May is when the weather, which has been warming for the last few months, shows the landscapes of Ireland in full color as average daily high temperatures of 59°F/15°C arrive and the countryside blooms with flowers and birdlife. Along with April, this is arguably the best month to enjoy Ireland, with the year's lowest rainfall to accompany the sun and with the crowds that arrive in the high season from June to August still absent in most places.

Weather

Ireland is not a large enough country to have distinct regional weather patterns. Generally, May is up there with the best months of the year weather-wise: average daily high temperatures are up to 59°F/15°C, the month sees the highest daily average amounts of sunshine and the monthly rainfall is as low as it gets in the year.

Killarney & Southwest Ireland

May continues to show off this region in its true loveliness, as spring blooms vibrantly color the landscape from city parks to mountain slopes. The sun helps: there is more of it than any other time of year save April and June. Average rainfall and average numbers of rainy days are way down, too, with May's mere 20 days with some form of precipitation the lowest of any time of year here. Average daily highs, as in other regions this month, top 59°F/15°C.

Dublin & Eastern Ireland

May in Dublin and along the eastern seaboard ties for the driest period of the whole year, with just 1.96 inches/ 50mm of average monthly rainfall in Dublin (very low, for Ireland!). Daily hours of sunshine (6) have now peaked at their maximum for the year, which will hold until August. However water temperatures remain quite low, on a par with January and lower than any other subsequent month in the calendar year: water simply has not had a chance to warm up yet.

Belfast & Northern Ireland

This region makes more big changes weather-wise this month. The average daily temperatures have shot up to match other regions (59°F/15°C, although average lows are still a mighty cool 42.8°F/6°C). Meanwhile, rainfall (1.96 inches/50mm average for the month) is at its annual low.

Crowds & Costs

Ireland's fair weather in May is not much of a secret: many other people are arriving for holidays with the same idea of getting good weather without any of the crowds in mind. But whilst visitor numbers are visibly up on other months, they are nothing like the summer rush when most families take their holidays and so prices for accommodation and some tours and activities are still down from high season levels. You may find in more popular areas that it is still necessary to book everything well in advance to guarantee your first-choice accommodations and activities.

Where to Go

Killarney & Southwest Ireland

In short: anywhere in the region! Ireland's dry, sunny weather this month entices you to explore the Great Outdoors: what Ireland does best. And in this part of Ireland, the country's most remote, there is more on the agenda than ever. Co. Kerry is a good start point, with fabulous mountain and coastal hiking on its legendary southwest peninsulas, such as the Kerry Way (Iveragh Peninsula), Dingle Way (Dingle Peninsula) or Beara Way (Beara Peninsula, shared with Co. Cork).

Take a boat trip across to the rocky Skellig Islands near Dingle or, better yet, to the otherworldly and traditional Aran Islands near Galway. Afterwards, stop off in Galway itself, buzzing with a couple of festivals this month. Up in Donegal, take to the cliffs at Slieve League, some of the country's highest and most dramatic.

See here for more on the Beara Peninsula.

Dublin & Eastern Ireland

Spend less time in Dublin this month and head out into the countryside, where the most obvious choice south of Dublin is the Wicklow Way for some of the most delightful hiking in the whole region and a top drawer selection of the very best things to do: think chocolate box villages like Enniskerry, crashing waterfalls like Powerscourt Waterfall on the enchanting Powerscourt Estate, wooded hills and monastic ruins like Glendalough Abbey.

Gorgeous sandy beaches line the coast here; some, like Loughshinney, are located within Co. Dublin and are within an easy drive of the city. And consider a trip inland for some memorable festivals this month: to historic Kilkenny if you like roots music or to Co. Westmeath if you like electronic music. 

Belfast & Northern Ireland

In May, it's time to focus on outdoor activities. Start with the Causeway Coast, where the UNESCO-listed Giant's Causeway, a swathe of thousands of interconnecting basalt columns, makes for one of the most spectacular coastal attractions you could ever hope to see.

Otherwise, try an exploration of mythical Rathlin Island, where exiled Scottish leader Robert the Bruce once took refuge or experience the country's northernmost point with a hike to Malin Head. For a longer hike, there is nothing more epic than the Ulster Way, a 625-mile loop passing through almost all of Northern Ireland and one of the UK's longest and loveliest hiking routes. See here for an itinerary taking in Belfast and Northern Ireland.

What to Do

Killarney & Southwestern Ireland

Hiking should dominate any May itinerary. Try the hikes such as the Dingle Way mentioned above or just explore the Wild Atlantic Way and stop off in whatever remote part of it you wish. Cycling it is particularly fun in May, before roads get too busy. Or see here for a self-guided cycling tour around the Ring of Kerry.

Further north in this region, the snaking lake and surrounding emerald-green hills by Lough Gill inspired WB Yeats and will likely entrance you, too. You can hike here, or go kayaking on the lake. Waves and swells are still perfect for surfing in May too, although this is the last month until the autumn that this is the case: the Sligo and Donegal areas are especially renowned for surfing.

Sligo also has the highest concentration of megalithic monuments in Ireland and a walk to see some of these, such as Carrowkeel and Carrowmore, is special: these monuments are older than the Pyramids at Giza! 

Dublin & Eastern Ireland

Lace your hiking boots for some wonderful walking on the Wicklow Way which showcases the very best of Eastern Ireland and kicks off from Dublin's southerly suburbs. Or try exploring some of the region's stunning sandy beaches, lacing all of the eastern coast and never better than in the improved, sunnier weather.

Remember that this region is known as 'Ireland's Ancient East' and so, for a great insight into Ireland's prodigious history without spending too much time indoors, visit the Irish National Heritage Park near Wicklow. This walks you through 9000 years of the country's past in a magical open-air setting. Or explore spectacular ancient sites such as the huge circular megalithic tomb of Newgrange, in Co. Meath.

Belfast & Northern Ireland

Hiking is the activity this month that showcases just how incredible Northern Ireland is. The Causeway Coast is dramatic, but for all the publicity given to the Giant's Causeway, the hike that reveals this region's fantastic scenery better than any other is the 625-mile Ulster Way, taking the walker to high mountains, wild forests, and lonely lakes as well as the breathtaking coastline.

For a shorter but nevertheless heart-in-mouth walk, brave the vertiginous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge connecting the wild island of Carrickarede to the mainland. Or you might try spotting locations from blockbuster TV series Game of Thrones, which did wonders for Northern Ireland's travel industry. Sights to check out in summer include the Downhill Strand in Co. Derry, and Tollymore Forest Park, in Co. Down.  

May Events

Uisneach Bealtaine Fire Celebration Held at the beginning of May at the Hill of Uisneach in Co. Westmeath. On this hill, the meeting point of the five ancient counties of Ireland and a very important sacred place to this day, a fire is lit to mark the oncoming of summer.

Kilkenny Roots Festival In early May, around 30 venues in the historic town of Kilkenny host one of Ireland's major roots and Americana music festivals, with a track record of getting big names.

Life Festival Ireland's biggest electronic music festival, happening in Co. Westmeath in late May.

Fever Pitch Music Festival Alternative rock and dance music fest, held on Galway's old airport in late May/early June.

Vantastival Festival-goers can arrive in their camper vans (or tents) to listen to a great selection of Irish music acts in a splendid setting at Beaulieu House in Co. Louth, in late May/early June.

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

Dingle Peninsula Walking Tour: Ventry Beach & Slieve Mish Mountains (5 Days). This 5-day walking tour takes you through the scenic Dingle Peninsula, filled with craggy mountains, sandy beaches, and historic pathways. 

Burren, Aran Islands & Connemara Walk (8 Days). Traverse the spectrum of the Irish landscape with this 8-day walking excursion. You'll go from the lunar rocks of the Burren to the coastal routes of Connemara and the Cliffs of Moher out to the remote wildlife of the Aran Islands. 

More Information

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