Visiting Ireland in January – What You Can Really Expect

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I'm often asked “What is the best time of year to go to Ireland?“- and my answer is always, “Whenever you can go!” And that includes visiting Ireland in January!

Yes, even the darkest, coldest time of the year is a good time to visit Ireland! Not only will you find lower costs on everything from airfare to accommodations, but you'll also find fewer tourists at Ireland's most popular sites.

In this Article

Podcast Extra: The Most Popular Tourist Destinations in Ireland

What to expect when you visit Ireland in January
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Is January a Good Time to Visit Ireland?

I'm going to answer this question with a resounding YES – but there is a caveat.

After the peak tourist season in Ireland (late June through mid-September), and prior to the run up to Christmas, many small and rural attractions will close for the season.

Those that do stay open through the end of December will often close for the months of January and February, opening again in time for the St. Patrick's Day festivities.

Dublinia and Christchurch Cathedral are connected via this dramatic stone arch. Dublin travel tips.
Dublinia and Christchurch Cathedral are connected via this dramatic stone arch. Tour Dublinia first as you cross the arch to the Cathedral as you exit.

The busiest and most popular attractions, including most city sites in Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, and Killarney, as well as favorites like the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, and the Rock of Cashel, remain open year round.

My Ireland Vacations in January

My January travel to Ireland is usually a mix of city breaks, luxury accommodations (much cheaper in the off season!), and a couple days of music at Temple Bar TradFest in Dublin.

For transportation I use a mix of trains and buses with the occasional rental car to reach a remote accommodation.

Coming from the Midwestern US, where winter can be brutally cold, temperatures in the upper 30s and lowers 40s (Fahrenheit) are a welcome reprieve from the single digits (and below) at home.

Brightly colored shops on Fisher Street in Doolin, Ireland
Even a damp, drizzly afternoon can't dull the colorful shops on Fisher Street in Doolin

Though I found the temperatures to be mild, the weather can be wild.

On a past trip as I drove from Doolin to Adare, steely clouds swept low across the sky, pouring rain as they blew past. Between the clouds bright blue sky and unfiltered sun created the most brilliant rainbows before a new, heavy cloud brought its downpour.

Bright rainbows in ireland
You don't realize how much a rainbow shimmers until you are inside one…

The weather in January can be varied. Rain and wind in the morning often gives way to a clear and brisk afternoon.

I had one trip with quite a bit of snow. The few inches of snow didn't stop us from exploring (we are very used to snowy driving!) and made for some stunning photos. Snowplows are rare in Ireland and we encountered few cars on the roads and even fewer visitors at the sites we stopped at.

The Temple Bar in Temple Bar, Dublin
It may be colder but the ability to walk down the cobbled streets of Temple Bar without fighting your way through a crowd is priceless.

If I had to choose a spot that most impressed me in January it would have to be Dublin. The capital city is amazing when Grafton Street isn't standing room only, when lines for attractions don't have 1-2 hour waits, and when you can see for blocks along the cobbled streets of Temple Bar.

How to Plan an Ireland Vacation in January

Begin researching your flights in August. I usually find the best airfare 6-8 weeks prior to departure, but I always begin researching flight costs 5-6 months before my trip so I know when a good deal pops up.

Read: Tips to Help You Find the Best Airfare to Ireland

After booking your flights the fun begins- planning your itinerary!

A few things to remember when visiting Ireland in January:

  • Days are shorter. An average January day in Ireland lasts approximately 8 hours and 15 minutes. The sun will rise around 8:20am, and set around 5:40pm.
  • Weather is wetter. In a country known for rain, January is one of the wettest months of the year.
  • Schedules may be shortened. Sites that remain open year round may have reduced hours.

But the upside of those drawbacks are pretty attractive:

  • Shorter days mean longer nights- and pubs are lively in in winter months!
  • Sometimes that wet weather is in the form of snow. It doesn't usually last very long- but it is amazingly beautiful to see.
  • Fewer tourists at popular sites means you can experience more!

How Cold is Ireland in January?

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

Ireland doesn't have large temperature fluctuations. You'll find very few brutally cold winter days, and few days of sweltering summer heat.

The average temperature in Ireland in January is 38 °F – 47 °F (3-7 °C). Northern Ireland weather in January is in the same temperature range, though the North does receive about an inch more rain in January than the Republic, on average.

While you will need a warm and water-resistant jacket and waterproof boots, the weather in Ireland in January can feel quite mild- especially if you are visiting from a location that experiences harsh winters. Add a warm woolen hat and gloves and you'll be set for outdoor exploration. (Packing list below!)

The Best Ireland Vacation Itinerary in January

Whether you want adventure or culture, you'll find plenty of options in Ireland in January!

I personally think January is a perfect time to explore Ireland's cities. Smaller crowds and more hotel availability make for an exceptional visitor experience.

And the best part- you don't even need a car! You can take the train from one location to the next! Add in day tours to sites away from the cities and you're set! (Though if you do choose to drive be sure to read Everything You Need to Know About Car Rental in Ireland.)

Adare Abbey, Adare, County Limerick, Ireland
A perfect January day in Adare. A bit rainy in the morning, but clearing in the afternoon for a walk along the river.

Sample Itinerary: Irish Cities by Rail

Begin in Dublin

When traveling through Ireland by train remember that all tracks lead to Dublin, so some routes are not always available, and you may do a bit of backtracking to arrive at your destination.

Begin with 2-3 days in Dublin. If you enjoy Irish trad music plan your trip to coincide with Temple Bar TradFest music festival.

Podcast extra: Why You Should Visit Dublin in January (listen or read)

Most Dublin attractions are open year-round and guided walking tours are a terrific way to learn more about the city.

A few Great Dublin tours & experiences to consider:

  • Vintage Tea Trips – afternoon tea served on a restored double decker bus (learn more here)
  • Irish Food Trail – Dublin's #1 food tour – they also have the Dublin Whiskey Trail Tour which is excellent (learn more here)
  • Walk Dublin has a number of fun tour options available, but I especially enjoy their Coffee (or Tea) Tour & Tasting Experience
  • Do NOT miss the Museum of Archaeology. The bog bodies in Kingship & Sacrifice are amazing and the Monastic Gold Exhibition will take your breath away. Entry is always free.

You'll also find plenty of day tour options to spots like Glendalough, Howth, and the Boyne Valley.

Hilltoptreks
Day Tour from Dublin of Wicklow, Glendalough
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Shane’s Howth Adventures
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Hilltoptreks
Day Tour of the Boyne Valley | Newgrange
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Don't forget your Dublin Pass to make the most of your time in the capital city.

On to Galway

From Dublin take the train or express bus to Galway for a few days.

Plan to depart Dublin in the morning to give yourself a full afternoon exploring Galway's Latin Quarter.

Terrific Galway Tours & Experiences

From Galway you can take day tours to the Burren and Cliffs of Moher or Connemara in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Visit Cork

Depart Galway early to spend the day in Cork.

Tops Spots to Visit in Cork

  • Peruse the tasty offerings at the English Market
  • Visit the Butter Museum
  • Ring the Shandon Bells & get a bird's eye view of Cork City
  • Enjoy the Cork City Ramble guided walking tour

If you stay an extra day – or arrive very early – you may fit in a trip to Blarney Castle or the Jameson Distillery.

Stay a Few Days in Killarney

After a night (or two) in Cork hop aboard the train bound to Killarney, the centre of tourism in southwest Ireland.

You'll find plenty to keep you occupied in and around the town, including Killarney National Park and Muckross House, so plan for at least 2-3 days here.

Highlights of Killarney

Available day tours will take you around the Ring of Kerry or out to the Dingle Peninsula.

Dingle Slea Head Tours
Dingle Peninsula 3 Hour Group Tour
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Dingle Slea Head Tours
Ring of Kerry Private Tour
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From Killarney head back to Dublin. Take the train to Malahide for a final night or two, or catch a cab to an airport hotel if you will be departing the next day.

More Ireland Itineraries

(At Least) 7 Castles in 7 Days is a terrific itinerary for Ireland at any time of the year. Most attractions included in the itinerary are open year round and the locations included will offer plenty of accommodations and activities.

Surfers in Lahinch, County Clare, in January
Adventure activities don't stop in the winter! These surfers were braving the waves in January!

Outdoor adventurers will enjoy this 2 Week Ireland Road Trip. Adventure doesn't stop in Ireland during the winter! You'll still find plenty of hiking, horseback riding, and even surfing taking place.

If you want to visit Northern Ireland you'll find what you're looking for in the Ulster Overview. Note: a few locations do have limited hours and some may close if the weather is hazardous.

What to Pack for Ireland in January

Croagh Patrick, County Mayo, after a snow storm
The Holy Mountain of Croagh Patrick after a snow storm

Because Ireland weather chatter often includes “if you don't like it, wait 5 minutes, it will change” and “four seasons in one day”, my recommended Ireland packing list doesn't change much from season to season.

Your Ireland packing list should include:

  • plenty of warm socks
  • water resistant hiking shoes or boots for exploring the countryside
  • jeans or warmer travel pants
  • light jacket or sweater for layering
  • Warm, water resistant jacket (I love SCOTTeVEST jackets and travel pants!)
  • cozy hat (though this is a terrific souvenir to bring home!)
  • knit gloves
  • short and long sleeved shirts for layering – my favorite are thin Merino wool 1/4 zip
  • comfortable shoes for walking in the cities, a nice loafer or leather boots with cushioning support

Try to keep your clothing monotone so it will mix and match well; add a few accessories or easy-to-wear items like t-shirts for color.

Tip:  I usually bring 4-5 outfits and have laundry done every 3rd or 4th day.  Your B&B host or hotel concierge can direct you to a launderette where, for a nominal fee, your clothes will be washed, dried and folded- and you won't miss any sight-seeing time!

If you're planning a nice evening out include a simple dress that won't wrinkle or dress pants & tops for women, and slacks, button down shirt, and jacket for men.

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Visit Ireland in January

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