Almost everyone visits Ireland in the summer, but those in the know understand that a winter vacation here can be especially magical. That famous Irish hospitality found at the country’s many bed-and-breakfasts is even warmer, with fewer guests for hosts to tend to. There are many reasons to consider visiting the Emerald Isle at least once during this season, and odds are, you’ll want to do it all over again.
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A Winter Wonderland (Nearby Hotels)
While you might think Ireland would be frigidly cold and damp all winter, it actually has a rather moderate climate, so it rarely experiences extreme temperatures that dip below freezing. Some years it does snow, but a dusting of the white stuff can make it look even more magical, especially in places like Wicklow National Park, and odds are, the sun is right around the corner. And, of course, you’ll find plenty of things to do indoors if you don’t want to bundle up and endure the chill.
Countless Cozy Pubs (Nearby Hotels)
There are thousands of pubs in Ireland, 6,367 to be exact, as of the latest count. That makes it almost impossible to determine which is the very best, but as they say, “a day in almost any pub in Ireland is going to be better than just about anything else. “It’s not just a place to have a pint or two, many hosts live local binds or traditional tunes played by tin whistler players and fiddlers. While lots are family-friendly, with kids even joining in the sessions, there are plenty that offer a wild night out too. Matt Molloy’s in Westport is one of the most well-known as its owned by the famous flautist from The Chieftains. When he isn’t on tour, he often joins in on traditional music sessions, but even when he’s not, you’re practically guaranteed to enjoy some fantastic music played in an intimate venue, every night of the week.
Great Off-Season Deals (Nearby Hotels)
Winter brings the opportunity for a much more budget-friendly vacation all around. Non-stop airfare to Ireland in the summer can be really pricey, but travel in this season (outside of the holidays), and you’re likely to discover that it’s surprisingly affordable, often half the cost or even less, depending on your departure point. Accommodation rates are typically at their lowest too, so this may be the perfect time to plan a stay in one of Ireland’s many magnificent castle hotels.
Fewer Crowds (Nearby Hotels)
One of the best parts about traveling in the off-season is that you’re unlikely to have to stand in long lines or battle thick crowds. It makes visiting the country’s most popular attractions much more enjoyable, as well as providing better photo-taking opportunities. View the Book of Kells at Trinity College, tour the Guinness Storehouse, and climb up the narrow, winding staircases at Blarney Castle without bumping elbows with others. At the Cliffs of Moher, you may even be able to gaze out at the Atlantic and the impressive cliffs, listening to the crashing waves uninterrupted.
Tasty Irish Stew (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Ireland’s traditional dishes seem to taste even better when there’s a chill in the air, including hearty bowls of Irish stew or seafood chowder, paired with the country’s famously tasty brown bread. While Guinness is perfect with everything while in the Emerald Isle, winter is also a good time to enjoy a hot beverage, like an Irish coffee. When in Dublin, some of the best places to sip one include The Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Ireland and the Stage Bar Cafe in the Temple Bar area.
Winter Solstice at Newgrange
Although it lasts just 17 minutes, people travel from all over the world to visit Ireland’s legendary winter solstice spectacle at Newgrange. Demand is so high, you’ll have to be among the lucky few that are selected by yearly lottery to enter the burial mound during its extraordinary 5,000-year-old light show. Only 120 people get the privilege of standing inside to witness the remarkable illumination that occurs on just one day, during one hour every year, with a beam of sunlight shooting down into the narrow corridor that leads into the chamber, flooding stone passage with a warm glow. This neolithic monument is older than Stonehenge and even the Great Pyramid of Giza, built about 3200 BC. No one knows for sure what the purpose of it actually was, but it is believed to have been a passage tomb as well as a temple for ancient people who worshipped the sun.
Witnessing the Northern Lights
You might be surprised to learn that Mother Nature’s spectacular light show, the Aurora Borealis, visits Ireland too. The Inishowen Peninsula and the entire northern coastline tend to be the best places to experience the northern lights, though it is spotted in other areas, including the Aran Islands off the west coast. While there are no guarantees, the winter season brings the best opportunities for this bucket list experience.
World-Class Museums (Nearby Hotels)
When the weather is too cold to enjoy the beautiful Irish scenery, it provides the perfect excuse to head indoors and explore some of Ireland’s fantastic museums, including the Book of Kells exhibition located in the magnificent Old Library building. The 9th-century book is considered the country’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript. The National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology is a must-visit no matter what the season. It provides a fascinating look back in time, including the finest collection of prehistoric gold artifacts in all of Europe as well as stunning examples of Celtic and Medieval art, like the famous Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch. Check out the multiple examples of remarkably intricate sacred and secular metalwork that dates from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages, as well as artifacts from prehistoric and Viking Ireland. The bog bodies are also a highlight – bodies that were mummified and preserved in peat bogs, some of which are thousands of years old.