Spring, the season of change, may take a-while coming to Ireland, as chilly, rainy weather is as slow to clear as the country is in coming back into action after a winter's break that has seen many hotels, restaurants and attractions outside the big cities close completely. But two big festivities towards the end of the month, St Patrick's Day and then Easter, bring Ireland back into life with a bang, whilst the increasing appearance of the sun means visitors can enjoy at least a little of the superb outdoor activities on offer here.

Weather

Ireland is not a large enough country to have distinct regional weather patterns. Generally, March sees weather fronts changing across the country, with wet, windy weather slowly being blown away and replaced by milder weather.

Temperatures regularly reach double digits this month. But in the great tug-of-war between foul weather and fair weather, March still throws up rains and strong winds as often than it does calm sunny spells, and this will keep the temperature feeling distinctly chilly most of the month. This month sees the coldest water temperatures of the year: take care if surfing, diving or swimming.

Killarney & Southwest Ireland

Strangely, in Ireland's fickle climate, this region sees lowish average rainfall, its 3.3 inches/ 84mm placing it as the sixth driest month of the year here. Average rainy days in March are high, though, meaning that the general weather for the month is large quantities of drizzle more than bursts of heavy rain. March remains chilly here, although it is warmer and sunnier than other parts of Ireland: between 42.8-51.8°F/ 6-11°C on average in Killarney. Water temperatures on the coastline are at their coldest of the year.

Dublin & Eastern Ireland

Temperature highs are significantly up this month, with averages of 50°F/10°C expected in Dublin. However, an average of four daily hours of sun in and around the city is only bested by the months of April through August. On the other hand, the number of rainy days is as high as it gets in the year (25). Expect very changeable weather: pleasant when the sun shines and the rain declines, and vile when it clouds over.

Belfast & Northern Ireland

With average air temperatures the lowest of any region this month, and rainfall (3.14 inches/80mm for the month) at its joint second-highest of any point in the year, Belfast and Northern Ireland may well be where you see the onset of spring and fairer weather last of all. Average daily hours of sun are increasing even here, though, despite lagging behind other parts of Ireland at this point.

Crowds & Costs

Ireland's long hibernation is over, as the better weather and the big celebrations of St Patrick's Day and Easter draw locals and travelers alike out to attractions country-wide. Many hotels, restaurants and traveler services such as boat trips are opening up again for the first time since the previous autumn.

Be aware, too, of the increase in prices, especially over St Patrick's Day and Easter weekend, when big cities like Dublin, Galway and Cork may go from being relatively quiet to fully-booked. Prices remain low for accommodation and services though, in comparison to summer: for the most part this month is still low season.

Where to Go

Killarney & Southwest Ireland

The earlier part of this month, with it being more wintry still than spring-like, the best places to spend time are bigger towns such as Galway, Killarney, Cork and Tralee. The trick may just be to base yourself close to where you can enjoy city activities but still make a break for the countryside or coast if weather permits.

Near Killarney, try spending time in Killarney National Park, Ireland's oldest national park. This can still be enjoyed at this time of year courtesy of splendid stately home Muckross House & Gardens in the middle of the park. Other park attractions include the ruin of Ross Castle, which opens after winter closure this month.

Or, make a visit to one of Ireland's most important ancient sites, the Rock of Cashel: a fortress and one-time seat of power of Irish royalty, with medieval ruins and beautiful riverside and woodland walks. Brilliant light plays on the sea at this time of year, so in the slightly sunnier and less wet weather, experience one of many coastal walks such as the Cliffs of Moher and clifftop walking trails in Galway, or the Dingle Way in Kerry.

Dublin & Eastern Ireland

Dublin again holds its own very special appeal in March, especially whilst the nasty weather lingers. It is also the most atmospheric place to spend St Patrick's Day. Check out Dublin sights such as the Jameson Whiskey Distillery or Guinness Storehouse, find out about the poignant history of Irish Emigration at the Irish Emigration Museum or exploring historic sights like Trinity College.

Bear in mind that the city has plenty of fair weather attractions, such as the River Liffey and several beautiful parks. Elsewhere in the region, if the weather clears try hiking a stage of the Wicklow Way which meanders through the verdant Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin. 

Belfast & Northern Ireland

Keep city destinations in mind this month, despite this being the month that spring is supposed to arrive. Up in the north, it can often still be cold and wet most of March and Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, is the best place to be in the bad weather. It is a fascinating city full of raw, recent history, sophisticated museums and great restaurants, and should be your first port of call in this region this month. There are blockbuster historic sights like Belfast Castle to check out and museums that remember everything from an overview of Irish history (all 9,000 years of it) at the Ulster Museum to the fated ship Titanic.

If weather permits you to venture out, there are some great hikes to try such as the Causeway Coast Path which passes the Unesco-listed Giant's Causeway, a phenomenal arrangement of hexagonal basalt columns lining the wild shores here. There is also the Ulster Way, a 625-mile loop passing through almost all of Northern Ireland and one of the UK's longest hiking routes: try the Lough Bradan-Gortin stage for some of the best views of the entire route. See this article for more on where to go in Northern Ireland.

What to Do

Killarney & Southwestern Ireland

For much of this month, you may still want to stick close to the bigger towns and cities because of continued wild weather. Cosy up in a snug traditional pub in Killarney, Galway or Cork to celebrate St Patrick's Day, explore a national park like Killarney National Park which has options for when the bad weather comes, such as Muckross House & Gardens or Ross Castle, alongside some great hikes through woodlands, around lakes and across islands.

Surfing, especially up in the Donegal and Sligo area, is great this month. And it might finally be time, after all winter's restrictions on doing so, to tackle the sublime hiking hereabouts. There are countless trails to choose from. The Dingle Way and Kerry Way combine the very best of the astonishing rugged coastline and green, mist-coated mountains.

Dublin & Eastern Ireland

As well as the historic and cultural attractions in Dublin, this may be the month to try venturing into Ireland's pretty nearby countryside before the high season crowds some. Within the city itself, you could kayak down a section of the River Liffey.

If you want to hike but without leaving the nearest pub too far behind, you could set out on the Dublin Literary Pub Walk. Just outside the city, hiking a stage of the Wicklow Way is a great means of escaping. This path, among Ireland's most popular, meanders through the verdant Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin. Pretty sections include Marlay Park-Enniskerry, the latter widely considered Ireland's most charming village, or Enniskerry-Roundwood, passing the spectacular Powerscourt Waterfall.

Belfast & Northern Ireland

Exploring Northern Ireland's history, especially in Belfast at the Ulster Museum, is an absorbing way to take shelter from the still-frequent rains. Checking out the food and drink scene is also worthwhile in Belfast. The city has three Michelin starred restaurants to dine at, plus an absorbing Victorian covered market, St George's Market, full of food and regional handicrafts. Hiking, on long-distance paths such as the Causeway Coast Way, starts to be a possibility on March's sunnier days. 

March Events

St Patrick's Day The official day of Ireland's patron saint is March 17, but events in many towns and cities use this as a pretext for celebrations throughout March. There is something going on everywhere, and a lot of drinking and partying.

Easter Festivities Should Easter or any of the important days in the Easter period, fall in March, then March easter celebrations and events include the Stations of the Cross mass on Good Friday, where a cross is carried around the church to the 12 stations of the crucifixion story, and the giving of chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday events also include remembering those who died in the 1916 Easter Rising, when many Irish rebelled against British rule in Ireland. 

Traveling in Ireland in March? Check out these great itineraries. 

Self-Drive Ireland: Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher (7 Days). Explore the magic of Ireland on this week-long self-drive adventure, starting with a pint of Guinness in Dublin. Visit the Rock of Cashel, spend two nights in the famous heritage village of Killarney, and drive along the Wild Atlantic Way. Cap off your trip with a trek to the majestic Cliffs of Moher before returning to the capital.

Hiking the Dingle Way (8 Days). Prepare to fall in love with the rugged beauty of west Ireland on this active, yet easily completed trip that will take you through charming towns and villages along the Atlantic coast. You'll hike 111 miles (179 km) along the Wild Atlantic Way, which is often hailed as one of the top 100 destinations in the world. 

More Information

Ireland in February
Ireland in April
Best Time to Visit Ireland
Getting Around Ireland