When to Visit Ireland

Planning Your Irish Vacation

Ross Castle, Killarney, Ireland

Swirling Clouds Behind Ross Castle, Killarney, Ireland

When is the Best Time to Visit Ireland?

In my mind there is no bad time to visit Ireland.  We’ve been in the rainy spring and the chill of November.  Ironically, we have not visited during the high season for two simple reasons:

  1. Cost.  Flights, lodging, car rental; they all cost more in high season.
  2. Crowds.  While we do miss a few sites traveling off season, we don’t miss the throngs of people we would have to share them with if we traveled in late June and July.

That said, our trip to Ireland this year will be in early June, just the end of the shoulder season, as we plan to visit Northern Ireland before heading to the Western and central counties.

The Best Time to Visit Ireland

The best time to travel to Ireland depends on both your budget and what you want to do.

Molly Malone, Dublin, Ireland

Alive, Alive, O

Visiting Dublin

If you are planning a Dublin city vacation, visit during a low season (October-December; January-April).  You’ll find fewer crowds along Grafton street, in the museums and historic buildings.  The majority of Dublin sites are open year round, though the hours may be shorter.  Flights and lodging costs will be lower, leaving you more money for fun and souvenirs.  You’ll still find great craic and live trad music in the pubs, and Dublin has a terrific public transit system when you don’t want to walk. 

If you’re traveling with children don’t miss the Dublin Zoo.  Crowds are light in the cold months and the animals can be surprisingly active.  If your entire vacation will be in Dublin you will probably benefit from a Dublin Pass, which includes entry to popular sites, discounted transportation and special savings.

Visiting the “Sunny South” of Ireland

The warm waters of the gulf stream help keep the southern parts of Ireland a bit more tropical than you might imagine.  While not warm, the southern counties of Ireland have a fall-like feel well into November.

As the southern counties are very tourist-ed, you’ll find the majority of sites open year-round, though some amenities may be closed.  Some of the most popular destinations in Ireland lie in this region:  the Cliffs of Moher, Rock of Cashel, Bunratty Castle and the Ring of Kerry, to name only a few.

I recommend this region in the shoulder seasons (September thru mid-November; April-May).  You’ll likely find lovely weather, perfect for layering that new Aran sweater, and great travel packages.

Visiting the West and Central Ireland

Cliffs of Moher, 2005

A November Day at the Cliffs of Moher

If the west of Ireland, including the Aran Islands or a boat ride at the base of the Cliffs of Moher, is on your agenda, you need to time your visit carefully as boats don’t carry tourists during rough weather.  Late shoulder season or high season (late May thru late September) is when you want to visit.  Outside of Galway, visitors to this region tend toward outdoor activities like hiking and cycling, visiting magnificent Abbeys and enjoying the abundant beauty.

Visiting Northern Ireland and Donegal

I’m going to fall back to my statement that any time is a good time to visit Ireland, but the farther north you venture the weather seems a bit more brisk.  As so many of the dramatic sites in Northern Ireland are along the coast we, personally, have waited to visit until late shoulder season, early high season.  Costs are, of course, higher in high season.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have a favorite time to visit Ireland or tips for visiting specific areas?  Please share your knowledge in the comments!

Do you have a question about Ireland travel?  Please ask!  Use the comments below or the contact form and I will be thrilled to answer it!

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