Choosing to spend your winter in Ireland is not the normal vacation gateway, that’s for sure. But, there is something to be said about Ireland during that time of the year. That famous Irish hospitality found at the country’s many Bed & Breakfasts is very warm with fewer guests for hosts to tend to.
It is the perfect season to tour Ireland, visiting its numerous majestic castles, serene landscapes and having fun even in the dark, gloomy weather. Experiencing winter in Ireland will definitely bring out your adventurous side and leave you with amazing memories. There are many reasons to consider visiting the Emerald Isle at least once during that season, and odds are, you’ll want to do it all over again.
First Things First, Weather
Strange and yet very true, winter is not a very rainy period of the year in Ireland. It’s an ideal time for those people, who want to get acquainted with Ireland without umbrellas or hoods, which obscure eyes of the curious travellers. The temperature rarely goes below 8 degrees Celsius, and most days would be closer to 10 degrees. Occasionally, the temperature will drop to 0 degrees but this is quite unusual.
Snow rarely falls, but either way, it doesn’t stay for a long time because winter in Ireland isn’t as cold as in Russia, for example. The lowest temperature (-19 C) was registered almost 150 years ago and it has not been repeated since then. Though, if you are lucky (unlucky?) enough to get snow in Ireland, it’s pretty beautiful.
Winter in Ireland Is Cheap and Affordable
Free, affordable and special offers are four words every traveller likes to hear. In Ireland, you’ll be hearing them a lot during the winter season. In most places, winter doesn’t mean business closure, it 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. Non-stop airfare to Ireland in the summer can be really pricey, but travel in that season (outside of the holidays), and you’re likely to discover that it’s surprisingly affordable, often half the cost or even less, depending on your departure point.
Moreover, many museums are free. Take a tour at different Dublin museums and admission won’t cost you a penny and those include: all Ireland’s National Museums (that includes National Gallery, Natural History, Archaeology and Decorative Arts and History museums), Kerry County Museum in Tralee, Ulster Museum in Belfast and the open air history lesson that is Derry-Londonderry’s 400-year-old city walls.
Winter in Ireland Is Less Crowded
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.
It makes visiting the country’s most popular attractions much more enjoyable, as well as providing better photo-taking opportunities. 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.
Witnessing the Northern Lights
When someone talks about the Northern Lights, we immediately think of Greenland or Scandinavia, don’t we? We are sure you would be surprised to know that the Northern Lights can be seen in Ireland as well!
Technically, you should be able to see them from anywhere in Ireland, but the light pollution from the main cities ruins that chance. However, thanks to its location and its low levels of light pollution, Ireland’s northern coastline offers amazing opportunities to see this natural phenomenon.
One of the places where the Aurora is frequently seen is the Inishowen Peninsula. Though there is no guarantee that this magical phenomenon will appear when you are there, it is definitely worth a try.
The Pubs Are Buzzing
On a cold night in Ireland, the pub is where everyone gathers – and everyone’s welcome. Pubs in Ireland aren’t just about drinking (mind you, we do recommend the craft beers). Check out An Spailpín Fánach in Cork city, where the Cork Yarnspinners meet for a night of fireside storytelling on the last Tuesday of each month. Or snuggle up out of the cold with a hot whiskey at Strangford Lough’s Saltwater Brig in County Down, you might even get some pancakes fresh off the griddle. In Titanic’s hometown, Belfast’s Crown Bar Liquor Saloon is Ireland’s only gas-lit bar and some of the booths have their own service buttons. Just buzz for beer!
Connect with Ireland’s Ancient Magic
The winter solstice, which falls each December around the 21st or the 22nd, is the shortest day of the year and marks an ancient celebration. The shortest day and longest night, the winter solstice was a key date in the pagan calendar across Ireland for centuries, so if you want to discover more about this ancient tradition.
Ireland has several locations where events take place for the Winter Solstice, with the focus of activity in County Meath, most famously at Newgrange, part of the Brú na Bionne complex, where the dawn sun show is a world-famous event. Other locations include The Beaghmore Stone Circles in Cookstown.
County Tyrone date back to the Bronze Age and some of the stones are thought to be aligned with the solstice sunrise. Knockroe in County Kilkenny, lovingly referred to as the Newgrange of Ireland’s southeast, might be small but it is mightily impressive. It features two chambers, one of which lights up at solstice sunrise, the other at sunset.
Ireland Packing List in Winter
- 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
- Gloves or Mittens: You’ll definitely want to keep your hands warm while exploring Ireland in winter.
- 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.
- Hand warmers: If you have some long days outdoors hiking or exploring, you may want to bring some hand warmers just in case.
- Wool Socks: Keep your feet warm and dry!
Because the weather never gets too cold that people can’t get out for walks, they go for hill walks and walks by the sea all year round. It’s also best to bring extra tee shirts that you can wear as an extra layer, and then take one off, if you get too warm.
- St. Nicholas Day is on the 6th of December.
- December Solstice is a seasonal holiday which is usually celebrated on the 21st of December but this year will be celebrated on the 22nd.
- Christmas Eve belongs to the religious holidays. The Irish celebrate it at night before Christmas.
- Christmas Day is one of the most popular winter holidays. They celebrate it on the 25th of December. On the next day, St. Stephen’s Day is celebrated.
- New Year’s Eve is celebrated on the 31st of December.
- St. Brigit is on the 1st of February.
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. And rest assured, everywhere you go on the island of Ireland, during any season of the year, you’ll find friendly locals offering Ireland’s famous warm welcome.
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