Crisp, autumnal air laced with the scent of chimney smoke from turf fires. Decadent autumn cuisine exploding in flavours such as squash and root veggies, apples and game. Empty beaches and wind-blown hills abound, far from the bustle of the busy season. The Irish landscape during October turns into a vibrant display of colour. Heathery hills are dyed a sunburnt gold and Ireland’s lush forests erupt in a fiery display of orange and red. Mist drapes around the trees like cobwebs, creating a surreal and folkloric landscape.
And of course, it’s Halloween, the time of year when everything is that bit more magical and spooky. Did you know that the origins of Halloween can be traced to a small cave within an ancient coronation site of bygone kings at the heart of Ireland?
Autumn, and October in particular, is a magical – and spooky – time to discover Ireland. Keep reading to find out more on why you should choose to visit Ireland in October.
Halloween is often thought of as an American holiday – or at least we think about it from the Hollywood-ised point of view. Its origins though are very, very old.
Halloween’s dark roots trace back to a cave lost in the middle of Ireland amidst a sacred site of Kings. Rathcroagan is a man-made souterrain (underground stone chamber) attached to a 40-meter-long cave now translated as the “Gateway to Hell” (though in pagan times, it was called the “gateway to the otherworld,” or the “world of the fairies”). Halloween, or Samhain as the Irish festival is called, marks the start of winter and is the night in which the walls between our world and the others are thinnest. According to Irish legend, it is this time of year in which spirits are most in danger of slipping through. Read more about Irish folklore.
Many of the aspects we associate with modern-day Halloween see their darker roots here in Ireland. For example, the practice of dressing in a Halloween costume has evolved from an earlier attempt intended to confuse malevolent spirits. Common methods involved trading clothes with a sister or brother, wearing clothes inside out, fashioning basic masks out of old bed linens, or other similar methods of obscuring identity. Turnips, not pumpkins, were carved with grotesque faces, designed to scare the spirits away.
And if none of that worked, food was left out in a final attempt to appease or bribe the spirits and fairies to leave you be.
Ireland is proud of its Halloween roots. Multiple festivals, fairs and parades dedicated to Halloween and related genres are hosted across the country each October. These events cater to both the modern and the older versions of Samhain. This all makes October certainly one of the spookiest times a year to visit – but also possibly one of the coolest.
October is generally the final month of the year to view the stunning autumn colours. When one thinks of fall colours, it’s often the images of orangey forests that come to mind.
Warm, fiery displays of colour explode into unparalleled panoramas across the Irish woodlands. Under a living canopy of orange and red, breathe in the rich scent of fallen leaves that crunch underfoot. Squelch along the narrow forest trail lined with golden-brown bracken and ferns. Duck under the moss that hangs from the trees as you listen to the birdsong of the hardy birds who haven’t yet flown south for winter, and keep your eyes out for deer wandering the woods. It’s not hard to believe in magic when you’re walking through the vibrant Irish woodlands during October.
But even if you’re not in the forest, Ireland in October has its merits. The heather-topped bogs and hills of places like Connemara, Wicklow and Donegal turn from their summer purple hue to a sea of golden-dusted heather, rippling in the autumn breeze.
October is one of the best times a year to turn your eyes skywards. October skies are some of the most incredible of the whole year. Though there can be some cloud cover, even rainy days often end in bright sunsets, with skies streaked with cloud forms and warm colours.
It’s also a great time to go stargazing. With the longer nights and fewer visitors, October’s amazing dark skies stargazing and great moonscapes will delight anyone with even a passing interest in astronomy.
It’ll be no surprise that the weather isn’t always great in Ireland in October. But the spooky mists and dramatic cloud cover can be simply breathtaking, and with the mild temperatures, it’s easy to explore the wilds of Ireland in October.
Though most people mainly associate rainbows with spring, autumn conditions are equally ideal for rainbows. The right sun and rain recipe needed to brew stunning rainbows is often just right in October. Chances are you’ll spot at least one while you’re visiting Ireland in October.
It’s October so… time to get your wetsuit on? Ireland is actually well-known within the worldwide surfing community for its incredible waves. As the winter season creeps in, so do the waves. The really big waves. In fact, some of the record-high waves ever surfed have been done so in places like Sligo and Donegal on the northwest coast.
Even if you’re not ready to get in the water yourself, if you’re on the northwest coast during winter, it’s worth a few chilly hours watching the dedicated and experienced surfers. Breathe in the invigorating Atlantic air – reputed to be some of the freshest air in Europe – and drink up the salty sea spray. A
Afterwards, why not try a comforting and therapeutic seaweed bath, a little known restorative tradition in Ireland.
Food is seeing a revolution here in Ireland. Organic, farm to fork, family-owned, you name it. Each season offers different tasting opportunities. In summer, you might enjoy fresh fruits and just-caught fish. In autumn, sink your teeth into Ireland’s delicious vegetable larder – squash, potatoes, and other root vegetables.
Imagine steaming savoury pies, perfect for warming you up after your outdoor adventures. It’s also the season for game – duck and venison offer delicious seasonal alternatives to the traditional lamb, beef and pork dishes that are year-round in Ireland.
Then of course there are the apple orchards of Ireland. Of course, you can find apples year-round in Ireland and many other places. But there’s something about biting into a fresh, juicy apple grown locally in places like Armagh, Waterford or Tipperary that adds extra zest to the culinary experience. Pair it all with local cider or perhaps a ‘hot toddy’ (a delicious warm drink made with whiskey, lemon, cloves and sugar) and you’ll go dreaming of Irish food for a long time to come.
Though known for its great outdoors, Ireland indoors has a few merits too. During October, after a day out on the windy hills and breezy waves, the best – and some may argue the only – way to appropriately end the day is to head into the nearest pub. Irish craft beer is seeing a huge surge in popularity these days, so be sure to ask the barman or your guide what’s good and local. Or warm yourself up with a taste of hot whiskey. After all, the word for ‘whiskey’ in Irish actually translates to the ‘water of life.’
Settle yourself in front of the open roaring turf fire, listening to the crackle and spit of the fire as the musicians warm up. Because of course, the best way to get the full cosy October pub experience is to find a pub with a trad music session on. Chances are, you’ll likely be sharing the pub with only locals.
It’s also worth noting that October is a quiet time of year. You’ll likely get the strands of beaches and hillsides to yourself. If you are wanting to visit Irish landmarks but don’t want to share the views, October is an ideal time to come.
Walk the Cliffs of Moher and watch the waves swirling far below (if weather permits), step in the footsteps of giants along the Giant’s Causeway (perhaps visiting at sunset when the stones are extra special) or visit heritage sites like the Rock of Cashel without other tourists.
If you have specific hotel preferences or room types you want, October is a great time to visit. Off-peak rates help make your Ireland October trip good value for money, and Ireland’s great castle and manor hotels often have fun fall festivities for guests to enjoy.
Spring weather is mild, but the days are lengthening and consistently drier. The landscape is buzzing with life and colour, with flowers blooming and bustling wildlife.Find out more
Summer promises long days, pleasant temperatures, and festivals galore. The countryside transitions from vibrant green to breath-taking purple as the heather blooms.Find out more
Autumn is a time of colourful landscapes and glowing skies. Witness some of Ireland’s most beautiful autumn sunsets and taste flavours unique to our autumn months.Find out more
If the conditions are right, marvel at the snow-dusted landscapes during Ireland’s winters. Crunchy snow underfoot, roaring fires in the cosy pubs, and beautiful starry skies.Find out more