Seasonal Planning for Ireland Travel
Ireland is blessed with mild temperatures, rarely climbing past 70° Fahrenheit or dipping below freezing. This predictability is balanced by the country's signature element: rain, and lots of it. You'll almost certainly encounter rain on your trip, regardless of region or season—chalk it up to the Irish experience, and pack accordingly. And the showers and storms never last long, even in December and January.
Weather patterns throughout the country vary only slightly. The southeast is the driest with the most sunshine, while the mountainous western regions near Kerry and Galway see more precipitation.
Summer brings warmth and 17 hours of daylight, meaning more time to drive, hike, and otherwise explore—but you won't have it all to yourself. Expect plenty of cars on the road from June to August, and make your bookings in advance.
Travelers yearning for a quiet, cozy, and affordable getaway may enjoy the winter season (and the dramatic off-season discounts that go with it). Hang out in a cozy pub or curl up in front of the fire at your Dublin bed and breakfast—just keep in mind, most of Ireland's tourism-related businesses outside of major cities are closed until spring.
|Season||Pros||Cons||Best for||Where to Visit|
|Summer||Best weather of the year, long daylight hours perfect for multi-day excursions||High season crowds and costs||Any outdoor activities, music and cultural festivals, road trips||Anywhere. Skellig Islands are accessible now.|
|Fall||Brilliant fall foliage, food festivals, good walking weather||Chillier weather and more rain than summer||Walking, leaf-peeping, whale watching, culinary tours||Galway, West Cork, most walking routes|
|Winter||Discounted prices, few tourists, holiday celebrations||Many businesses closed til spring, cold and rainy weather||Solitude, cozy pubs, Christmas festivities, city attractions||Dublin and other large towns and cities|
|Spring||Fewer crowds than summer, vibrant green hills and wildflowers, less rainy than winter||Unpredictable weather||Hiking and cycling, wildflowers, animal activities like farm visits||Popular outdoor sites like Cliffs of Moher, Giants Causeway, etc.|
Summer (June through August)
Ireland's extended summer sunlight makes this an excellent time to explore the country's many driving and walking routes. Try the idyllic Dingle Peninsula a wildly remote section of western Ireland. It offers a 111-mile village-to-village walking trail through coastal and mountain scenery, with a glut of archaeological sites and cute towns along the way. Learn more in our Ultimate Guide to the Dingle Way.
Relatively warm weather (average temperatures plateau at 61°F in July) brings active travelers to Ireland for hiking, cycling, surfing, and kayaking. Day hikers in Northern Ireland should make the 10-mile trek from Ballintoy to the spectacular basalt columns of the Giant's Causeway. Or catch a wave at Bundoran, the self-proclaimed surf capital of Ireland in County Donegal. See the Best Active Experiences in Ireland for more ideas.
If you're interested in visiting the remote Skellig Islands, summer is the time. Eight miles off the coast of southwest Kerry, these rocky twin islets are UNESCO-listed for the 6th-century monastic settlement on Skellig Michael—but most travelers go for the puffins. Little Skellig is home to a protected seabird sanctuary, where thousands of black-and-white puffins breed between May and July.
Peak summer often sees an influx in tour groups and the highest prices of the year. But there are plenty of activities to go around, and ways to see the highlights while skipping the crowds. See the Top Highlights of Ireland (and How to Do Them Differently) for more.
Bloomsday (June): Dublin celebration on June 16th, named after Leopold Bloom from the novel Ulysses, by legendary Irish author James Joyce. Participants don straw boater hats, tour sites from the book, and attend readings.
Dingle Regatta (August): Over two days, spectators cheer for rowers as they navigate a Dingle Harbor course in traditional Namhóg canoes.
Galway International Arts Festival (July): A leading European arts festival, GIAF celebrates theatre, dance, music, visual arts, and comedy. More than 200 events take place in a two-week span, with hundreds of thousands of attendees.
Music Festivals: Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival (Sligo), Sea Sessions Surf & Music Festival (Donegal), Longitude (Dublin)
Fall (September through October)
Beginning in September, Ireland's colors begin to change. Trees and hillsides are bathed in rust and gold, temperatures drop to the low 50s F, and the summer crowds depart. An ideal way to take advantage of these pleasant conditions is with a village-to-village walk. Walking routes in Ireland take anywhere from 3-11 days, traversing remote scenery best enjoyed on foot. See our Ultimate Guide to Multi-Day Walks in Ireland for more.
Autumn is also an excellent time for whale watching. The clear waters off the coast of West Cork are home to fin whales at the beginning of the season as well as humpback whales, which arrive toward the end of fall and stay through winter. Dolphins, porpoises, and seals are also commonly sighted here.
For the culinary-minded, autumn is an optimal time to visit, with food festivals happening all around the country—the most famous of the bunch being the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival. And if you're looking for a Halloween outing, try the Haunted History Tour in Dublin, or visit a haunted house like Loftus Hall or Leap Castle.
Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival (September): The best-loved Irish festival after St Patrick’s Day. Here you can witness the Oyster Shucking Championships, enjoy entertainment and parades, and of course, slurp down lots and lots of oysters.
Cork Jazz (October): Sponsored by Guinness, this five-day festival in Cork features shows in 40 venues throughout the city. Jazz, brass, ska, and swing are on offer—historic past performers include Ella Fitzgerald and Herbie Handcock.
Kinsale Gourmet Festival (October): Over a fall weekend, this fest celebrates local, seasonal food in restaurants around the coastal town of Kinsale.
Winter (November through February)
Winter is when Ireland sleeps. Outside of a few cities, most tourism-related businesses shut their doors, taking a break after the busy season (and presumably escaping to warmer climes). Temperatures don't often dip below 40° F, but wind and rains can be punishing.
Visitors will want to stay close to Dublin where the action is. Around Christmas, the lights and fir trees come out, and the city turns into a winter wonderland (minus the snow). Start your day off with a warm cup of tea and Irish breakfast at the Cake Café, and do some holiday shopping at the Dublin Flea Christmas Market. Or, simply hole up in a cozy pub with a mug of mulled wine.
Christmas concerts and carols at the National Concert Hall are fun, festive, and rightfully popular—you'll want to book early. A few ice-skating rinks dot the city as well as Winter Funderland, a Christmas theme park. If you're celebrating New Year's Eve in the capital, head to the Custom House by River Liffey for Irish music, celebrations, and a midnight countdown (see below).
Belfast Christmas Market (Nov-Dec): Monthlong artisan food and crafts market in Northern Ireland's capital city. Try seasonal specialties like hot Glühwein, roast pig, and specialty cheeses while shopping for holiday gifts.
New Years Festival Dublin (December): A series of free and ticketed events on December 31st, including a countdown concert at the iconic Custom House, a fireworks display, and family activities.
Waterford Winterval (Nov-Dec): Series of Christmas- and winter-themed events in Waterford, including ice-skating, sleigh rides, light shows, holiday markets, and performances.
Spring (March through May)
Visit the Emerald Isle in spring and you'll be rewarded by green, green, green. Swaths of brilliant-hued hillside bounce back after months of winter, and temperatures creep back into the low 50s° F. This makes spring great for outdoor activities, especially day hikes and cycling excursions on the still-quiet roads—this self-guided itinerary has a bit of both, touring the Ring of Kerry by foot and bike over eight days.
Wildflowers grow everywhere in spring, from roadside ditches to sweeping meadows. One of the best places to view them is The Burren, an area of glacial-era karst landscape. Among its caves and fossils, Irish wildflowers flourish, growing through cracks in the limestone ground to create a startling contrast.
This is also a fun time for families to visit Ireland's farms, filled in spring with "aww"-eliciting baby animals. The Killary Sheep Farm is a good bet, and kids can learn to shear sheep, watch sheepdog demonstrations, and make new woolly friends. See more about this in our Family Travel in Ireland article.
Most of the country's sites and small towns spring back to life well before the summer tourist rush, so this is the time to visit the busiest places like the Cliffs of Moher and have them mostly to yourself. Head to the Blarney Castle grounds or the Belfast Botanic Gardens to see them at their most glorious.
Saint Patrick's Day (March): The notoriously festive Irish holiday takes place on March 17th. In the cities especially, expect jovial (and sometimes raucous) green-frocked crowds, lots of live music and dancing, and a generally celebratory atmosphere for multiple days.
International Literature Festival Dublin (May): Ireland’s premier literary event that "gathers the finest writers in the world to debate, provoke, delight, and enthrall." Events include readings, workshops, performances, and screenings.
Fleadh Nua (May): Traditional music festival in Ennis with eight days of events spanning concerts, ceilis (traditional social gathering with Gaelic music), Irish dance competitions, and street entertainment.
Food Festivals: Killarney Beer Fest, Galway Food Festival, West Waterford Festival of Food