Cosy traditional pubs, fairytale castle stays and fabulous festivals – no matter the season, Ireland’s welcome is sure to warm your heart
You’ll find an amazing atmosphere in Ireland’s cities during the less crowded seasons of autumn and winter. In Dublin, usually bustling attractions like the Guinness Storehouse and Dublin Castle are a breeze to get around. Hop on the DART (train) and you’re a world away in seaside havens such as Dun Laoghaire and Howth. Galway city brims with creativity and culture with its charming craft shops, ancient city walls and traditional music wafting from old-style pubs. And Belfast is abuzz with Titanic tales, historical tours and cultural hubs such as the MAC (Belfast’s Metropolitan Arts Centre) and the Ulster Museum.
The average temperature is a mild 10°C. In autumn, (August to October) highest temperatures hit between 18°C and 14°C. Winter air temperatures inland normally reach 8°C. The key is to be prepared for all four seasons in one day – stick to layers, pack a rain jacket and just go with the flow. After all, if you’re caught out in the rain, you can always pop into a toasty pub and soak up the warm welcome while you wait!
The green pastures, deep valleys and pure waters surrounding the island have helped create outstanding natural flavours. In Galway’s Michelin-starred Aniar Restaurant, seasonal delights present a feast for the eyes and the stomach. The Strawberry Tree Restaurant in County Wicklow dazzles the taste buds with a daily changing menu of foraged and farm-grown produce. And in Northern Ireland, County Down’s Balloo House offers seasonal dishes like venison liver, with creamy mash, crispy onions, bacon and red wine jus. Who’s hungry?
In autumn, check out the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Belfast International Arts Festival, or the smooth sounds of the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival. In Dublin, the Bram Stoker Festival celebrates the life of the Dublin-born Dracula author at Halloween. And in Northern Ireland, ghouls and monsters take to the streets of Derry~Londonderry for DerryHalloween. While in winter, Belfast Christmas Market offers a wonderland of tastes and treats and Waterford’s Winterval Festival brings food, crafts, sleigh-rides and storytelling to this ancient city.
Magical castle stays
What says “cosy getaway” like a night at a fairytale castle? For the perfect blend of opulence and nature, try the five-star Ashford Castle in County Mayo. Watersports lovers will adore an overnight stay at the holiday cottages on the Crom Castle estate, located on Lough Erne at the heart of Fermanagh’s Lakelands. And for a lavish dose of luxury living, book a night at Ballyfin Demesne in County Laois. Set at the foot of the ancient Slieve Bloom mountains, you’ll feel the world slip away as you’re treated like the lord or lady of the manor!
Feel the infectious rhythm of traditional Irish music at The Celt on Talbot Street in Dublin city. Cosy up to an open fire in the charming Sean’s Bar in Athlone, right in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East. Or soak up the idyllic surroundings of the Crosskeys Inn in County Antrim, one of the oldest thatched pubs in Northern Ireland. In fact, you’ll find great pubs everywhere, from scenic stretches of the Wild Atlantic Way to vibrant cities, and one thing unites them – that sense of community, tradition and a love of storytelling.
The warmth of 100,000 welcomes
While Ireland’s lush scenery and craggy coastline are world renowned, it’s the wit and wisdom of the people that makes a visit to Ireland so special. No matter the season, their hospitality will warm the heart. You’ll feel it as you settle in for a delicious meal in a charming restaurant, in the passionate rhetoric of a guided tour and in the wild beat of a traditional music session.
Ireland on screen
In Northern Ireland, you can explore Game of Thrones® Territory and even become a Stark for the day! And off-season travel means less crowds and more secluded Seven Kingdoms hotspots to explore. Check out Winterfell Tours at Castle Ward – the real-life Winterfell. Don your fur cloak, meet the direwolves and test your skill at archery and sword fighting. Or visit a galaxy not so far away along the Wild Atlantic Way, home to the jaw-dropping coastal locations that featured in the recent Star Wars movies.
You’re sure to feel as though you’re in a world of your own when you veer off the beaten track in Ireland during the quieter months of autumn and winter. Looking for a wild countryside experience? The gorgeous National Trust site of Divis and the Black Mountain is it. Ever seen a barn that’s shaped like a corkscrew? Built to create employment in the local area back in the 18th century, the Wonderful Barn in County Kildare towers above its surroundings and hides a crow’s nest viewing gallery. Looking for something remote and romantic? Right by a lake in Cork’s idyllic Gougane Barra Forest Park sits St Finbarr’s Oratory – one of the prettiest little chapels you’ll ever lay eyes on.
Charming towns and villages
Enjoy the slow pace of rural life during off-season months with a visit to quirky towns where you can rub shoulders with the locals and soak up the culture. The idyllic village of Doolin in County Clare will charm you with its thatched-roofed cottages, old stone walls and cracking traditional music sessions in Gus O’Connor’s and McGann’s. In Northern Ireland, head to Strangford and take in the dreamy 19th century cottages at the harbour as you cross Strangford Lough on a ferry to Portaferry. And in Ireland’s Ancient East, Wicklow’s Enniskerry village is dotted with quaint cottages and lovely cafés and is just down the road from spectacular Powerscourt Estate.