Ireland in winter. It’s not the normal vacation season, that’s for sure. But, there is something to be said about Ireland in winter and, if you are willing to brave the cold(er) and wet(ter) weather, then the advantages of visiting Ireland in winter may actually outweigh the disadvantages.
Here’s why you may want to consider a visit to Ireland this winter.
Ireland in Winter is Cheaper
Winter is off-season in Ireland which, in some places means business closure. Especially in the smaller coastal towns such as Dingle. However, in most places that just means reduced rates, especially in terms of accommodation. Whether you are looking at B&Bs, hotels, or even Ireland’s castle hotels, you’ll be able to get a great bargain on accommodation in Ireland in winter.
But, it’s not just the accommodation options that drop in price, airfare does as well. As much as 50% off which is a pretty amazing deal (think of all the pub visits!). Granted, routes may not be as regular as they are during the summer months but for prices like that, you can likely afford to be a bit flexible.
Even if you are only coming for a short break, Winter is one of the best times to visit Dublin which is known to be one of the most expensive cities in Europe during high season.
Ireland in Winter has Few Crowds
Most people don’t consider Ireland to be a winter destination, so they just don’t go.
What does this mean?
A lot of things.
No lineups to get into places, no masses of crowds in the streets or along the Cliffs of Moher, and no long waits to get into the pub for dinner. Ireland in winter is perfect for those who hate crowds and lineups.
Not only does this mean less time waiting, but it also means you get to see and do more and probably have better views and experiences.
Ireland in Winter Really Isn’t That Cold
Granted, this depends on where you come from but many North Americans will find that Ireland in winter is actually warmer than at home. Now, I’m not saying expect lots of sun and heat, but you won’t need to dress like the abominable snowman either. And, you can actually enjoy the outdoors without risk of frostbite. Plus, it rarely snows in Ireland (though expect rain) so if you are looking to get away from the white stuff, well you can likely do that in Ireland. Though, if you are lucky (unlucky?) enough to get snow in Ireland, it’s pretty beautiful.
Irish Locals Are More Welcoming in the Winter
Let’s be honest, some parts of Ireland get completely overrun by tourists during the high season and it can drive the locals pretty crazy. However, once the crowds leave during the winter months the locals can have their city back to themselves. Without the masses around, you’ll find the locals much friendlier and more willing to have a chat. Especially down at the pubs.
There is a Lot to Celebrate
Saint Patrick’s Day may be the best-known festival in Ireland, but there is a lot to celebrate around the country during the winter months. During December, plenty of Ireland’s cities and towns come to life with the markets and festive decorations. Dublin and Belfast both hold well-known Christmas markets while Waterford has its Winterval; the biggest Christmas festival in Ireland. New Year’s celebrations also exist countrywide and, also in January, Dublin holds its Temple Bar Tradfest.
Winter in Ireland is Just Plain Cozy
One of the things I love the most about winter is that it is so cozy. Big sweaters, fluffy socks, warm tea or hot whisky and a roaring fire. Sounds pretty good? Well, you’ll get all of that in Ireland. Stay warm with Irish wool products; thick socks and Aran knit sweaters. Pop into the pub for a warm drink in a snug, or curl up by the fire in the common room of your B&B. Even Irish food is cozy; Guinness stew or seafood chowder; fresh and warm after a busy day exploring.
You Just Might See the Northern Lights
Sure, the Nordic countries are best known for the northern lights but you may be surprised to learn that you can see them from Ireland too. Technically, you should be able to see them from anywhere in Ireland, but the light pollution from the main cities ruins that chance. Another thing to keep in mind is that you need clear weather and, well, that isn’t always the case in Ireland. However, if you are to get lucky, one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Ireland is up in Donegal around Malin Head. I haven’t seen them here myself, but the pictures are pretty spectacular.
What to Pack for Ireland in Winter
Layering and staying dry is key for any season in Ireland. If you haven’t already, take a look at my Ireland packing list for my top recommendations. Of course, you’ll want a couple extra things if you are visiting Ireland in winter. Here’s what I recommend:
• Waterproof Boots: While you don’t need snow boots you’ll probably prefer to bring boots over shoes when exploring Ireland in winter. Make sure they are waterproof and offer some warmth. Personally, I love BOGS for cold, wet weather. You can find them for women here and for men here.
• Gloves or Mittens: You’ll definitely want to keep your hands warm while exploring Ireland in winter. Normally I’m a mitten kind of girl (Canadian tip-they keep your hands warmer) however, if you plan on taking photos or using your phone then gloves are probably the better choice. Try these touchscreen gloves.
• Winter hat: Just as you will want to keep your hands warm, you’ll also want to keep your ears warm. Make sure to pack a warm winter hat to help protect you against the chilly wind. Try this winter hat for men or this winter hat for women.
Final Tips for Visiting Ireland in the Winter
Before you get too excited and start booking your tickets, there are a few things you should know about visiting Ireland in the winter.
• Days are short. They only get around 7 hours of daylight in January which isn’t the most ideal for site-seeing. So, if you plan on taking any day trips from Dublin, then choose the shorter ones so you don’t miss out.
• Ireland rarely gets snow, but when they do it basically shuts the country down. For this reason, I advise you not to have too tight a schedule. Try to keep it open and fluid so that you can adjust if required.
• Some places in Ireland are seasonal, not just in terms of accommodation but also in terms of sites, attractions, and even transportation. Do your research ahead of time; reach out to the local tourism boards or look online before you make too many plans. You don’t want to show up somewhere only to find it’s closed for the next three months!
Ireland in Winter may not be everyone’s ideal vacation. However, if you are willing to brave cooler temperatures then you’ll be surprised at just how enjoyable a visit to Ireland in winter can be.