Ireland is a beautiful country at any time of year. Its dramatic sea cliffs, green fields, engaging history, and friendly people make it a top choice for tourists year after year, but many people wonder when’s the best time to visit Ireland.
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If you’re concerned about cost then visiting Ireland during the “shoulder season,” which is the period from mid-April through May and again in late September through October, is recommended.
However, summer in Ireland can be a great time to visit since the days are long (daylight often extends to 10:30 p.m./22:30 or later) and as a result, there’s more to see.
As small as Ireland is, you’d be amazed by the change in its weather – sometimes on an hourly basis!
The main reason for this is because the North Atlantic weather fronts move rapidly and relentlessly across the country, which results in marked changes in the weather, from cloudiness to sunshine to rain showers and back again to dry conditions.
An entire day of blue sky is not uncommon from time to time in Ireland, but it is certainly not the norm either.
You’ll find the greatest amount of sunshine in the “Sunny Southeast” of Ireland, which encompasses the counties of Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford, and Wexford.
So, when is the best time to visit Ireland? Ireland on a Budget is here to answer just that question. Read on to get all the details.
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The 4 Seasons in Ireland
Granted the weather is always, always a topic of conversation among the Irish. When it is raining, sunshine is required and when it gets too hot, well, that can be problematic too.
Ireland isn’t really equipped for scorching heat, although I will admit that when the temperatures rise, everything just looks so much better.
So, with that in mind, let’s delve into the seasons in Ireland.
Spring in Ireland
Spring officially begins on March 1st and ends on May 31st.
Perhaps most noticeable around this time of year is the lengthening of the days, which are less chilly than the earlier winter months.
Blankets of wildflowers can be found across Ireland, and the temperatures are perfect for outdoor activities like hiking and cycling.
Many of Ireland’s festivals start during the spring season. You can find good deals on flights, accommodation, and tours in the spring, which is right before the peak season.
Average Temperature: Between 49- and 56-degrees Fahrenheit (11 to 16 degrees Celsius).
Summer in Ireland
The summer season officially starts on June 1st in Ireland. It ends on Sept. 23rd.
Summer is the most popular time to visit and that is evident in the long lines you’ll see at Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions.
As noted above, the days are really long (about 17.5 hours of daylight) and the weather is mild. It is the most expensive time to visit the Emerald Isle as accommodation, airfare, and car rental rates are generally higher.
Popular activities in Ireland during the summer months include kayaking, biking, hiking, horseback riding, scuba diving, and swimming.
Wildlife in Ireland during the summer months is more visible. For example, in Ireland’s coastal regions, you’ll spot puffins that typically arrive in Ireland during the spring and remain on its shore through early August.
Other seabirds that are commonly seen in Ireland during this time of year include gannets, kittiwake, razorbills, and guillemots.
Seals and dolphins are a common sight along the coast, too.
Fungie, the friendly dolphin who often accompanied tour boats in the Dingle area, is Ireland’s most famous marine mammal. Sadly, he went missing in late 2020 and has not been seen since.
In terms of food, there’s a wide variety of fresh produce, seafood, and grass-fed beef that shows up in Ireland’s many restaurants. Farm-to-table cuisine is growing in popularity due to Ireland’s sustainable agricultural practices and its convenience to the sea.
Average Temperature: Between 60- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 21 Celsius).
Fall in Ireland (Autumn)
Fall in Ireland, known locally as autumn, officially begins Sept. 1st and ends Nov. 30th. However, according to the Gaelic calendar, the beginning of autumn officially begins in August and is referred to as “Lunasa,” which celebrates the start of the harvest season.
Like many other countries in the Northern Hemisphere, the leaves turn a golden orange and red. The days are still relatively long in September, and it is in fact a great time of year for photographers, especially with the landscape’s colorful transition.
If you’re around in November, try to catch the spectacular Northern Lights, which make a showing in places like Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal, Ireland’s most northerly point.
Due to low light pollution, the Aurora Borealis can also be seen in other areas of Donegal, including Dunree, the Mamore Gap, and Ballyliffin.
Hiking, walking, and cycling are still popular activities at this time of year in Ireland.
Average Temperature: Between 50- and 60-degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 17 degrees Celsius).
Read More: 20 Best Things to Do in Ireland in September
Winter in Ireland
Winter officially begins in Ireland on December 1st and ends on February 28th.
Not many tourists arrive in Ireland during the winter and for good reason.
The season is often characterized by wind and rain, although cold snaps (frost and some snow in the higher elevations) are not uncommon.
Costs are generally lower during the winter months, including airfare, accommodation, and car rentals.
The days are short, however, so if you want to do some sightseeing in Ireland during the winter, it’s best to do so between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. since the sun doesn’t rise until about 8:30 a.m. and sets at 4:30 p.m. during the month of December.
If you have an interest in ancient Ireland, a visit to Newgrange during the traditional Winter Solstice (Dec. 21st) is a must. If the morning of the 21st is sunny, you’ll get the opportunity to see the chamber at Newgrange filled with light.
Activities that are still doable this time of year include hiking, walking, and surfing (but only if you’re a professional!). Watching the waves crash along the Wild Atlantic Way during the winter months is quite dramatic, to say the least.
Average Temperature: Between 50- and 56-degrees Fahrenheit (9 and 14 degrees Celsius).
Best Months to Visit Ireland
While the above information should give you a fair idea of what Ireland is like at various times of the year, the following, more detailed guide for each month will really help you decide the best time to visit Ireland depending upon your budget and interests.
January and February
These are cold, damp months in Ireland so it may not be for you. However, it is much cheaper to visit Ireland at this time and you’ll most definitely get a great deal on airfare and accommodation, not to mention cheaper rates for car rentals.
It may be more difficult to find group tours at this time, so if you’re an independent traveler and the weather doesn’t bother you, traveling to Ireland during the winter months may be for you.
What to Do: visiting museums and galleries, hiking/walking (if it’s dry), experiencing the Winter Solstice in Newgrange, warming yourself in a cozy pub by the fire.
Read More: 7 One-Day Tours that are Doable Without a Rental Car
If you want to experience Ireland’s national holiday (St. Patrick’s Day) on March 17th in the country’s capital Dublin, be prepared to celebrate.
The city pulls out all the stops for its annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival, a two-day event. Expect a departure from what you might be accustomed to in your home country where St. Patrick’s Day parades tend to be rather traditional.
Dublin’s celebration is full of colorful floats and larger-than-life characters.
You’ll find celebrations across the country too, but none compared to the Dublin festivities.
The weather in March is still quite unpredictable although your vacation will still cost you less given that this is the last month before prices spike in April.
What to Do: Attend the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin, hiking and walking (if the weather cooperates), drinking in Ireland’s many traditional pubs.
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This is a good time of year to visit Ireland. Prices aren’t as high as what you’ll find during the summer and the weather is getting milder. It can still be a gamble with the weather, however, so I’d advise you to still bring layers.
The days are getting longer, with the sun rising around 6:30 a.m. and setting at 8 p.m., plenty of time to explore the country.
Be mindful of when the Easter holiday falls in Ireland as Irish schools are closed for two weeks and many Irish families take breaks at this time, pushing up the price of accommodation.
This year, Easter Sunday falls on April 17th. Schools will be closed between April 11th and the 22nd.
What to Do: walking, hiking, biking, and touring.
When planning a trip to Ireland in May, you can expect decent weather with fewer crowds than are normal during the high season (summer months).
The days are even longer in May, with the sun rising shortly after 5 a.m. and still bright until 9:30 p.m., which means there’s plenty of time for activities and tours.
Be sure to book your accommodation in advance to get the best value at this time of year.
What to Do: hiking, walking, biking, the perfect time for a road trip.
June, July & August
This is the peak tourist season in Ireland and the most expensive.
Lines to popular attractions will be longer, so plan in advance.
The weather is mild, but again, expect some rain too simply because it’s Ireland!
Days are very long in Ireland during the summer months, with the sun setting close to 10:30 p.m.
If you’re lucky enough to get warm weather, head to Ireland’s beautiful beaches, where you can swim, surf, windsurf, and more.
What to Do: walking, hiking, biking, touring, attending festivals (Galway Race Week is a popular one, but expect to pay top rates for accommodation in Galway at the end of July, which is when the festival usually takes place).
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This is the beginning of the shoulder season when prices begin to go down a bit, which makes September a good time to visit.
The days are still long enough to do some touring and the weather is relatively ok. I say that because September, like any month in Ireland, can be changeable.
On the other hand, you might experience an Indian summer in Ireland during the month of September if you’re lucky.
Keeping all those factors in mind, it’s best to bring clothing that is warm and that can be worn in layers. You just never know, so be smart when you pack for a trip to Ireland and don’t bring too much.
Accommodation should be easier to find given that schools have already re-opened, and prices will be lower too.
What to Do: walking, hiking, biking, touring, attend a food festival like the Clarenbridge Oyster Festival in County Galway.
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If you want to experience fall (autumn) in Ireland, come in October. The weather is colder but not too cold and the landscape in many parts of the country is beautiful.
There is a chance that October could be stormy, as has occurred in recent years with Storm Ophelia in 2017 and Storm Calum in 2018.
It’s best to be prepared with warm clothing and to dress in layers.
Prices are lower too, especially airfares, accommodation, and car rentals. The country’s normally busy tourist attractions are more accessible in October.
Halloween is right around the corner and with it comes festivals galore, the most popular being the Macnas Halloween Parade in Galway, unlike any other in the country with its giant creations, pyrotechnics, and live music.
The days are noticeably shorter in October, with sunrise at 8 a.m. and sunset at around 6:30 p.m. That will leave less time for touring, so plan all your activities in the earlier part of the day.
What to Do: some touring is possible in the earlier parts of the day, walking, hiking (weather permitting), finding a nice warm pub, attending a festival (some of the festivals you’ll come across in October include the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, the Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin, and the Derry Halloween Festival).
While a vacation to Ireland in the middle of November doesn’t seem like much fun to most, if cost is an issue, this is a good time to visit.
On the other hand, the weather can be bad with rain and wind common. However, you could be lucky and get a week of sunshine!
There’s no denying that there’s very little light during the day in November. The sun doesn’t rise until close to 7:45 a.m. and the day ends at 4:30 p.m. or so.
Depending on the weather, you may be able to hike and walk in Ireland. I wouldn’t cycle unless it’s dry and you’re on a designated bike path earlier in the day.
There’s still plenty to do in Ireland’s cities, such as visiting museums and galleries and various tourist attractions that are still popular but less crowded (think Titanic Belfast, Trinity College, and the Guinness Storehouse, just to name a few).
Things to Do: walking, hiking (weather permitting), short road trips, indoor attractions, cozy pubs.
While the weather in Ireland during the month of December is cold, there’s no reason not to visit either.
If you visit during the first half of the month, you won’t be paying the outrageous fares that are often sold in advance of the Christmas holidays.
Like November, the days are short (even shorter now) and that doesn’t leave much time for road tripping.
If you are planning a tour of the Wild Atlantic Way in December, I advise you do a small portion of it over a few days and set out early enough in the day when it’s still daylight.
If you’re in a city like Dublin, there’s plenty to do, from museum hopping to enjoying the great Christmas vibe around the city, including the beautifully decorated shops and streets.
Like other places in Europe, you’ll also find Christmas markets in Ireland. One of the most popular and well worth a visit is the Galway Christmas Market.
Expect 50 wood chalets selling all sorts of cool stuff, in addition to the Big Wheel, a carousel, Santa’s Grotto, the German Bier Keller, and lots more.
While you’re in Galway, a trip through Connemara even in December is worthwhile. Dress accordingly for the weather (boots, sweater, hat, scarf, and a rainproof jacket).
Things to Do: Christmas Markets, short road trips, visiting a cozy Irish pub, museums, and other indoor attractions.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Ireland’s Cities
The shoulder season (mid-April through May and in late September through October) is undoubtedly the best time to visit Ireland if you’re on a budget.
However, other times of the year, like summer, are generally a good idea given that the weather is milder, and you can get around more easily.
In the end, it’s really up to you and will depend on how much you want to spend on your Ireland vacation.
Here’s a breakdown of what it might look like in the largest cities on the island of Ireland.
Before you visit Dublin, you should know that it is drier than, say, the West of Ireland, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t rain!
When it comes to Ireland’s weather – and the conditions in Dublin – it’s best to come prepared with the proper clothing.
During the spring and fall, Dublin is the perfect place to visit.
Crowds are more manageable, which means fewer lines to wait on to see Dublin’s popular attractions. And if it does rain, there’s always the city’s many free museums to visit.
If you don’t mind crowds, then head to Dublin in March for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities but realize that the price of accommodation will be jacked up during this time.
If you appreciate Ireland’s struggle for independence, being in Dublin during the city’s annual 1916 Easter Rising commemorations is worth it.
This year (2022) marks the centenary of Ireland’s independence from Great Britain and there will be many commemorative events throughout the year to remember this, including exhibitions at Dublin Castle, which was officially handed over to the Irish on January 16, 1922.
While Belfast is technically part of the U.K., it is conveniently located on the island of Ireland and so it has become a popular tourist attraction, especially since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 when all military operations in Northern Ireland ceased after the 30-year-old conflict known as The Troubles.
While Belfast remained under the tourist radar for many years, I am happy to say that it has finally come into its own with lots to see and do any time of year.
The weather in Belfast is slightly wetter than it is in Dublin but not really that different from the rest of Ireland.
The best time of year to visit Belfast is also in the shoulder season although many tourists choose to visit the city during the summer months when it is milder.
If you visit Belfast in the fall and spring months, accommodation will be lower for sure.
All the city’s major tourist attractions like Titanic Belfast are open year-round so there’s no need to worry that they will be closed if you don’t visit during peak season.
While shoulder season is the best time to visit Cork if you are watching your budget, I would suggest that visiting Cork during the summer months trumps all other times of the year and this may be especially true for European tourists on a short city break.
Given that Cork gets more rain than Dublin, you’ll be more confident visiting the city during the summer months when the weather is drier.
For North American visitors and others touring other parts of Ireland for longer periods, the shoulder season is the most economical time to visit Cork, when lines to major attractions are shorter and accommodation is cheaper.
While Cork hosts festivals year-round, the most popular ones occur in the fall, including the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, the Cork Folk Festival, and the Cork International Film Festival, all taking place during the fall (September through November).
While June through August is the busiest season for hotels and others in the tourism industry in Limerick, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best time of year for you to visit.
Since saving money while in Ireland should be your primary goal, I suggest visiting in the shoulder season.
There’s still lots to do in this popular tourist destination that sits on the River Shannon, Ireland’s longest river.
For international visitors, Limerick is an ideal first destination if you’re flying into Shannon Airport given that it’s about 20 km (12 miles) from the city center.
Given its location on the western seaboard, the weather in Limerick is for sure best in the summer but like the rest of Ireland, be prepared for showers in between the sunny spells throughout the year, and as I said before, dress appropriately.
King John’s Castle is the city’s most popular attraction, so if the day is wet, this is a great place to explore. If it is reasonably dry, there are demonstrations and medieval games in the castle courtyard that you can enjoy.
Like Cork, Galway is best enjoyed during the summer months. There’s so much going on in Galway that it’s hard to resist a visit at this time of year.
Since Galway is on Ireland’s western seaboard, it is prone to rain showers frequently, so dress appropriately. During the summer, the temperatures are mild.
Some of the more popular summer events include the famous Galway Races, the Galway Film Fleadh, and the Galway International Arts Festival.
Unfortunately, accommodation is highest during the summer and so that may not suit everyone’s budget.
As an alternative, you could stay in accommodation that’s within a 10-mile radius of the city. If you have a rental car, you could easily drive into the city each day to see the sights.
If staying in Galway City is preferred, I suggest these three budget/mid-range picks: the Jury’s Inn Galway, The Nest Boutique Hostel, and the Griffin Lodge Guesthouse in Salthill, a 15-minute walk from the city center.
If you’re seeing Galway during the shoulder season, accommodation won’t be as much of an issue and since the crowds will have subsided, you’ll have your pick of tourist destinations to see.
Read More: 4 Cities in Ireland to Explore (And How History Shaped Them)
Best Time of Year to Visit Ireland Based on Your Interests
The best time of year to visit Ireland depends on your budget but it also depends on what you want to do while you’re there.
Perhaps you’re a lover of Irish literature, a festival goer, someone who has a passion for Irish music, or you’re an outdoor person and you want to escape to Ireland’s untouched regions.
Ireland has all of that and more.
Let’s drill down deeper to see how your interests might align with your Ireland vacation.
Best Time for Sightseeing in Ireland
Based on all the above, you could realistically see Ireland’s popular tourist attractions any time of year. However, the best time to truly enjoy them is when you have the most daylight.
Summer in Ireland is the ideal time for this since you can have up to 20 hours of daylight at the height of the summer.
That leaves loads of time for road trips, so if you’re planning a Wild Atlantic Way trip, this would be a great time of year to do it.
If budget is a concern, the shoulder season is also ideal, although you won’t have as much daylight.
For example, if you choose to visit Ireland in April, you’ll have about 13 hours of daylight. In late September, you’ll get close to 12 hours of daylight.
Best Time to Visit Ireland’s Museums and Galleries
Since the weather isn’t really a concern here, you could visit Ireland’s museums and galleries any time of year.
If you plan on spending a lot of time in Dublin, for instance, there are plenty of museums and galleries to visit, in addition to several indoor tourist attractions like EPIC The Emigration Center, Jameson’s Distillery Bow St. and more.
Of course, there are several galleries and museums located across Ireland, even some that are not so well known and are worth a visit.
If you’re traveling to Ireland in the off-season, you can easily include such attractions in your itinerary.
Best Time to Visit Ireland for Golfers
Ireland is known the world over as an excellent golfing destination and in a recent post, I listed some of the most budget-friendly courses on the island of Ireland.
But when is a good time to visit Ireland if you want to play golf?
April through October is a good time to go golfing in Ireland.
If budget is a concern, I’d suggest planning your golf vacation for April or May when airfares, accommodation, and car rental rates are lower or at the end of September/early October, when rates are equally lower.
If you go during the shoulder season, be sure to bring the proper clothing with you and as mentioned before, dress in layers.
Many of Ireland’s golf courses are near the ocean. Together with cooler temperatures and wind, you’ll want to stay warm and dry when you hit the course.
Green fees are also lower during the shoulder season, which is an important point to consider.
Best Time to Visit Ireland for Whiskey Lovers
No visit to Ireland would be complete without savoring its classic Irish whiskey brands.
The oldest whiskey brands in Ireland are all well-known and details on them can be found in this blog post.
Ireland’s changeable weather won’t really factor into your ability to tour your favorite whiskey distilleries.
Again, if budget is a concern, choose the shoulder season to take your whiskey tour.
Potential whiskey tours might include visits to Dublin’s most popular distilleries, including Jameson’s Bow St., Roe & Co. Distillery , and the Teeling Street Distillery, or a tour of some notable distilleries that are situated along the Wild Atlantic Way.
They include the Dingle Distillery in Kerry, West Cork Distillers, the Lough Mask Distillery, and the Connacht Distillery, both in County Mayo, the Shed Distillery in Co. Leitrim, the Lough Gill Distillery in Co. Sligo, and Sliabh Liag Distillers in Co. Donegal.
Let me know in the comments below if this mini-guide on the best time to visit Ireland has been helpful to you.