Q&A: What’s It Like to Travel Ireland in the Winter?


A January scene in County Tipperary

We’re planning our first trip to Ireland, and we’re thinking of taking advantage of the lower prices in the winter. Is this a bad idea? Will it be a rainy mess?

— Kerri from Ohio via email

Your question arrived at the perfect time. At this very moment, I’m in Ireland… in the dead of winter… and you know what? It’s not bad, but it’s definitely different from other times during the year.

Daylight Robbery

First of all, the daylight hours can be very limited. Ireland is quite far north (more in line with Anchorage, Alaska), so January days start off with only about 7.5 hours of daylight; but by the end of February that number increases to 10.5 hours per day. That might not sound so bad until you realize that the 21st of June sees 17 hours of daylight (source: Sunrise and Sunset for Ireland).

To accommodate the short days, it’s important to avoid a high mileage itinerary. Spending precious daylight hours in the car and driving in the dark are not the best use of your time. Instead, plan to stay in areas for a few days and enjoy the local sites. Then spend your nights visiting pubs or attending evening activities in town.

Weathering the Weather

With its northern position, you might think Arctic cold may overtake the island in the winter, but that isn’t the case. Ireland enjoys a moderate climate, so it rarely experiences extreme cold or extreme heat. This month, daytime temperatures have been in the 40s (4.5 – 9.5° C) with a few days getting even warmer. It can cool down in the evening… we had three frosty nights this month. Considering you’re from Ohio, these may be welcome temperatures in mid-winter.

How you dress will depend on what you plan to do. If hiking and outdoor activities are on the list, a warm jacket and shoes that can handle wet weather will be a must. However, museum and shopping days won’t require serious weather gear. As for rain, winter is not much wetter than other parts of the year… but on a damp day, the lower temperatures can feel much colder.

Ireland does get snow on occasion, especially in the higher elevations. It usually doesn’t stay on the ground for more than 24 hours, but every couple of years a notable storm finds its way to the Emerald Isle.

Open for Business

Despite what some sources may claim, Irish tourism IS open for business in the winter. While it is true that several sites and businesses close or run on limited hours at various points between the end of October and early March, there are plenty of things to do in every corner of Ireland. You’ll want to double check open times for attractions; and although some accommodations close for the winter, you will still find there are B&Bs and hotels ready to keep you warm and fed all winter long.

In the winter, many attractions run with limited staff. For example, there were no guided tours at Cahir Castle, and King John’s Castle in Limerick didn’t have costumed characters in the castle yard. However, both had staff on hand to answer any questions tossed their way.

Wrap Up

You will have a different experience in Ireland in the winter… more time by the fire, more chatting with the locals… less time in the car, less time with crowds… you’ll still have the same 40 shades of green (with brilliant winter reds and golds tossed in for contrast) and the same warm welcome.

Let me take a moment to share some photos from Ireland that were taken over the last three weeks… I think you’ll find it quite enchanting!

And for more about traveling in Ireland in different seasons, you can watch this video…

Author: Corey

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  1. Corey,
    You read my mind. Having received your recent email blast, I was going to reply asking what it’s like to visit (let alone LIVE IN) Ireland in the Winter. I almost signed up for a tour which would have completed last week, but the thought of such short days not managed by Pat&John Preston gave me pause. Oh well, my loss! Thanks for all you and Liam do!

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  2. I went last November (second half of the month) and it was brilliant! One day of full rain, the rest were cool and bright for the most part, other than some misty bits. About 45 every day. Gorgeous clouds!

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  3. A great time to travel to Ireland! Winter means less tourists and traffic. Usually the weather isn’t too extreme and the scenery is amazing. Great for dropping in to cosy pubs for soup and a sandwich too! Both of my trips to Ireland have been for 2-3 months during winter and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

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  4. I usually go the last week in November thru the first week in December. The air fare is almost halved, the planes aren’t as full, so sometimes you get a row of seats to yourself which is awesome!! You can actually stretch out and have a nice sleep on the way over. Another plus is that you get to see their Christmas decorations and take part in some great Christmas sales!! Love doing my Christmas shopping abroad! The only down side is that some days are really gray, windy and rainy. But those days are a great time to shop, go to museums or enjoy the local pub culture!! Plus there are way less tourists, so you kind of have a chance to get to know the locals!! Hope this info helps someone!! Safe travels!!

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  5. I went for the month of Nov. Yes there were some cold and rainy days…wear a coat and beanie and make sure you have some type of waterproof jacket..you won’t melt. We were rewarded for this by being the ONLY people on the Hill of Tara on a windy day. The ONLY people on a walking tour of Derry city. The ONLY people on an early morning tour of Bru Na Boine. Few crowds anywhere. No crowds, great weather for pies and soup. Do your homework and check what is open as some attractions and B&b’s off re limited service. Aim to be at your destination by 4pm and stay a few days to make the most of the less crowded areas. It was FANTASTIC. Also Dublin and Grafton St in the month before Christmas was beautiful. I will go again at the same time!!

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  6. And at this time of year you have St. Brigit’s Day to celebrate. It’s a very intimate kind of feast day depending on where you choose to visit – holy wells, vigils, pagan celebrations. You will get to meet and make friendships.

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  7. Really enjoyed your pic-fest of winter shots Corey. I spent a month in Ireland in 2012 in Spring [29 Feb – 30 March] & struck the jackpot with the weather… only 3 days of rain!

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  8. Yes the days are shorter and it can be wet and windy – but the weather is always changing and we can go from showers and hail one moment to the most beautiful blue winter sky the next. The scenery is fabulous at any time of the year and the people don’t change. I can’t think of anything better than a stroll around Glendalough Lake on a frosty morning with snow tipped mountains as a backdrop and then heading back to the bustle of Dublin for a creamy pint or two…and the next day in the city the museums are free, Grafton Street always has something happening at any time of the year and a coffee in Bewleys tastes gorgeous in July or February!!

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  9. I was in Ireland for the whole month of March [spring] in 2012 & we got lucky with the weather [only 3 days rain!] We also found that there were very few tourists around at that time of the year. Apart from a few castles which were closed for the season, meaning you couldn’t go inside them these were few & far between. Both Blarney & Bunratty which we visited, were both open as well as Dunluce Castle in the North.
    The daffidols & spring flowers at this time of the year were stunning. Rows & rows of them as you drive into some of the bigger cities like Cork!
    We found B&B prices were very reasonable too at this time of the year as for some, their season doesn’t really kicked off until May. However, if there is popular accommodation you want to stay in, then it pays to book or at the very least, make contact with the owners.
    Remember March is also the month when St Patrick’s day parades are held of course & we got to see the most spectacular parade in Dublin on March 17th. Truly, it is worth being there for that one. Although there are lots of smaller parades & festivals over St Patrick’s weekend all around the country. However, this was the only weekend where we encountered crowds. Dublin was overflowing this weekend & we had secured a room in the lovely Buswells Hotel [within walking distance of Trinity College, St Stephens Green & Grafton St to name a few tourist attractions] for 3 nights, booked online 5 months earlier.
    It’s important to note of course, that while we were lucky with the weather, it is somewhat of a lottery whichever season you visit. You’ll love it rain, wind or shine, I’m sure of it.

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  10. The great thing for Ireland is that people don’t visit for the weather. As such, the travel experience doesn’t suffer as much in Winter as in other destinations.

    As noted above you still have the cosy bars, and benefit from smaller crowds at the tourist spots. Plenty of Irish music festivals throughout the winter too, with Temple Bar’s TradFest in January, and my personal favorite, the bluegrass sessions down in Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare.

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  11. Hey, being from Ireland I thought my view might be of some use. You really have to take our weather as you find it. It can seem sunny on the coldest of days, cloudy on the warmest. Sunny skies in the middle of summer on the warmest of days can have a wandering black cloud bursting the its gills with cold hard rain, just floating around looking for a victim to chase into a pub to escape it. But those kinda days have the most beautiful rainbows that just light you up. You can have hail showers on sunny days too or wind on the Atlantic coast that would blow you away, but the days when you have been drowned with rain and look like a wet cat that feel are the most satisfying times to dry out by a cosy fire place at a little pub with soup and sandwiches and maybe even a good Guinness to cheer you up a little. But as an Irish native and a person that has travelled as far as Japan and Australia and USA, I promise you this, there is no Country that I have ever visited that looks & feels more stunningly beautifully, green, fresh, or more alive than Irelands landscape after a rain shower in spring and summer. On our worst days, there is a heavy grey sky with a type of rain I have never seen anywhere on the planet, its a misty drizzly type of ‘wet’ rain, I know you think that sounds ridiculous, but I am just in from it now after a walk, it literally seems to saturate you more than any other rain and this kinda rain is generally pretty persistant and down for the day or more! So, always have a rain coat/ windbreaker style jacket handy (preferably one easy to pack away, not to bulky) and I recommend at any time of year wear something like a TShirt with a warm jumper or cardigan over it and thats it. Like skiing, wear layers you can take off or put on. In winter bring around a waterproof jacket and scarf and you will be grand! Oh and if hiking, waterproof walking shoes as it can get wet and muddy in places. Oh and don’t necessarily go by the weather forecaster in Ireland, it changes so quick that even they have trouble keeping up with the moods of our weather!!

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  12. Corey, loved your slide show of winter in Ireland. I’m on the finishing touches of writing a novel set in Ireland, and came across your great website. I was researching my book’s location, Tipperary, in the winter months. You’ve been a great help Thanks. Cheers, Noelle.

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  13. I traveled to Ireland for two weeks in December and have nothing but positives to say about it. We had weather in the 40s and 50s F the whole time. I’m from Wisconsin, so that was an improvement for us 🙂 We wore fleecey raincoats and had light glove and were fine the whole time.
    We had one full day of rain and the most other days it rained for a bit and then cleared up.
    We were on something of a budget and decided that lodging wasn’t where we wanted to spend our money. We were traveling throughout the country and stayed in hostels (I was in my mid-20s and with my mid-50s mom) and in most of them, we were the only guests. We found ourselves paying the lowest rate and then getting private rooms. It was a pretty awesome perk we didn’t know we’d find.
    I recommend traveling at this time to everyone. Many of the towns were decorated for Christmas. We still experienced everything anyone could have wanted, just at partial price.

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  14. My dream is to spend Christmas in Ireland. A friend and I are planning a Christmas 2016 trip! I can’t wait and I hope it snows! haha They have some lovely trips that include staying at a couple of castles but then B and B’s as well. I want the real Ireland not the tourist traps.

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    • hi Elise, just wondering if you have planned to go this year 2016 to Ireland. I am quite impulsive and just decided maybe why not go, so looking up sites, info etc and flights. If you are going maybe we can meet up, we from SA – so not sure yet, but the more I read, the more I want to go, and to go in the winter, sounds crazy, but why not?

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    • Did you do Christmas in Ireland? I would love any advice.

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      • We have a few articles about Christmas… just search Christmas or Holiday in the sidebar.

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  15. Would love to move to Ireland. Have dreamed of seeing Ireland since a small child. I finally made a tour of both Ireland and Scotland four plus years ago and I have longed to return. That’s my lifellong dream so wanted to know about the yearly weather. Thanks for the comments. I would love to spend Christmas in Ireland.

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  16. Hello everyone!
    I will be there for a seminar in Shannon between 8-15th of December and I thought of travelling some more days around.I was reading another site before and they discouraged me so much but you achieved to convince me!
    Since I don’t drive a car,is there a cheap way to travel between cities?
    Which ones do you think I should visit and are easy to reach during that time?
    And last but not least,what about hitch hiking?Is it easy or illegal?
    Thank you so much in advance!

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  17. This has been a great help. My husband and I have been to Ireland twice in Summer. But this time we are going back in winter. My Sister and our daughter are joining us on this trip.
    We are going hoping to see snow in Ireland, why you ask we live in subtropical Australia. So to see snow anywhere we need to travel. We both love Ireland even after a total of 8 weeks spent thete we still have so much to see.
    Dublin for my daughter and sister for a week for shopping and all that Dublin has to offer then Cork for another few days. We are going to hire a car and drive around. Visit a Whiskey distillery or two. Our daughter does not drink and she laughs that is why she is invited. My husband is worried about ice on the roads. Again we are lucky to even frost during winter.
    When we went to Scotland it was summer but we saw snow, sleet and hail along with lots of rain.
    The cold will be wonderful and snow would just make it a perfect visit. Ireland never disappoints and if we could afford it we would love to live there.

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