by Chris Leadbeater, The Telegraph, March 2, 2018
Some staples of the calendar need little introduction. St Patrick's Day is certainly one of them.
Take one patron saint of Ireland. Throw in a street parade. Add a few people wearing green wigs. Mix in a few drinks, and a reasonable chance of the evening stretching into the small hours, and you have the gist of it. Ours is a Guinness - obviously. Thank you.
Actually, there can be a lot more to St Patrick's Day than raising a glass in the air. In some cases, this red-letter date has become a cultural banquet, stretching out over several days. As the rest of this month will demonstrate.
The joy of this year's incarnation of Ireland's national day is that it falls on a weekend. St Patrick's Day is always on March 17 (for that is how saints' days work) - and in 2018, March 17 just happens to be a Saturday. Which raises the tantalising prospect of an extended mini-break to enjoy the merriment to the full.
The following list of St Paddy's possibilities is not exhaustive - but it you want a couple of days of fun, and a lie-in to dispel any theoretical hangover (we will not judge), then these six cities will fit the bill.
The Irish capital is the traditional centreground of St Patrick's Day festivities, and will be so again this year. Remarkably you can still find a hotel in the city if you book quickly.
The main event: Not content with a simple 24 hours of excitement, Dublin is set to stage five days of St Patrick's-themed delights. Its St Patrick's Festival (March 15-19; stpatricksfestival.ie) will feature musical performances, art exhibitions, walking tours and gourmet dinners. The main parade, starting at midday on the Saturday, will be a carnival kaleidoscope of costumes, pinned to the theme "Home Is Where the Heart Is".
A tipple: The Temple Bar area on the south side of the River Liffey is the spiritual heartland of a night out in Dublin, and if you are going to embrace the cliche, you may as well head for the Temple Bar pub (thetemplebarpub.com). It's unlikely to be quiet.
Where to stay: If you fancy witnessing the whole festival, you can still book a four-night package - staying at the four-star Temple Bar Hotel, and flying from Luton on March 15 on Ryanair - from £667 a head via Expedia (020 3564 0868; expedia.co.uk).
If you want to experience an Irish edition of St Patrick's Day, but are not sure you want the crowds and razzmatazz of Dublin, Galway will provide a less frenetic take on the spectacle. Ireland's sixth biggest city (in terms of head-count) is a west-coast jewel, but with a populace of "just" 80,000, its saintly shenanigans will be a little more restrained.
The main event: Galway will place most of its eggs into the basket marked "March 17", with a street parade (starting at 11.30am), followed by a concert on Eyre Square, where the fountain will have turned an appropriate shade of green. More at galwaytourism.ie.
A tipple: Tig Coili (tigcoiligalway.com) is one of Galway's favourite watering holes.
Where to stay: Reaching Galway from the UK requires a tiny element of persistence. As of 2011 there have been no scheduled services to Galway Airport, so you need to fly to Shannon, 50 miles and an hour's drive to the south in Limerick. You can do this with Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com), from Heathrow, Birmingham and Edinburgh, and Ryanair ( ryanair.com ), from Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester. You can still book a two-night stay in a double room over the St Patrick's weekend (checking in on March 16) at the central Flannery's Hotel (flanneryshotelgalway.com) from €360 (in total; room only).
The key conurbation of the West Midlands does not sound an obvious location for March 17 excitement, but Birmingham salutes the pertinent day with gusto, hosting the UK's largest St Patrick's Day parade - a grand two-mile hurrah which is reputed to be the third biggest of its kind on the planet (after Dublin and New York).
The main event: Despite St Patrick's Day having been inked into the ecclesiastical diary as March 17 since way back in the early 17th century, Birmingham is staging its tribute on Sunday March 11 (stpatricksbirmingham.com). Go figure. Still, there will be a street parade, a concert, and even a charity fun run - cleverly titled the "Emerald Mile".
A tipple: Broad Street is the Birmingham's main avenue for evening high-jinks - and if you really enjoy the Brummie St Patrick's Day on March 11, you can do it all over again six days later, at the central branch of O'Neill's (0121 616 1623; oneills.co.uk).
Where to stay: You can steer clear of Guinness and order a glass of wine instead at the city's Hotel du Vin - which has rooms on March 11 from £89 (hotelduvin.com).
Scotland's second city also has an affinity with St Patrick's Day - as home to one of the largest Irish populations in the UK. However, you can chase a curveball here by heading 10 miles east of the city to Coatbridge, which has become known for its handling of March 17.
The main event: Coatbridge rolls out the green carpet for St Patrick, then adds a sofa and an armchair to boot, by stretching its fest to nine days (March 9-17). So you can expect quizzes, lectures, and football and Gaelic football tournaments - as well as the Family Street Festival on the big day. Loads more details at stpatricksdayfestival.co.uk .
A tipple: You are never short of places to enjoy a drink in Glasgow, but if you've had enough of shamrocks in your pint-froth and want to try a beer from another corner of Europe, the Republic Bier Halle has an excellent range of ales (republicbierhalle.com).
Where to stay: You can still book a St Patrick's weekend stay at the boutique Carlton George (carlton.nl/en/hotel-george-glasgow), with a two-night break, checking in on Friday March 16, costing from £252 in total (£126 per night) - on a room-only basis.
5. New York
The Big Apple? For a weekend? In March? Have you lost the plot? No, not really. New York takes St Patrick's Day very seriously (while also having a laugh with it) - and if you are prepared to wrap up warm and brave the last of the Manhattan winter, you can do so too.
The main event: Everything will revolve around the St Patrick's Day Parade - which, as the name suggests, will be held on March 17, beginning on 44th Street at 11am, before proceeding along Fifth Avenue, and past St Patrick's Cathedral to 79th Street. Expect marching bands, troupes of high-kicking river-dancers, and all the starred-and-striped exuberance which comes with a major American event (nycstpatricksparade.org).
A tipple: The Irish Exit does exactly as it says on the sign above the door - and is but a couple of blocks' happy strolling from the parade route in Midtown (irishexitnyc.com).
Where to stay: Probably best to make a long weekend of this. A three-night break at the five-star Gansevoort Meatpacking hotel, flying from Heathrow on March 16, currently costs from £801 per person - through Virgin Holidays (virginholidays.co.uk).
Russia's main metropolis seems an entirely unlikely port of call for St Patrick's Day frivolity - but Moscow has been staging a St Patrick's Day parade since 1992, and is increasingly devoted to the concept. It now offers a near-fortnight of green-painted goings-on - this year, "Irish Week" will run from March 14 to 25 (irishweek.ru).
The main event: The crux of the matter will be the parade, which will be held in Sokolniki Park - but will take place a week after the saint's official day, on March 24.
A tipple: Moscow hotel bars do not come more central than the Moskovsky Bar at the Four Seasons, whose windows look directly onto the Kremlin (fourseasons.com/moscow).
Where to stay: Steppes Travel (steppestravel.com) offers three nights at the Four Seasons from £995 per person, including breakfast, transfers and international flights.