From Dublin to Donegal: Discover the Emerald Isle's most delightful days (and nights)
Sunny one minute and rainy the next, a visit to Ireland is a gamble in any season, but it tends to be one that pays off. Put the odds in your favor by planning your visit at just the right time. With a little luck, you'll be able to enjoy Ireland's historic pubs, wide-open countrysides and legendary hospitality without spending your time hiding from the rain.
Planning around the seasons
The Atlantic Ocean plays a pretty big role in shaping the seasons in Ireland. Generally speaking, the ocean currents have the effect of balancing the seasons, keeping any from being too extreme. Summers are warm, but seldom hot. Winters chilly, but seldom freezing. Spring brings an abundance of blooming wildflowers, and autumn's crisp air transforms the leaves into a rainbow of reds, oranges and yellows.
Whenever you decide to visit, bring clothing for a variety of conditions just in case. And keep in mind that each season brings an assortment of events and festivals worth attending, from Dublin's St. Patrick's Day Festival in March to the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August.
Dealing with the weather
If you're the type who likes to talk about the weather, Ireland is the place for you. Stop in any pub at any time of day, and you're likely to find a hearty discussion on the subject already in progress.
Snow is rare in most parts of Ireland, but rain can pop up with little warning at any time of year. It might clear in a few minutes, or it could drag on for days, though the latter is less common if you visit during the warmer months. May through September generally offer the most comfortable weather in Ireland. The downside, of course, is that warm weather brings the tourists.
Beating the crowds
July and August represent the height of the tourist season in Ireland, from the streets of Dublin to the warm seaside counties of Southern Ireland. If you don't mind the crowds, then your decision is an easy one – visit in summer. In addition to long daylight hours and temperatures in the 70s, you'll find that more attractions are open for business than at any other time of year. Hotels fill up the fastest, and tend to charge the highest rates in summer, so book your trip in advance if you can.
If crowds aren't your thing, your best bets are spring and fall. Planning your visit to Ireland in May or September allows you to take advantage of comfortable weather, reasonable vacation prices and fairly small crowds. Winter is another option, but it tends to be a bit dreary, and you'll find that most of the businesses that cater to tourists will be closed, especially in rural areas. But places that do stay open will most likely offer their cheapest prices of the year.