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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.
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.
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.
Further Reading: 10 Reasons Travel is Surprisingly Awesome for Introverts
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.
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.
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.
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.
What was your best off-season travel experience?
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