When is the Best Time to Visit Ireland?

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In my mind there is no bad time to visit Ireland!  We've been in the rainy spring and the chill of November, the ‘high season' months of June and July, the ‘shoulder season' months of May, September, and October. And one of my most memorable trips to Dublin took place in January!

Quite honestly, any time you can go to Ireland is a good time to go!

Planning the best time for your Ireland vacation is really dependent on two things: your own schedule and the experiences you want to have.

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What is the Best Month to go to Ireland?

My favorite month to visit Ireland is September. Why? It's not as busy as summer, the weather is still quite good, and prices are beginning to drop a bit for flights and accommodation.

I realize September may not work for everyone, especially if you are traveling with kids, so here's a breakdown of what you can expect in Ireland, month by month.

Doonagore Castle, County Clare, Ireland
Winds pushed the waves high on the Atlantic beyond Doonagore Castle

January

January in Ireland is the perfect time for a city break! Prices for everything from airfare to accommodations is less, and crowds are minimal.

Most attractions and tours are open year round in Ireland's cities, though they may have shorter hours.

Shorter days mean longer nights, so you can expect lively pubs in the afternoon and evenings.

Ireland has a very temperate climate so even the coldest days don't often dip below freezing.

Related Article: Visiting Ireland in January- What You Can Really Expect

February

February is the cheapest month to fly to Ireland. In my experience February has the harshest weather of any month in Ireland as the country transitions from winter to spring.

Much like January, February is a great time to focus on Irish cities.

March

Irish tourism gets a great boost in March due to St. Patrick's Day. You'll find many rural areas begin their tourism season around this time, though some may operate on shorter hours or limited days until the busier summer season.

Weather in March can be varied, so you want to be sure to pack for any and all types of weather.

Related Article: Ireland vacation Clothing You Shouldn't Leave Home Without

April

You'll find a little lull in tourists in April as the St. Patrick's Day revelers have departed and the busier travel season has not yet begun. Most tourism sites and attractions are open and ready for visitors, though hours may still be limited to specific days of the week.

April weather is quite similar to March, though temperatures are on the rise.

May

May is shoulder-season in Ireland and tourism begins its summer rise this month. Temperatures remain more consistent, in the mid-to-high 60s (Fahrenheit), and the longer days offer more time for exploration.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
The steps down to the rope bridge are steep

June

The busy summer season begins in June as school ends in America and families begin to travel in Ireland. You'll find the streets in Dublin and Galway filling with crowds and prices on everything from airfare and accommodations to car rental begin to rise.

June weather can be quite pleasant, though there is always the possibility of cold rain and whipping winds, so don't forget a rain jacket and layers when packing!

July and August

Welcome to the ‘high season' of Irish tourism. School is out in Ireland and across Europe so this is when most families tend to visit Ireland.

The most popular destinations across Ireland will be busy and lines at the most popular attractions can be long. Book as much in advance as possible to avoid disappointment.

The good news about visiting Ireland in the summer months is that the daylight hours are incredibly long! The sun will rise before 5am and set after 10pm, with hours of twilight on either end. If you want to see as much as possible while in Ireland this is your best opportunity.

It is best to remember that, while these are Ireland's warmest months, the temperature doesn't usually rise over 70 degrees Fahrenheit on average.

September

As I said above, this is my favorite month to visit Ireland. Crowds have diminished, the days are still long, and I've always experienced very good weather.

All attractions are still open and you'll still be able to enjoy beautiful gardens and bright flowers around the country.

Ireland castle vacation. The entry at Ashford Castle decorated for Halloween.

October

As fall shoulder season comes to an end the cooler days are a terrific time to visit Ireland! Temperatures will hover in the mid-50s, on average, and the days begin to shorten.

Harvest is in full swing in most of the country so you'll find plenty of festivals leading up to Samhain, the Celtic festival that is at the root of Halloween.

November

While the days are shorter and the air a bit more crisp, my experiences with an Ireland vacation in November have been positive, with sunny days for exploring and cozy evenings listening to live music in a pub by a fire.

Some attractions, mainly smaller, rural sites, will close by November as they don't receive enough visitors to keep them open in the slowest travel time of the year, but busier locations remain open year round.

December

In late November Christmas markets will begin to pop up across Ireland, so this is a fun time to visit if you love to shop. City breaks are terrific now as shops and streets are decked in twinkling lights.

Weather in December begins its chilly, wet slide into winter, so layers and warm, waterproof boots are a must.

Remember that many attractions, small guesthouses, and even restaurants will close during Christmas week, so do your research and plan accordingly.

Flight prices may also climb during December as expats head home to celebrate the holidays.

The Best Time to Visit Ireland: Area Specific

The best time to travel to specific destinations in the Emerald Isle.

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 Temple Bar, or filling 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 be sure to consider the Dublin Pass, which includes entry to popular sites, discounted transportation, and special savings.

If you're a fan of James Joyce be sure to plan your time in Dublin to coincide with June 16 for Bloomsday, when devotees of his novel Ulysses take to the streets to recreate character Leopold Bloom's day. Be sure to bring a period costume!

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 vacation packages.

Visiting the West and Central Ireland

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 are only open part of the year and don't carry tourists during rough weather. 

Late shoulder season or high season (late May thru late September) is an optimal time 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

Northern Ireland has become more popular and busier in the past few years due to Titanic Belfast and Game of Thrones, so you can expect heavy crowds during the high season.

My personal recommendation for this area is to visit during the shoulder season months of May, June, September, and October. While you may have cooler days you will also have lighter crowds.

Itineraries for Your Ireland Vacation

Are you planning an Ireland vacation but don't know where to begin? The free Ireland itineraries at Ireland Family Vacations offer expert guidance! Choose the itinerary that best suits your goals- or download them all for Ireland travel inspiration!

A week-long itinerary perfect for a first trip to Ireland. Filled with lodging and attraction recommendations, this itinerary can be used for travelers of all ages.

Includes some of Ireland's ‘must see' sites including: Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, Rock of Cashel, Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, and Cliffs of Moher.

Also included:

Car rental information

Money saving tips

Lodging recommendations

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A week-long Ireland castle itinerary for knights and princesses of all ages!

Includes some of Ireland's most incredible castles including: Malahide Castle, Blarney Castle, King John's Castle, and Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. As well as recommended castle hotels – and a private castle you can rent!

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Other attractions to visit

Handy tips to make the most of your time in Dublin

Options to extend the trip from 10 days up to 2 weeks

Additional resources include:

Car rental information

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A 2 week itinerary built with active travelers in mind! Filled with activities, attractions, and lodging for all budgets.

Includes some of Ireland's well known sites including: Glendalough, Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle, Ring of Kerry, and Cliffs of Moher.

As well as sites many tourist miss like Kilkenny, Cahir Castle, West Cork, and Sheeps Head Peninsula.

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A jam-packed, fast moving itinerary through Ireland's northern-most counties including, but not limited to, Northern Ireland.

Includes well-known sites like Titanic Belfast, The Giant's Causeway, The Dark Hedges, and Slieve League Cliffs.

As well as sites many tourists miss like St. George's Market, Guided tour of Derry, Inishowen Peninsula, and Fermanagh Lakelands.

Also included:

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How to use your mobile phone in Ireland

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Jody! Your post is a treasure to me!
    The only one specific puzzle to me is puffins. They are adorable and they almost caged my heart. So I dream to watch them in their natural environment: I learned that they reside in different parts of Ireland, booked tickets as fast as I could. But. I haven’t took into acoount, WHEN is the right time to admire these beautiful and funny creatures. After the tickets were mine, i found https://rove.me/to/ireland showing that from mid-spring through the end of summer is the right season. And here http://www.irelands-hidden-gems.com/images/puffin.jpg it differs. Even worse for me(
    So.. Any chances i’ll witness puffins cooing on the Cliffs of Moher during first 2 weeks of March? Thaaaanx!

      Oh those puffins!!! Can I tell you that I have yet to see them? Over a dozen visits and my timing has never been right.

      According to the Cliffs of Moher website the birds return and nest from late May to mid-July, with prime sightings in May and June.

      Another site says they come on shore in April and May, so you might squeak in a chance to see them in late March, but I wouldn’t let it ruin your vacation if it doesn’t happen.

      I wish for you safe travel and puffin sightings!

    I am planning a trip to Dublin and cliffs on west Ireland in may or June 2017. How can I travel to west coast by bus or train? And how many days do you suggest in Dublin and west irelands?

      Hi Suraksha. You can take a bus from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher, then from the Cliffs to Doolin and beyond. If you want to go by train you would leave from Dublin and arrive in Galway or Ennis, then take a bus from there.

      How many days really depends on what you want to see and how much time you have. I recommend at least 2 days for Dublin and a day and night for the Cliffs of Moher and Doolin. But for Western Ireland…. I’ve spent weeks there and still haven’t seen it all. That said, if you are using only public transport you will be limited on what you can see and do. You might want to consider a tour out of Dublin to Western Ireland… this 4 day tour from Dublin includes the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, Blarney Castle + transportation & lodging.

      Safe travels!

    My family will be visiting Ireland the first couple of weeks in December. We are super excited! We assume the weather will be damp and cold, and we will be mostly in Belfast and then Dublin. Any recommendations for traveling in December?

      December is a great time to be in the cities! Just be sure to pack clothes you can layer, warm woolen socks, warm, water-resistant, comfy boots, and cute hats. (Of course you can get the socks & hats in Ireland!)

      Double check the open/ closing times for the attractions you plan to visit- winter hours are often shorter.

      You’ll find loads of great Christmas markets – be sure to check out St. George’s Market in Belfast!

      Also be aware that your hours of daylight will be short… with sunrise around 8:20am and sunset about 4pm.

      Hope that helps!

    Thank you so much for your informative reply. Much appreciated!!

    We currently live in S.A. and were wondering if there is any difference regarding Visas etc. to visit Northern or Southern Ireland or are the requirements the same?

    Thanks!

      Hi Sally and thanks so much for your question!

      For the Republic of Ireland passport holders from South Africa do NOT need a Visa, but you must hold a valid passport with at least 6 months until expiration date at the time you arrive. (Department of Foreign Affairs website)

      To visit Northern Ireland you will need a Standard Visitor Visa (according to gov.uk) if you fly into Belfast airport.

      I think it unlikely that you would be asked for your Visa if you flew into Dublin and ventured into Northern Ireland for a few days, flying again out of Dublin.

      I hope that helps!

    My hope is to not be drenched when we visit. Is the first of June okay for that? Is the temperature about the same from April-June?

      Ireland is never completely dry. It’s just a fact. But you aren’t likely to be deluged by rain, either. It’s usually a soft wetness.
      Average temperatures in May/June hover around the mid-50s (F), a bit cooler at night. By June the heavy rains of winter and spring have (mostly) moved on, with under 3″ being the monthly average.
      That said, we’ve visited in late May and had very wet days for our entire trip – and we’ve visited in November and had a completely dry vacation.
      My advice- pack with layering in mind, bring extra warm socks when you’re out exploring, and a water resistant jacket.
      And don’t let a little rain keep you indoors!

      I hope that helps! Please ask any questions that may come up as you plan your trip. We will be arriving in early June as well, so fingers crossed for nice weather!

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