Best Time To Visit Ireland

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Often referred to as the Emerald Isle, Ireland’s nickname is for obvious reasons; it is very green. The British departed from Ireland just over a century ago, but the province of Ulster in the northeast remained within the United Kingdom. For virtually all practical purposes, other than government, the independent country and Ulster are one as far as travellers are concerned other than Ulster’s currency is the pound sterling and Ireland’s the euro. Ireland remains in the European Union.

Sport illustrates the lack of division. While Northern Ireland and Ireland have separate soccer teams, in other sports like rugby union and cricket, one team represents the whole island. The best time to visit Ireland may well correspond with a sporting event. Its golf courses, especially its links courses around a fairly windy coastline, attract players from all over the world.

Ireland’s capital, Dublin, is a major tourist venue, and you can also experience rural areas, an interesting culture, music and hospitality. Lovers of “Game of Thrones” can head to locations in Ulster used in filming the series.

Best Time To Visit Ireland

Ireland in Summer

what's the best time of year to visit ireland aerial view of barleycove beach
The best time to visit Ireland if you’re looking to spend time at the beach is summer. Pictured here is Barleycove Beach at County Cork.

The waters around the coastline are a moderating influence, so Ireland rarely experiences scorching hot days.

That does not mean that its lovely beaches do not attract crowds, but few go there and expect a suntan.

In the South West, for example, there are vast stretches of sand, often with towering dunes separating the beach from the hinterland.

These dunes are a feature of several of Ireland’s famous golf courses on the Atlantic Coast.

Dublin is a city that appeals to tourists because of its atmosphere, famous landmarks, lively pubs and entertainment venues.

You should find temperatures comfortable if you choose to walk around, although a shower is not uncommon.

If you decide on touring, car hire is simple to arrange, but the road infrastructure still has a rural feel.

Don’t expect an extensive network of motorways across the country, and do not be surprised if your routes even take you down roads that are little more than country lanes.

Here are some guideline stats but remember there are regional variations:

  • June (Sunrise 0455, Sunset 2155, Average Low Temperature 10C (50F), Average High Temperature Average High 16C (61F))
  • July (Sunrise 0515, Sunset 2150, Average Low Temperature 12C (54F), Average High Temperature 17C (63F)
  • August (Sunrise 0600, Sunset 2055, Average Low Temperature 12C (54F), Average High Temperature 17C (63F)

Looking for more to do in Ireland? Check these out:

Five Things to Do in Ireland in Summer

1- Explore Dublin
what is the best time to visit ireland
Samuel Beckett Bridge (Irish: Droichead Samuel Beckett) is a cable-stayed bridge in Dublin that joins Sir John Rogerson’s Quay on the south side of the River Liffey to Guild Street and North Wall Quay in the Docklands area.

Dublin is an obvious place to visit in the summer as it has the country’s main airport though plenty of visitors to Ireland cross by ferry.

The hop-on, hop-off bus tour allows those not familiar with the city to see its highlights and then return to favourites for a closer look.

The Guinness Brewery Tour is well-subscribed, and if you want to visit, you will need to book well in advance.

2- Visit The Giant’s Causeway
best time to visit ireland weather
The Giant’s Causeway and coast in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway is a relic of volcanic activity comprising 40,000 basalt columns that interlock.

This stunning UNESCO World Heritage-listed site attracts a million visitors each year.

Legend suggests it is the creation of a giant, and the story is certainly interesting, if not fact.

3- Drive The Ring Of Kerry

Southwest Ireland’s Ring of Kerry is a stunning route going right around “The Ring.”

You start in Killarney and can drive around it in a little over three hours but this is a beautiful setting where you are certain to stop along the way.

It attracts cyclists and hikers while the beaches and water sports are well worth exploring.

A world-famous golf course, Waterville sits at the end and is where the late Payne Stewart was once international captain.

4- Wander Around Galway
best time to visit ireland
One of the best times to visit Ireland if you’re keen on wandering around outdoors is in spring. Here’s the shore of Galway, with the “Twelve Pins” mountains of in the background.

Galway is a lovely small city of 80,000 inhabitants at the midpoint of Ireland’s Atlantic Coast.

It is famous for its folk music, art galleries, pubs and cafes.

Its proximity to the sea means that a family holiday in Galway offers something for all the family to do by day and night.

5- Discover Ireland’s Beaches
best time of the year to visit ireland
Murder Hole beach or Boyeeghether Bay in County Donegal is a fantastic beach to visit in Ireland.

You have to enjoy the beaches of Ireland, and this is certainly the season where you can swim, even if the waters never get too warm.

The best beaches are on the Atlantic Coast, with options in Donegal in the far north down to the extreme southwest.

Another option is down in the extreme southeast in Waterford.

Top tips:

  • Look for discount cards, travel and attractions, because summer is high season and prices are at their highest.
  • Plan and make your bookings in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • Always be prepared for a shower and falling evening temperatures with a jacket, umbrella and hat.

Ireland in Autumn

when is best time to visit ireland
One of the best times to visit Ireland for amazing views is in autumn. Here, the Glensaul River drains from the Partry Mountains and runs down through native woodland.

With children returning to school, family holidays finish, and large crowds dwindle.

From early September, you will find shorter queues and prices slowly dropping.

Certainly, the early weeks of autumn are ideal for groups, couples and singles looking to enjoy what Ireland has to offer.

It is still important to check whether a booking is necessary for popular events and destinations, especially in September.

Roads become quieter throughout the country in autumn, and less traffic will shorten driving times if you are in a hurry.

Keep in mind that the time to drive between cities is dependent on the quality of the roads.

The colours of autumn are impressive everywhere, and Ireland is no exception.

It is a fertile country famous for several foods and drink products enjoyed well outside its borders.

Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and leeks help make the hearty food that is part of Irish cuisine.

Fruit on display in local markets will include pears, plums, elderberries and strawberries.

Here are some guideline stats but remember there are regional variations:

  • September (Sunrise 0655, Sunset 1945, Average Low Temperature 11C (52F), Average High Temperature Average High 15C (65F))
  • October (Sunrise 0750, Sunset 1830, Average Low Temperature 8C (46F), Average High Temperature 12C (54F)
  • November (Sunrise 0750, Sunset 1630, Average Low Temperature 5C (41F), Average High Temperature 9C (48F)

Five Things to do in Ireland in Autumn

1 – Play Golf
best time to visit ireland 2016
Ballybunion links golf course in county Kerry Ireland – best time to visit is summer, autumn or spring.

Golfing in Ireland is hugely popular: the Open Championship was held in Portrush a couple of years ago.

The Ryder Cup between Europe and USA and several DP World Tour events have increased the profile of Irish courses.

It is not cheap to play the country’s many classics, but you will never forget the experience of playing some of them.

Ballybunion and Lahinch in the west, Portmarnock in Dublin and Old Head in the extreme southwest beyond Cork are just some suggestions.

2- Visit The Game of Thrones Locations

“Game of Thrones” captured the imagination of huge numbers of people who flock to the locations in Northern Ireland used for filming.

You can join an organised tour to visit the main ones, which include Tollymore Forest Park, Castle Ward, Ballintoy Harbour, Inch Abbey and Cushendun Caves.

Castle Ward dates back to the 16th Century and was Winterfell in the series.

3- Have Fun At A Festival

The Irish do not need any excuse to have a party, and the number of festivals held annually reflects this.

Dublin Theatre Festival, Guinness Cork Jazz Festival and Belfast International Arts Festival are annual events held in autumn.

There are many more because it is harvest time.

If you are interested in food, head west to the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival each September.

Kinsale, Kilkenny and Armagh also host food-related festivals each autumn.

4- Go To A Rugby Union Match
when is the best time to visit ireland Ireland rugby ball against close-up of irfu flag with the centenary logo
Rugby fans will tell you that the best time to visit Ireland is only when you can attend a match.

Sport is very important to the Irish, and they are very competitive in several of them.

The Rugby Union side is a match for any in the world, and there are regular fixtures against Southern Hemisphere sides each November at the Aviva Stadium (formerly Lansdowne Road) in Dublin.

5- Go Hiking
best time to visit ireland to avoid crowds trees
Autumn is the best time to visit Ireland for beautiful landscapes. Check out Wicklow National Park.

Walking and hiking in autumn is a popular pastime as it’s still mild by day, even if there is a good chance of a shower, almost daily.

Try the Mountains of Mourne between Belfast and Dublin.

Top tips:

  • Be prepared for weather changing by the day and for cool evenings, even though daylight hours are long.
  • Make plans in advance if you want to attend popular events.
  • Discounts are available if you do your research.

Ireland in Winter

best time to visit ireland for weather people walking in the snow
If you’re looking for adventure, the best time to visit Ireland is in winter when you can challenge yourself to go hiking in the snow in places like the Paps of Anu, Co Kerry.

Ireland’s latitude means that there are limited daylight hours and cold weather.

However, the seas right around the island do have a moderating effect.

That does restrict the snow and frosts, and any snow is unlikely to stay on the ground for more than a day or two.

Dublin is a lively city at any time of the year, and the same can be said for Belfast, the main city in Ulster.

You will need to dress warmly even during the day, and with the sun setting early, temperatures fall even further.

Don’t worry about the winter weather as there are plenty of places to explore and things to do either side of Christmas.

While there is nothing fancy about typical Irish cuisine, a bowl of hearty Irish stew is ideal on a winter’s day.

Seafood chowder is another favourite with welcoming Irish pubs offering hospitality, traditional dishes, and a pint of Guinness or ale.

Many have live music that adds even more to the atmosphere.

Here are some guideline stats but remember there are regional variations:

  • December (Sunrise 0830, Sunset 1610, Average Low Temperature 4C (40F), Average High Temperature Average High 8C (46F))
  • January (Sunrise 0830, Sunset 1640, Average Low Temperature 3C (38F), Average High Temperature 7C (44F)
  • February (Sunrise4, Sunset 1740, Average Low Temperature 4C (40F), Average High Temperature 8C (46F)

Five Things to do in Ireland in Winter

best time to visit dublin ireland dublin castle in winter
Some say the best time to visit Ireland is in winter, as there are plenty of museums and castles you can explore. Dublin Castle was the seat of British power in Dublin from 1171 to 1922.
1- Enjoy A Christmas Market

The Fairtrade Christmas Market in Temple Bar, Dublin, should certainly be on your itinerary if you are heading to the Irish capital in December.

Christmas traditionally starts on a national holiday, 8 December.

From then onwards, you will hear music, buskers and choirs singing hymns, see the lights and find shops selling gifts and anything else you might need for Christmas and New Year.

2- Go To The Races

Leopardstown is one of Ireland’s most prominent horse racing venues.

It is close to Dublin, and its Christmas Festival just after Christmas is a four-day meeting attracting significant numbers of people, even those with limited interest in horse racing.

If you are in the west of Ireland, there is a similar festival in Limerick.

3- Look For The Northern Lights

Although they are not guaranteed, there is a chance of seeing the Northern Lights in provinces such as Donegal in the northwest of Ireland.

While you may associate the Northern Lights with Scandinavia, Ireland offers pollution-free air and dark nights up in Donegal.

4- Enjoy A Food Tour
best time to visit ireland uk Beef meat and vegetables stew served, in cast iron frying pan, on black wooden background
For a hearty meal, anytime is the best time to visit Ireland.

Food tours are a great way to enjoy winter cuisine.

Typical dishes are very warming on a cold day; Irish Stew, Beef and Guinness pie, Shepherd’s Pie, Coddle (a dish of leftovers with sausage, bacon, potato, onions and herbs) and Colcannon (mashed potato, cabbage) with pork or ham.

5- Visit Whiskey Distilleries
when is the best time of year to visit ireland Whiskey with ice in glass beaker on gray background
There’s no best time to visit Ireland to enjoy an Irish whiskey.

If you get an Irish Whiskey 360 Passport, you can visit several distilleries throughout Ireland.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine support this project, and you will find distilleries in every region of Ireland.

If you are heading down the Atlantic Coast, there are six prominent distilleries between Donegal and Dingle in the south.

The North has four distilleries, with Bushmills the most famous.

Top tips:

  • Expect cool days, coldish nights, and rain, so pack your bags accordingly.
  • Other than the run-up to Christmas, you should be able to find very competitive prices for accommodation and travel because this is the low season.
  • Book in advance, if possible, even though it is low season.

Ireland in Spring

what is the best time of year to visit ireland
Looking for the best time to visit Ireland? Try spring for colour. Here’s Howth Harbour in Dublin.

Days begin to get longer through the weeks of spring, but the weather may not be predictable but it’s nice to be out in the fresh air, and this is an excellent time to explore the countryside as flowers open up, producing plenty of colour.

Cities like Dublin and Belfast host sporting events, the former especially with the Six Nations Championship, a prize each entrant seeks annually.

Tickets are scarce, but the atmosphere in Dublin on an important sporting weekend is electric, even for those without tickets.

Later in the spring, the beaches, especially down in the south, begin to attract people, even though the sea temperatures have yet to rise markedly.

Springtime is also an excellent season to visit places that attract significant crowds later in the year.

City tours of Dublin’s landmarks are very popular, as are its pubs, shops and entertainment venues.

Here are some guideline stats but remember there are regional variations:

  • March (Sunrise 0640, Sunset 1830, Average Low Temperature 5C (41F), Average High Temperature Average High 8C (46F))
  • April (Sunrise 0620, Sunset 2025, Average Low Temperature 7C (44F), Average High-Temperature 10C (50F)
  • May (Sunrise 0520, Sunset 2120, Average Low Temperature 10C (50F), Average High Temperature 13C (61F)

Five Things to do in Ireland in Spring

1- Celebrate St Patrick’s Day
ireland best time to visit Irish flags at a parade
One of the best times to visit Ireland is during the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

St. Patrick’s Day in March is a significant day on the spring calendar.

It is a day celebrated in many parts of the world but nowhere as much as in Ireland.

It is the day the Irish celebrate Christianity’s arrival on the Emerald Isle.

Parades and celebrations are held throughout the country, so it’s easy to join the fun anywhere in Ireland.

2- Explore The Burren

If you head to the Atlantic Coast, the Burren National Park is alive with the colours of the wildflowers coming alive in springtime.

It covers 15,000 hectares and has species ranging from Alpine to Arctic to Mediterranean.

3- Go Hiking

Ireland does not have huge mountains, but several hiking trails throughout the country can combine with other regional activities.

Connemara is one place to consider if you are in Galway, Sligo, further north on the west coast, has stunning cliff walks, and Cork is a third option.

4- Play Golf

Golf in springtime is a good idea as there is less demand in early spring for tee times, so green fees are often lower than later in the year.

The links courses in Ireland, by definition, are coastal and sand-based and are in good condition because they have no drainage problems, even during wet weather.

5- Kiss The Blarney Stone
best time to visit ireland 2021 blarney castle
There’s no best time to visit Ireland if your goal is to kiss the Blarney Stone but you might like to try it on a fine spring day.

Head to County Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone, a piece of limestone in the structure of Blarney Castle.

According to the legend, kiss the Blarney Stone and you will receive the gift of the gab, eloquence and the skill of flattery.

The Stone in the castle has been there since the middle of the 15th Century.

Top tips:

  • Pack wisely to cater for rain and cool weather.
  • Do your research if you want to find Ireland’s little gems, best trails and top-quality restaurants.
  • There is no harm in early spring asking for discounts as some places will have had minimal business through the winter and may be keen for your patronage.

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Steve Smith is a widely travelled man who has lived on the South West Coast of Turkey since 2008. He hails from North East England where he lived most of his life but has been to every continent of the world, with a particular love for Southern Africa and its wildlife. He lists Argentina, India, and Vietnam as other favourite places that he enjoyed greatly while sport is also a passion, cricket and golf as a participant, rugby union and soccer as a spectator.