteemed seafood restaurant. Eight airy rooms with antique furnishings.
Royal Hotel College St., Killarney, Co. Kerry; 353-64/31853, fax 353-64/34001; doubles $90. A comfortable 41-room hotel in a 19th-century building, with above-par food, friendly service, and a respite from Killarney's bustle.
Metropole Hotel MacCurtain St., Cork city; 353-21/508-122, fax 353-21/506-450; doubles $116. A picturesque century-old hotel, recently renovated. Top-floor rooms have fine city views.
Ostan Gweedore Bunbeg, Co. Donegal; 353-75/31177, fax 353-75/31726; doubles $110. An eyesore, but only from the outside. Views from bay-front rooms are spectacular, the food is excellent, and Teach Huidí Beag, a great music pub, is within walking distance.
Highlands Hotel Glenties, Co. Donegal; 353-75/51111, fax 353-75/51564; doubles $66. A fine 19th-century hotel at the head of the Glen of Glenties.
An Crann Darach Tullyhorkey, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal; 353-72/52144; doubles $41. A no-frills B&B attached to a music school run by Caoimhin MacAoidh, who wrote the book on Donegal fiddle styles.
County Clare In Ennis, Custy's Traditional Music Shop (Francis St.; 353-65/21727) has a wide selection of recordings, and the staff should be able to steer you toward good sessions. Try Ciaran's pub (Francis St.; 353-65/40180), across the street. In Doolin, Gus O'Connor's (353-65/74168) has music all summer, but it's likely to be crowded in July and August. You might try McGann's (353-65/74133), up the street, or Linnene's (353-65/88157) in Kilfenora.
County Kerry In Dingle, An Droichead Beag (Main St.; 353-66/51723) promises "A Mighty Session Nightly"; go on Sunday to catch Begley and Cooney when they're in town. Dick Mack's (Green Lane; 353-66/51960) is another good bet. It's worth a Saturday-night stay in Killarney to hear Mick Mulcahy and his daughters at the Killarney Grand (Main St.; 353-64/31159).
County Cork In the northwest part of the county, find your way to Dan Connell's (353-64/56014) in tiny Knocknagree on Friday or Sunday night. In Cork city, stop in at the Living Tradition (MacCurtain St.; 353-21/502-040) for records, books, instruments, and a list of sessions. Two pubs of note: An Spailpin Fanach (28-30 S. Main St.; 353-21/277-949) and the Lobby Bar (1 Union Quay; 353-21/319-307), where concertina virtuoso Niall Vallely often leads the Tuesday session.
Dublin Claddagh Records (2 Cecilia St.; 353-1/677-0262) and the Celtic Note (14-15 Nassau St.; 353-1/670-4158) both carry lots of traditional CD's. In Dublin magazine lists music events and pub sessions. The best I found were at M. Hughes (Chancery St.; 353-1/679-3797). Also worth a try are O'Shea's Merchant (Bridge St.; 353-1/679-3797) and, in Temple Bar, Oliver St. John Gogarty (57-58 Fleet St.; 353-1/671-1822) and the Norseman (29 E. Essex St.; 353-1/671-5135).
County Donegal In Killybegs, fiddler/proprietor Martin McGinley leads the Saturday night session at the Sail Inn (353-73/31130). And in Gweedore, Teach Huidí Beag (Bunbeg; 353-75/31016) has a legendary Monday-night session led by fiddler Francie Mooney. In Glenties, inquire at the Highlands Hotel; maybe you'll get to hear fiddlers Vincent and Jimmy Campbell at the Glen Tavern (Greenans; 353-75/51170).
When in Dublin:
Catch the Friday night pipers' session at the M. Hughes pub, an intimate gathering of players and listeners.