Ireland is a small country, only about the size of the state of Maine, but it's inarguably one of the most beautiful in Europe. Politically, the island is divided into the Republic of Ireland in the south and Northern Ireland in the north. Nevertheless, the entire island, blessed by a mild climate and sufficient rainfall, is green all year round, which explains why Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle. In a lush country with generally good weather, how do decide when is the best time of year to visit Ireland?
The seas and oceans that surround Ireland help keep the climate quite mild and pleasant much of the time, so nearly any time of the year could be the best time to travel to Ireland; it all depends on what you hope to find when you're there. Despite the lack of extreme temperatures, however, it is a good idea to travel to Ireland prepared with layers. On any given day, it might suddenly get chillier or warmer than you'd expected. You'd be wise to pack a raincoat or umbrella as well if you're not a fan of the year-round rains that keep Ireland so fertile and verdant.
Ireland is dotted with stunning seaside resort towns, romantic castles, and even a handful of World Heritage Sites. If one of your primary goals when visiting Ireland is to drive around and see these sites with an Ireland rental car, you might be better off traveling during the summer despite the larger crowds. Summer will be warm but rarely hot, and it's the driest season on a relatively wet island. Unless you're of particularly hardy stock, it would be better to avoid a sightseeing tour in the winter. The temperature in winter doesn't fall too far below freezing, but gale-force winds tear across Ireland in the winter, making the weather outside feel much colder than the thermometer claims.
You might want to design your trip around the crowds and prices. Ireland doesn't yet have a thriving year-round tourist industry, so shoulder season travel will save you money on hotels and airfare, and off season travel brings incredibly low prices. Spring and fall, particularly May and September, seem to have the perfect balance of reasonable prices and manageable crowds while the weather is still pleasant. You may not want to spend a lot of time outdoors during an Ireland winter, but if you want or need to save money, take a trip to one of the bigger cities to experience Ireland's rich culture and spirited nightlife, perhaps with a Dublin rental car.
The Irish are known for being lively, celebratory people, and if you'd like to check out some Irish events, March is the best time to travel to Ireland. All of March is filled with events and festivals celebrating Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and nothing beats St. Patrick's Day in Ireland for merriment and revelry. The best part is that many St. Patrick's Day events are free, including the huge celebration in Dublin that boasts parades, performances, and fireworks. The Galway Music Festival is part of what makes Ireland one of the best places to visit in Europe in July. However, if there are no official festivities taking place, simply head to the nearest pub and root for the local team to get your fill of fun!
A trip to Ireland, whether it's in June or January, is sure never to disappoint. However, asking yourself a few questions and determining what you want can help you decide on the best time of year to visit Ireland. The important thing is to stick to what you want, not what some impersonal travel guide tells you to do, and your Ireland trip is guaranteed to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. Be sure to check out our Ireland Travel Guide to get all the tips and tricks you need to know before you arrive, including driving tips to help you adjust to driving on the "other" side of the road!