The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Time to Travel to Ireland
Are you dreaming of lush landscapes, vibrant festivals, and a pint of Guinness in hand? Well, get ready to pack your bags because we're about to reveal the best time to travel to Ireland. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply someone looking to immerse themselves in Irish culture, we've got you covered. From picturesque coastal drives to captivating castle tours and everything in between, Ireland has it all. So, let us guide you through the seasons, weather, and climate to help you plan your ideal Irish adventure. Get ready to discover the magic of the Emerald Isle, at the best time to visit Ireland!
Ireland Travel Seasons
Spring (March – May)
During the spring months, Ireland begins to wake up from its winter slumber. The weather is decent, although it can be rainier and cooler compared to the summer. Late spring is an ideal time to visit Ireland if you want to enjoy its beautiful scenery. The mild weather allows spring flowers to blossom, adding vibrant colors to the evergreen landscapes.
Spring is considered a shoulder season, meaning that tickets, hotels, and tours are generally cheaper. While prices may go up slightly around St. Patrick's Day in March and Easter break in April, they are still more affordable than during the summer months.
Summer (June – August)
Summer is the peak tourist season in Ireland, with large crowds at major attractions and in smaller cities. It is also the time when students are on summer break, making it busier overall. However, summer offers sunny days that make visiting the smaller islands off the coast more enjoyable. For example, the remote Skellig Michael in County Kerry is only accessible from May to September. Keep in mind that rough seas can make travel to some places, like the Aran Islands, challenging.
Fall (September – November)
In early October, the weather starts to cool down significantly. This period marks the beginning of Ireland's second shoulder season, which means fewer crowds and shorter wait times at major attractions like Dublin's attractions. Prices also begin to drop during this time, although some places may still have higher hotel prices due to ongoing major events. Fall in Ireland also brings beautiful autumn colors, particularly the contrast of gold and green.
Winter (December – February)
Winter is the cheapest time to travel to Ireland. While it may not be as popular among tourists, there are still plenty of things to do and see. December sees the emergence of Christmas markets in many cities, and there are celebrations for Christmas, New Year's, and St. Brigid's Day. The weather is generally cloudy, but winters in Ireland rarely drop below freezing, so heavy winter clothing is not necessary.
Ireland Weather and Climate
Ireland enjoys a relatively mild climate throughout the year. From November to March, average temperatures hover around the 40s (Fahrenheit). The shoulder seasons of April, May, and October see average temperatures in the 50s, while summer and September average in the 60s.
Ireland's frequent rain contributes to its lush greenery, with rain being more frequent outside of summer. The west coast experiences windier weather due to its exposure to the Atlantic.
The September and October shoulder season means harvests and vibrant festivals
The months of September and October offer a great time to visit Ireland with fewer crowds and potential savings. The days are long, the temperatures are mild, and there are plenty of dry spells to explore Ireland's national parks and forests. The famous Ring of Kerry can be navigated without the crowds, allowing for uninterrupted views.
These months also bring vibrant festivals. Some notable ones include the Armagh Food and Cider Weekend and the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival in September, while County Cork hosts the Kinsale Gourmet Festival and Guinness Jazz Festival in October. The month ends with the Galway Aboo Halloween Festival, a spectacular parade, and the Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin.
The April to June shoulder season is the best time for golf, flowers, and driving along the coast
April to June is an ideal time to visit Ireland for golf enthusiasts, as well as those who appreciate blooming flowers and scenic coastal drives. With average temperatures around 64°F and prices still reasonable, it's a perfect period for a road trip along the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1500-mile sign-posted route that showcases the west coast's beauty. Golfing can be enjoyed on courses near charming villages, sandy beaches, and picturesque castles.
During these months, the country comes alive with blossoming flowers. Noteworthy locations to visit include Wicklow, known as the "garden county," with its bluebell season at Powerscourt and Glendalough in April. County Clare hosts the Burren in Bloom festival in May, showcasing rare species in a stunning moonscape setting. Dublin also showcases its flowers in June with the Flowers in Bloom Festival, which precedes the celebration of Bloomsday and the LGBTQ Pride Festival.
Autumn in Ireland: more shoulder season
Best for: Festivals and travel deals
Late autumn falls within the shoulder season, offering a mix of pleasant weather and fewer crowds. September is an excellent time for seafood lovers to attend the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival, while Dublin hosts the popular Fringe Festival. October brings a touch of spookiness with Bram Stoker's Castle festivities, along with plenty of opportunities to enjoy stunning sunsets along the western coast.
Spring in Ireland: shoulder season
Best for: wildlife viewing and historic sites
April and May are prime months for bird-watching in Ireland, with over 250 species migrating to the country's shores. Spring brings the arrival of various bird species, such as puffins, cormorants, and Peregrine falcons, especially along the west coast. The Cliffs of Moher, a Special Protection Area, is an excellent spot for birdwatching with its breathtaking views.
In addition to birdwatching, spring is a fantastic time to explore Ireland's rich history and visit its historic sites. Blarney Castle, known for the iconic Blarney Stone, offers beautiful gardens to explore during this season. Slane Castle, known for hosting legendary rock concerts, is also worth a visit. Overnight stays at castle resorts, such as Ashford Castle in Galway, provide a unique and memorable experience.
Overall Best Time to Visit Ireland
Overall, the best times to visit Ireland are spring, summer, or fall. These seasons offer moderate weather, smaller crowds, and more affordable prices. Spring and fall, known as shoulder seasons, are especially ideal for those looking to avoid crowds and save money on accommodations.
However, if you want to experience vibrant Irish culture and festivals, the summer season is the best overall time to visit. June, July, and August are filled with various festivals, including the Dublin International Chamber Music Festival, Cork Midsummer Festival, Longitude Music Festival, and Galway International Arts Festival, among others. Additionally, March is an exciting time to visit Ireland due to St. Patrick's Day celebrations.
Worst Time to Visit Ireland
The worst time to visit Ireland depends on personal preferences. If you dislike crowded places and higher prices, it's best to avoid June through August, which is the peak tourist season. During this time, larger cities like Dublin and Kerry can be crowded, and it may be more challenging to find accommodations.
Alternatively, if you dislike cold weather and short daylight hours, it's best to avoid visiting between November and February. While snow is unlikely, these months are typically cooler, rainier, and have shorter daylight hours. However, winter can still offer unique experiences, such as exploring the Hill of Tara or enjoying a cozy evening at a historic pub like McHughs Bar in Belfast.
Least Busy Time to Visit Ireland
The winter months, particularly January and February, are the least busy times to visit Ireland. With cooler temperatures and less outdoor activity, these months attract fewer tourists. It's an ideal time to visit places like the Hill of Tara without large crowds.
Visiting St. James Brewery in Dublin for a pint of Guinness after a day of exploring can be a fantastic experience during the winter months. While November can still have some lingering summer holiday crowds, it tends to be quieter with festivals completed and locals preparing for the upcoming holiday season.
The Best Time for Affordable Stay in Ireland: Low Season from November to February
Experience the ultimate romantic getaway by strolling to a cozy pub in the local village and spending the night in a charming thatched cottage while the Atlantic gale roars outside. Alternatively, explore the lantern-lit cobbled streets of larger towns like Kilkenny, Limerick, or Galway, which exude a magical winter charm. These towns offer convenient transportation options to picturesque locations during the day and a variety of restaurants and hotels with affordable rates to enjoy during the long evenings.
However, due to the shorter daylight hours, occasional storms, and icy roads, it is advisable to stick to motorways if you plan on going on an independent road trip. While popular tourist attractions like the Cliffs of Moher, The Rock of Cashel, Bunratty Castle, and city museums remain open, many interpretive centers close during the low season. Additionally, transport services reduce their frequency, and remote hospitality establishments go into hibernation.
In Ireland, the holiday season extends throughout December, so you can expect to find plenty of Christmas markets, such as the one in Eyre Square in Galway or the Milk Market in Limerick.
Celebrate St Patrick's Day with the rest of Ireland on March 17 © Aitormmfoto / Shutterstock
Tips for Visiting Ireland
Explore St. Benan's Chapel in Inishmore, County Galway
Tip #1 – Be Prepared with Waterproof Clothes and Layers
Don't like the weather? Just wait 15 minutes! The weather in Ireland can change rapidly, especially near the coast. Even during summer, it is wise to carry a raincoat and/or an umbrella in case of showers. Waterproof shoes are also recommended, especially if you plan on hiking in Ireland.
Another practical tip for traveling in Ireland is to dress in layers. Ireland has a cooler climate compared to many other places. Even summer nights can get chilly, with temperatures dipping into the 50s.
Tip #2 – Plan Ahead
Having an itinerary is always a smart move. If you're visiting during the shoulder seasons to avoid crowds, make sure to check if the attractions you want to visit are open.
Visitors from outside Ireland may not be familiar with unique bank holidays, and may find unexpected closures. For example, June 5th, August 7th, and October 30th are bank holidays in Ireland.
Tip #3 – Get Travel Insurance
Ireland is generally a safe country. However, having travel insurance is always a good idea for any unforeseen circumstances. You can find all the information you need in Nate's comprehensive guide on Ireland Travel Insurance.
📚 Related Reading: Interested in visiting Dublin? Check out my article on Is Dublin Safe for Travel?
Tip #4 – Buy a Leap Visitor Card (Dublin)
If you don't plan on renting a car in Ireland (although renting from Discover Cars is recommended), a Leap Visitor Card will be your best companion. The card provides access to public transportation in multiple cities across Ireland. It can be purchased online or at various locations in the city.
Tip #5 – Northern Ireland
(photo: remizov / Shutterstock)While Northern Ireland shares an open border with the Republic of Ireland, it is still part of the United Kingdom and has its own laws, currency, and minor differences. No customs or checks are required when crossing the border, but it's important to be aware of these distinctions. However, it's advisable to avoid discussing political matters in casual conversations, as they can be sensitive subjects for some people.
Whether you want to hike along rugged coastlines, explore majestic castles, or enjoy a glass of whiskey
By Susan StephensJan 26, 2023 • 3 minutes readThe Rock Of Cashel with sheep and cows grazing in IrelandImage: Pierre Leclerc/Getty ImagesSummer is the peak season in Ireland, offering a pleasant climate and breathtaking sights at every turn. However, prices naturally increase during this time. For a more affordable trip, consider visiting during the colder winter months of the off-season, when tourism is minimal. Note that there is a surge in tourism around mid-March due to St. Patrick's Day celebrations, especially in Dublin. Below, you'll find information on what to expect throughout the year when visiting Ireland.
Regardless of when and where you explore, be prepared for the changeable weather. Mornings may be cool and foggy, while the sun may shine with heat in the afternoon. Dressing in layers is essential year-round, and always keep waterproof rain gear close at hand as Ireland experiences frequent rainfall (averaging between three and five inches per month).
In conclusion, finding the best time to visit Ireland depends on what you are looking for during your trip. Whether it's experiencing vibrant festivals and harvests in September and October, indulging in golf, flowers, and scenic drives along the coast in April to June, or enjoying the serene beauty of autumn or spring, Ireland has something to offer throughout the year. However, if you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, the low season from November to February is your best bet. So, whether you're a nature enthusiast, history lover, or whiskey connoisseur, pack your bags and get ready to explore the enchanting landscapes and rich culture of Ireland, no matter the time of year.
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