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Airfare to Ireland begins to fall in September, and by October rates are as low as you will likely see them. (Tip: Create an alert on Airfare Watchdog to track fares for your preferred routes!) The package deals on Ireland winter vacations are often incredible- airfare, car and lodging- for one low price. But why would anyone want to visit Ireland during the “darker half” of the year? Can you really have a fabulous vacation in Ireland when the days are shorter, the nights are longer and the air is chillier?
The short answer? YES!
Mid-October marks the beginning of the “off-season” in Ireland, which runs through the end of April. With the exception of Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day this is the slow tourism season for Ireland- which means your money will go further!
Even if you don’t snag a package deal you’ll see that prices on everything from Ireland hotels, B&Bs, and even car rentals drop in the off-season.
Or no crowds at all! While some attractions close during the off-season, many do stay open through Christmas, closing or limiting their hours in January. This is a great time to tour popular sites without hoards of people around. When we visited Cahir Castle my family explored the grounds without another tourist in site. The guides at Bunratty Castle have time to share little known facts without hoards of tourists around. And the Cliffs of Moher seem even larger when not swarming with tourists.
More Craic at the Pub
While traditional music may not play nightly in the off-season you’ll still find plenty of craic at the pubs. A pub is not a bar, though you will find plenty of pints being lifted, but a public house; a gathering place for people to come together, young and old. And when the weather turns sour and darkness falls early people tend to congregate near a crackling fire and conversation. Join them, enjoy the stories, buy a pint or two for the interesting characters and share your own tales. There is no better way to enjoy Ireland.
Mid-November into early December brings Christmas markets, filled with offerings from local artisans. Plush Irish woolen knits, gorgeous jewelry and handcrafted toys share space with delectable cheeses, perfectly smoked meats and Christmas pudding.
Some markets run for only a few days while others have a festival atmosphere for weeks on end. (Tip: Irish Christmas markets seem to come and go. My best recommendation is to do a web search with the city or location you will be visiting as well as the year; ie Killarney Christmas Market 2016. Another option is the xmas-markets.org website, though the list is by no means complete.)
Tips for Ireland Winter Vacations
We’ve vacationed in Ireland twice in October and twice in November. Our days were crisp but mostly clear, though short, with sunset around 5pm.
- If your plans involve driving try to do it early in the day. It can be difficult to navigate dark roads you don’t know- and find your destination- as the sun sets.
- Go out in the evenings. Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean you should stay inside the B&B. Ask your hosts for evening activity ideas- you may find out about a wonderful local event.
- Take the time to talk with the guides at sites you visit. With fewer tourists coming through the doors they have more time to share tales and offer advice.
- Buy a wool sweater. No, they don’t come cheap, but it’s the perfect item to layer. And every time you wear it back home it brings back terrific memories!
- Don’t forget: gloves, hat and scarf (also great items to purchase in Ireland!), warm socks, water resistant walking boots.
Have any tips for an Ireland winter vacation? Favorite Christmas markets? Share your tips in the comment section!
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