15 Reasons Why Anytime is the Best Time to Visit Ireland
While it is a common assumption to visit destinations in Europe during the summer months, the Emerald Isle’s magnetism can be revelled all year round. Sights like the Rock of Cashel (pictured above), Cliffs of Moher and the Long Room at Trinity College are just as breathtaking in the winter, and the door’s always open at the local pub. Here are 15 reasons why the best time to visit Ireland is any time.
1. Fewer crowds
The most obvious reason to travel to Ireland during shoulder season is because there are less people around, meaning that the lineup to kiss the Blarney Stone is much shorter, and you have your pick of the best B&Bs Cork has to offer. On top of that, you can easily score a front row seat to a traditional music session.
Pictured: Ha'penny Bridge, Dublin
2. There's no snow
Temperatures rarely dip below 5 degrees in January and February, and by March flowers are in bloom. While layers are needed, this means that hiking and other outdoor activities are very doable all year long. On the west coast you can marvel at the craggy wilderness on the Glencoaghan Horseshoe in the Connemara region, or wander along the Cliffs of Moher (pictured below) on the Wild Atlantic Way.
3. The Temple Bar Tradfest
This annual music and cultural festival is the largest of its kind. It showcases traditional music and is held every year in Dublin at the end of January. Named after the cultural centre of Ireland sitting on the south side of the River Liffey, the event hosts more than 200 events. The 2017 festival runs from January 25-29.
4. The hiking is gorgeous
Fall foliage is a thing in Ireland too. While the rolling hills stay green throughout most of the winter, the sight of vibrant oranges and reds set against the stark blue sky is not to be missed. Stroll through the lake-filled Killarney National Park in County Kerry, or the wooded trails surrounding the ancient monastery in Glendalough, County Wicklow in Ireland's Ancient East.
Pictured: County Kerry
5. So are the gardens
Gardens in Ireland are worth a year-round visit, with flowers blooming in the spring. There's also the vine-covered Trinity College in Dublin, blazing with beautiful gradients of orange and red. Brigit’s Garden in Galway and Mount Stewart's gardens in Newtownards (pictured below) both hold harvest fairs in the fall. County Wicklow, dubbed “the garden of Ireland,” is impressive during any season.
6. You can spend the night in a castle
Sleep like a king in one of the myriad accommodations available. Book a night in a luxury castle, like the majestic Ballynahinch Castle Hotel (pictured below) in Connemara -- which is reminiscent of a royal hunting lodge out of a movie scene. There is also the 5-star Lough Eske Castle in County Donegal, boasting a spa and 43 acres of elegant gardens.
7. Winter Solstice at Newgrange World Heritage Site
Each morning from Dec. 18- 21, hundreds gather at this 5,000-year-old tomb (which is older than the Pyramids) in the Boyne Valley to watch the sunrise from inside -- the only time of year the sun protrudes the entrance. Plan ahead for this amazing experience, as there’s a lottery to gain entrance. You can still visit this site all year round.
8. You can pull a pint, then drink a pint
At the original Guinness brewery (pictured below), which has a 9,000-year-old lease on their property, you can learn to pull the perfect pint after a tour of the storehouse. Spending time in a local pub is also a must-do while in Ireland, especially in the cooler months when you can sit by the fire and mingle with the locals.
9. Golf is always in season
There are more than 400 golf courses on the Emerald Isle, and with epic views and challenging links, hitting the greens is doable year round with an extended golf season. During the summer months, the days are longer for more tee times, but the season extends all year. The off-season is much less busy with great deals on golf packages.
Pictured: Ballybunion, Kerry
10. Dublin International Film Festival
Running February 16-26, 2017, this star-studded event is the premiere film festival in the country with movie stars appearing from all over the world at the local pub. From Irish-made films, to international cartoon sensations, a myriad of features are shown throughout the festival.
11. St. Patrick's Day
Experience this patron saint’s big day with a giant parade (pictured below) in Dublin on March 17, 2017, and events running amidst a sea of green from March 16-19. There are also festivals and events throughout the country surrounding the day: In County Armagh they celebrate for a week, while Limerick hosts the International Band Parade and Competition.
12. The surfing is world class
Yes, surfing. September to May is the best time for surfing in Ireland. While a wet suit is definitely needed for these Atlantic waves, the coastline is booming with surf schools. The surfing capital is located in the northwest in County Donegal: Bundoran (pictured below) has the best surf schools and lodging in the country, while Sligo’s beach at Easkey has some of the best waves around.
13. It's fit for foodies
From cooking schools to high-end dining, there is a wealth of culinary destinations to explore in Ireland. But besides the cheese tasting tours in Cork and Kerry, or the food trails in Dublin or Belfast, springtime in Ireland is a foodie’s dream. Between the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine in May and the Galway Food Festival over Easter weekend, there’s more than enough to whet your appetite.
Pictured: Galway International Seafood & Oyster Festival
14. Weekend escapes
Get outside the major cities by renting a car, which in the off-season is doable for greater value. Ireland’s smaller landmass comes with a major advantage for road trips as you can get pretty much anywhere in a few hours. Head out to Sligo for a spa day, hike along the Causeway Coastal Route or check out the local food on the farm in Cork, all within a three-hour drive of Dublin.
Pictured: Giant’s Causeway, Antrim
15. There are deals to be found
Between flights, hotels and car rentals, there is no shortage of deals in the off-season. With the exception of Christmas week, most of the smaller inns are open for business with lower rates and the same genuine, warm hospitality. Various airlines have service to Dublin throughout the winter months -- with fares from $550 per person including tax for Toronto departures. Flights from Vancouver are around $300 more (less than the cost of getting to Toronto on your own).
Pictured: Dingle, Kerry
Promoted by: Tourism Ireland. For more information, visit ireland.com.