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Best Time to Visit Ireland

Written by Anietra Hamper
Dec 27, 2019

The small island of Ireland is truly a year-round destination. The climate is fairly consistent throughout the year, so although the best time to visit Ireland is spring and fall, your decision on when to go may rest on other factors like what you would like to do. From the magnificent Cliffs of Moher on the west coast to the Ring of Kerry in the south and the capital of Dublin to the east, there are so many types of travel experiences to enjoy.

Kiss the Blarney Stone at the Blarney Castle, take a ferry to the historic Aran Islands, or just drive across the country to see the electric-green countryside. While you can expect a steady climate, and almost certainly a little bit of rain, certain times of the year are better than others to do some of these popular experiences.

Many travelers like to combine trips to Scotland or England along with an Ireland vacation, and it makes sense. If you are already heading to Ireland, you can easily add on another week and include one of these neighboring destinations, since traveling to them from Ireland is easy and convenient.

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Best Time to Travel to Ireland

Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, Ireland

The best time to travel to Ireland is in the shoulder seasons, from late March through May and September through October. The weather is cooler during these seasons, and since rain in Ireland is unpredictable throughout the year, you are not gaining an advantage or disadvantage with drizzle by going in the spring or fall. The shoulder seasons are ideal because the crowds are smaller, which makes a big difference for your time when experiencing attractions in Ireland and getting to them.

Keep in mind that roads in Ireland are unusually small. While there are a number of main highways to and from larger cities, once you get into tiny villages, your time in traffic becomes a major consideration. In the high tourist season in the summer, you will commit a great deal of your vacation time to sitting in traffic. Smaller crowds are also an important factor while you visit key attractions like castles. You might wait in line for several hours at the Blarney Castle, for instance, just to go to the top during the summer tourist season.

The temperatures in the shoulder seasons are comfortable. If skies are particularly gloomy or rainy, you may want to invest in a wool sweater and keep your rain jacket and umbrella handy in the car for the intermittent rainy conditions.

Best Time of the Year to Visit Ireland

Colorful houses in front of St. Colman's Cathedral in Cobh

While the shoulder seasons in the spring and fall are great times to visit for the smaller crowds, each season brings with it unique reasons to go. Summer has some of the best weather, and winter has the best rates for lodging and transportation. It is important to consider the factors that matter to you most and start your planning from there since some things in your itinerary will be dependent on the time of year that you go.

Spring: The spring months are some of the best times to visit Ireland. You can plan on comfortable weather and not as many crowds as the summer season. The rates for airfare and hotels will be lower, and you can find incredible deals on bed and breakfast accommodation. B&B Ireland is a network of B&Bs throughout the country that have been inspected for quality, and the network extends throughout the country.

The flowers in Ireland are blooming in April and May, so the many gardens and landscaping at the castles will be stunning for a spring visit. Crowds are smaller in the spring, which is nice, especially at attractions like castles that have narrow stone stairwells and in the small villages where shopping quarters and sidewalks are small. The only caveat with spring is the occasional rain shower. They generally come and go and do not last long, so a glimpse of sunshine is always around the corner. Pack for the potential of rain, and you will be fine.

Summer: If your Ireland priority is to travel during the months with the best weather then summer is when to go. June, July, and August are the sunniest months in Ireland and they are also the busiest with tourists. The nice thing about Ireland's consistent weather is that even in the middle of summer, the temperatures never get overly hot. This makes it nice for spending full days outside, especially since you will need to plan a little extra time at attractions due to the many tourists.

The long days of summer allow for more time to sightsee at attractions, and these are the months when festivals are in full swing. Since the summer months see the most tourists, that means rates at hotels and airfares are at their highest. If you do plan to travel to Ireland in the summer, you should book your accommodations far in advance, as availability will become limited the closer you get to your travel dates.

Fall: The months of September and October are great times to go to Ireland when the brisk fall air and leaves changing colors add to the experience and natural beauty of the island. The summer tourists are gone in the fall, and you can enjoy no lines at the popular attractions. Since it is the shoulder season, you can expect the same unpredictable weather as the rest of the year with a slightly higher risk for occasional rain.

Light rain in the fall months will not deter your ability to take ferries to nearby islands or other experiences, you just have to plan for the possibility. Even the open-air, double-decker, hop-on, hop-off buses in Dublin keep operating in the rain. You will find many farmers markets and outdoor craft festivals throughout Ireland in the fall, and you can enjoy the break on rates at hotels and for airfare. Be advised that some smaller establishments, businesses, and B&Bs close-up for the season after October, so check into that before booking airline tickets.

Winter: If a cozy Ireland vacation sounds appealing, then traveling in the winter months between November and February can net you some huge discounts, especially if you plan to base out of main cities like Dublin or Cork. Some attractions and tourist sites close in the winter, but you can still enjoy quiet drives in the countryside and see farms, livestock, and castles throughout the landscape.

There are also many indoor museums to enjoy in the larger cities if the weather is inclement. The winter months can be a bit dark and damp in Ireland, but you can hunker down in a restaurant for a bite to eat and listen to traditional Irish music.

Best Month to visit Ireland

If the best seasons to visit are spring and fall then the best months in those seasons would be May and September. Temperatures in both months are mild, and you may need a light jacket on some days, but the weather is suitable for walking around the winding streets in villages like Galway and Ennis. May and September are great months for sightseeing without loads of tourists. You will have shorter lines, if any, at attractions like castles and gardens and on ferries if you take them to some of the outlying islands.

These months are nice for road trips if you plan to do a bit of driving on some of the scenic routes like the Ring of Kerry. The roads on the way to the Cliffs of Moher will be less crowded, too. Rain is always a possibility anytime of the year in Ireland, which is why its landscape is so green, but the risks are slightly increased in the shoulder seasons, so pack a rain jacket and umbrella just in case.

Cheapest Time to Visit Ireland

Snow-covered Malahide Castle in County Dublin

The cheapest time to visit Ireland is during the winter months between November and February. While you can get a vacation for a steal with rock-bottom airfare and hotel rates, it comes at a cost. Many sites and attractions close during the winter months, especially in the smaller villages, so you might be limited on what you can see. Some bed and breakfasts also close during the winter, but the ones that remain open will have deeply discounted rates. Availability for airline seats and lodging will be plentiful during these months.

If you do not mind the darker days and more restricted options when it comes to attractions, then a winter trip is quite cheap. For a winter vacation to Ireland, you might want to stay in a larger city like Dublin or Cork, where museums and attractions are more likely to stay open. You can also book day trips from these cities to see other attractions in the country if you do not want to drive yourself.

Best Time to Visit Ireland for Golf

Dromoland Castle and golf course in County Clare, Ireland

Ireland has some of the world's most stunning golf courses, so planning a golf holiday between the months of May and mid-October is best. Take advantage of the long days during these months to get the most time on the greens.

In June, you will find courses in top shape. April is often the driest month and is an option as well for a golf getaway in Ireland.

There are more than 300 golf courses in Ireland, and with so many to choose from, you may want to solicit the help of a tour company that specializes in golf holidays so that you book the best trip for your time and money.

Best Time to Visit Ireland for Festivals

Irish bagpipers

When you visit Ireland, you want to be outdoors, so enjoying the small village festivals in the spring, summer, and fall adds a nice element to your vacation. You will find cultural, arts, and music festivals throughout the country. March is famous for St. Patrick's Day celebrations, especially in Dublin, that last for five days with events, fireworks, theater performances, street music, and more.

Ireland's second-largest city, Cork, has an annual Folk Festival in September, which attracts visitors who want to enjoy traditional Irish and Gaelic music. Smaller villages in Ireland have a host of other festivals from March through October. The summer season brings dozens of them every weekend, so you can always find a festival to enjoy and experience a slice of the local culture.

Worst Time to Visit Ireland

Cliffs of Moher

The worst time to visit Ireland depends on your perspective. Winter is not the best time to visit Ireland. Sure, you get the cheapest travel rates, but the weather is consistently dark and gloomy, and many attractions are closed. A third window to avoid is the week of the St. Patrick's Day revelry during March, unless you are specifically visiting to be a part of it. Otherwise, you might find that the celebrations, crowds, and costs during that time are not what you are looking for.

The summer high season is one of the worst times to visit for crowds. Large numbers of tourists can make an otherwise fun trip frustrating due to the long lines and sheer numbers of people. Ireland is a small country, and most years there are more tourists that come than residents who live here, so things get crowded. Summer is also the most expensive time to visit.

Best Time to Visit Ireland and Scotland

Panoramic view of Edinburgh

If you have ever wanted to go to Ireland and Scotland, it makes sense to plan the extra time and do them both during the same vacation. Spring is the best time to do a combined trip to Ireland and Scotland, before the tourist crowds arrive and while the weather is cool and pleasant. Just like Ireland, the small country of Scotland becomes uncomfortably crowded with tourists during the popular summer season, especially in areas like the Highlands, where it can be difficult to get into attractions.

Scotland is north of Ireland, so it will be a bit cooler in the spring, but a light vest or jacket will be fine. Travel between the countries is easy. You can find regular charter flights between Dublin and Edinburgh. Spring is a great time to do an Ireland/Scotland driving trip, when roads have fewer cars.

Best Time to Visit Ireland and England

Big Ben and the Union Jack in London, England

The best time to visit Ireland and England in a combined trip is in the spring or fall. You are likely to run into some rain regardless of when you go, so pack a jacket and take advantage of fewer tourists and cheaper rates than the expensive and popular summer season. You can find many Ireland and England tour packages that are an easy way to book the trip, with attractions and transportation included.

You will want to plan to travel for several weeks, so that you get the most out of your trip and take advantage of the opportunity to see some of the more remote attractions in both countries without the long lines.

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Exploring Ireland: There are so many great attractions throughout Ireland, from UNESCO World Heritage sites to historic homes and gardens. You will want to start your itinerary with some of the best places to visit in Ireland like Dublin, the Aran Islands, and Killarney. If you are looking for small towns and villages, consider Kinsale, Galway, and Kilkenny.

Irish Getaways: If you are just looking to add in a short trip, you can review ideas for weekend breaks in Ireland that have unique scenic attractions, or plan an outdoor day fishing in Ireland at one of the many lakes and rivers.

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