When to Go to Ireland
When to Go to Ireland
You don't come to Ireland for the weather. As the saying goes, "If you could put a roof on the country it'd be perfect." That said, in summer the weather can be pleasant: the ever-present rain clouds responsible for the evergreen countryside often take a vacation; the sun comes out (and everything in the country comes to a halt to appreciate it!); and the days are long, with daylight lasting until after 10 in late June and July. As British and Irish school vacations overlap from late June to mid-September, vacationers descend on popular coastal resorts in the South, West, and East. There are crowds in popular holiday spots, and prices for accommodations are at their peak. Festival season is also at its peak; in the summer months the country is host to festival events big and small, offering a wide variety of music festivals like Electric Picnic, Castlepalooza, and Spirit of Folk Festival, as well as events celebrating everything from food and comedy, to surfing, goats, and Irish beauty. Local sports also heat up in the summer months as counties battle it out to reach the All-Ireland hurling and football finals in September. In short, if you can afford the flights and peak rates, summer is the time to visit.
If the purse strings are a little unforgiving, it's best to visit Ireland outside peak travel months. Fall and spring are good times to travel (late September can be dry and warm, although the weather can be unpredictable). Seasonal hotels and restaurants close from early or mid-November until mid-March or Easter. During this off-season, prices are lower than in summer, but your selection is limited, and some minor attractions close. St. Patrick's Week gives a focal point to a spring visit, but some Americans may find the saint's-day celebrations a little less enthusiastic than the ones back home. Dublin, however, has a weekend-long series of activities, including a parade and the Lord Mayor's Ball. If you're planning an Easter visit, don't forget that most theaters close from Thursday to Sunday of Holy Week (the week preceding Easter), and all bars and restaurants, except those serving hotel residents, close on Good Friday. Many hotels arrange Christmas packages. Mid-November to mid-February is either too cold or too wet for all but the keenest golfers, although some of the coastal links courses are playable.
If you plan to visit the biggest festivals in Ireland, book well in advance. In March, Ireland's major St. Patrick's event is the Dublin Festival and Parade (www.stpatricksday.ie), which includes fireworks and bands from the U.S. In April, see the spectacular World Irish Dancing Championships. In May, the Fleadh Nua, the annual festival of traditional Irish music, song, and dance, takes place at a town (on a yearly rotation) in County Clare. August a "trad" music highlight: the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann (www.fleadhcheoil.ie), held the last weekend of August or the first weekend in September, an extravaganza across the country. In October, the Dublin Theatre Festival (www.dublintheatrefestival.com) puts on 10 international productions, 10 Irish plays, and a fringe of 60-plus plays. In October, the Wexford Opera Festival (www.wexfordopera.com) is high glamour.
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