Early each fall you begin seeing great deals on vacation packages to Ireland for late October through mid-December. The deals are often incredible- airfare, car and lodging, often a fabulous Irish B&B- for one low price. But why would anyone want to visit Ireland during the “darker half” of the year? Can you really have a fun family vacation in Ireland when the days are shorter, the nights are longer and the air is chillier?
The short answer? YES!
Mid-October marks the beginning of the “off season” in Ireland, which runs through the end of April. With the exception of Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day this is the slow season for Ireland tourism- which means your money will go further!
Even if you don’t snag a package deal you’ll see that prices on everything from Ireland hotels, B&Bs, and even car rentals drop in the off-season.
Or no crowds at all! While some attractions close during the off-season, many do stay open through Christmas, closing in January. This is a great time to tour popular sites without hoards of people around. When we visited Cahir Castle my family explored the grounds without another tourist in site. The guides at Bunratty Castle have time to share little known facts without hoards of tourists around. And the Cliffs of Moher seem even larger when not covered in visitors.
More Craic at the Pub
While traditional music may not play nightly in the off-season you’ll still find plenty of craic at the pubs. A pub is not a bar, though you will find plenty of pints being lifted, but a public house; a gathering place for people to come together, young and old. And when the weather turns sour and darkness falls early people tend to congregate near a crackling fire and conversation. Join them, enjoy the stories, buy a pint or two for the interesting characters and share your own tales. There is no better way to enjoy Ireland.
Mid-November brings Christmas markets, filled with offerings from local artisans. Plush Irish woolen knits, gorgeous jewelry and handcrafted toys share space with delectable cheeses, perfectly smoked meats and Christmas pudding.
Some markets run for only a few days, like the Limerick Georgian Quarter Christmas Market, while some locations, like Waterford, have a festival atmosphere for weeks on end.
Tips for November and December Travel in Ireland
We’ve vacationed in Ireland twice in November. Our days were crisp but mostly clear, though short, with sunset around 5pm.
- If your plans involve driving try to do it early in the day. It can be difficult to navigate dark roads you don’t know- and find your destination- as the sun sets.
- Stay “local” in the evenings. Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean you should stay inside the B&B. Ask your hosts for evening activity ideas- you may find out about a little known event.
- Take the time to talk with the guides at sites you visit. With fewer tourists coming through the doors they have more time to share tales and offer advice.
- Buy a wool sweater. No, they don’t come cheap, but it’s the perfect item to layer. And every time you wear it back home it brings back terrific memories!
- Don’t forget: gloves, hat and scarf (also great items to purchase in Ireland!), warm socks, water resistant walking boots.
Have any tips for visiting Ireland in November and December? Favorite Christmas markets? Share your tips in the comment section!
© 2012, Jody Halsted. All rights reserved.