5 Reasons You Should Visit Ireland in Winter

Cliffs of Moher

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With its vibrant green hills, rugged coastline, and medieval castles, Ireland had topped Sam’s and my bucket list for as long as we could remember. So when I stumbled across cheap airfare to Dublin in February, we snagged two seats faster than you can say “impulse buy” (completely abandoning the trip to sunny South America we had been planning).

Of course, ticket prices were cheap for a reason. Ireland is infamous for its terrible weather, so visiting in the dead of winter seemed downright masochistic. I had nightmarish visions of spending the entire week huddled in our car amid torrential rainstorms and gale-force winds.

Wild Atlantic Way

Researching online didn’t ease my anxiety. The consensus in travel forums was that visiting Ireland in February is as sensible as traversing the Himalayas in cheap flip-flops.

But Sam and I are no strangers to off-season travel in frigid climates. Last year we visited Iceland in March and had an amazing trip. So we figured off-season travel in Ireland was worth a shot. After all, the price was right.

Now that we’ve returned, I can honestly say that visiting Ireland in February was one of the most incredible travel experiences we’ve ever had. In fact, Sam and I have come to prefer off-season travel.

Here are 5 reasons you should visit Ireland in winter:

Galway

1. No crowds

Sam and I are both introverts. So when we are given two options, we generally choose the one that involves interacting with fewer people. We don’t hate people in general. We just strongly dislike waiting behind them in line or being crushed against them (particularly ones we don’t know and/or who have mediocre hygiene) on public transit. Traveling Ireland in winter, we didn’t experience crowds even in the most popular destinations, such as at Blarney Castle or the Cliffs of Moher.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

2. Cheaper

Lack of demand means prices for airfare, accommodations, car rental, and some attractions are slashed in the off-season. We paid for our entire trip—including airfare, rental car, bed and breakfasts, meals, and attractions—for less than the amount we’d spend on airfare alone during the peak season.

Dublin

3. More authentic

In the winter, locals far outnumber tourists in Ireland (a balance that shifts during peak season). Most of the people we encountered were shop owners, school children, and locals out having a good time. We enjoyed getting a glimpse of the real Ireland without the mobs of tourists and tour busses.

Brian's Tower

4. Attractions are still open

Despite what you may read elsewhere, all the major attractions (such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Blarney Castle, and Kilkenny Castle) were open when we visited in February. Some of the operating hours were reduced, but we didn’t miss out on visiting anything because we were traveling in the off season. Some restaurants and bed and breakfasts were closed for the winter, but we had no trouble finding places to stay or eat.

Kilkenny Castle

5. More flexibility

Because there are no wait times in the winter, we didn’t have to worry about planning our day around crowds or timed entry (something that completely messed up our plans in Barcelona last September). Which meant we were free to travel at our own pace and to stop anywhere that caught our fancy.


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5 Reasons to Visit Ireland in Winter

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9 comments

  1. Hi Carrie, I’m an old friend of your dad’s. My daughter is very interested in travelling to Ireland with me. Could you give me an estimate of what it cost you?

    1. Hi, Jacquie! Ireland is fantastic, and you should absolutely go with your daughter if you can! Our total trip cost (not including airfare from Atlanta) was about $1200, which included food, accommodations (mostly bed and breakfasts), a rental car, fuel, and attractions for a week.

  2. Hello! My friend and I are thinking about going to Ireland this february!
    I am a little bit worried that we are not going to see famous green scenic views. Were photos on this page taken by you during your trip? They are marvelous!

    1. Daria,

      Thank you! Yes, all the photos are from our trip in February. We saw plenty of green and the landscapes were gorgeous when we were there 🙂

  3. I am considering a trip over the Christmas holidays. Do you know if things are open and active over Christmas and New Years. I assume 24 and 25 and 31 and January 1 will be “bank holidays”. But the rest of the time would be possible right?? Thank you so much for your blog!
    Blessings
    Rebecca

    1. Hi, Rebecca! I have not visited over Christmas, but I think that would be a lovely time to be in Ireland! I’m not sure about closing days over the holidays. I would probably just check ahead of time (email, website etc.) with some of the places you want to visit to be sure they will be open during your stay 🙂

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