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Winter in Ireland

Why visit Ireland in Winter? Travelling Ireland in winter is good value for money and great for avoiding the crowds. During winter in Ireland, experience Christmas, New Years, the Winter Solstice and its associated archeology. Long nights mean dark skies perfect for stargazing, amazing sunsets and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. Plus there’s always the chance of snow!

Irish Winter - All You Need to Know

Though days are shorter, winter in Ireland is fairly mild compared to other European destinations. There are few tourists, so you’ll avoid the crowds, and you’ll get the best value for money. Longer nights mean stunning sunrises and sunsets, and though rare, winter is the best time of year to spot the Northern Lights in northwestern Ireland.

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Winter Tours

When Does Winter Start in Ireland

Winter in Ireland, like all seasons on the Emerald Isle, is hard pin down exact dates. Traditionally speaking, winter will start around December and continue through December’s Winter Equinox and Christmas into January and February. As with the rest of the year, Ireland’s Gaelic calendar is quite different than what most people consider spring to be.

On the Gaelic calendar, winter or Geimhreadh, starts the day after Halloween (in Ireland, it is referred to as Samhain) on November 1st. On the same Gaelic calendar, February 1st is actually the start of spring.

Starts
Ends
Meteorological Winter in Ireland
1st of December 31st of February
Astronomical Winter in Ireland
21st of December 20th of March
Traditional Gaelic Seasons
1st November 1st of February

Weather in Ireland During Winter

While it’s true that winter is the darkest season in Ireland, winter still has plenty of merits. In some ways, the shorter days have some advantages as they give way to some dramatic sunsets and sunrises at reasonable hours. This is also the season during which you have the chance to see the Northern Lights!

Winter is also one of the quietest times of year to visit with few other tourists competing for iconic vistas and popular sites. When it comes to weather, it’s true that winter in Ireland is one of the wettest seasons, but depending on what region you visit there’s also the chance of snow

Dec
Jan
Feb
Average monthly rainfall 
80-91mm (3.1-3.5 in) 72-96mm (3.5-4.3 in) 75-93mm (3.1 – 3.9in)
Average wind
17 kph (10.5 mph) 16 kph (10 mph) 16 kph (10 mph)
Average daytime temperature (High)
9°C (52°F) 14°C (56°F) 10°C (50°F)
Average daytime temperature (Low)
4°C (42°F) 8°C (47°F) 5°C (40°F)
Average daylight hours 
8.5 hrs 10 hrs 8.5 hrs

Source: climateandweather.com and timeanddate.com | Based on an average of the whole country as location. Typically, the mildest regions of Ireland are found in the southeast and southwest regions.

Irish Winter in Pictures

Irish Winter Activities

Go for a hike

Probably the easiest activity to do in the winter is hiking. Days are shorter, which is something to keep in mind when choosing routes. Though Ireland does get some snow in winter, the snowfall isn’t enough to stop you from hiking, and actually adds an extra beauty to the wild landscape. Winter is also a good time to visit some of Ireland’s most popular spots if you want to have them to yourself.

Hiking trips

Biking & Cycling

Biking in winter is usually very possible except in rare circumstances of ice or snowfall on the roads. During winter, there will be few other cyclists on the roads and far less tourist vehicles as well. Visit popular sites will be less busy. However, shorter days and colder temperatures limit the amount time you can spend in the saddle, so we recommend you keep daily routes to 40-60km.

Bike Trips

Christmas & New Years

Both Christmas and New Years are popular holidays in Ireland, breaking up the winter season. Head to Christmas markets in Belfast or Dublin and then stay at a cosy castle or manor house for Christmas with your loved ones, curled up by a turf fire with a hot chocolate (or a pint!), all decked out for the Christmas season. For New Years, head to Dublin or Belfast for epic celebrations.

Tailor Made Holidays

Look Skywards!

Winter skies are very impressive. Though not as common as in Scandinavia, we occasionally see the Northern Lights, usually in rugged and wild Co Donegal. The lack of light pollution on the west coast makes for some impressive stargazing, particularly in Dark Sky areas. Shorter days mean dramatic sunrises and sunsets (at a reasonable hour!), making that sought-for Golden Hour after breakfast and before dinner.

Interactive Trip Builder

Winter Storms & Surfing

Winter storms are dramatic and relentless. Luckily, this makes for some impressive waves! Travel to the northwest of Ireland to watch some of the world’s most renowned surfers attempt to surf some of Europe’s highest waves. Until recently, Co Sligo held the record as home to the highest-surfed wave… Or head south along the Wild Atantic Way to winter waves sounding on the Cliffs of Moher or other rugged coastlines.

Interactive Trip Builder

Winter Archeology

Ireland is full of ancient monuments, many of which are aligned with astronomy. The Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year – was an important time of year in the pagan calendar, and many Neolithic monuments are aligned with the Winter Solstice. Even if you don’t manage to visit one of Ireland’s Neolithic monuments for the Winter Solstice, visiting these ancient sites during winter is quite a surreal experience.

Private Departures

Snow in Ireland

Ireland doesn’t get huge snowfall over winter months due to our proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. However, that’s not to say we don’t get any snow! Some regions tend to get more snow than others, and generally you have to travel 10-20km inland to fully appreciate any snowfall. The low snowfall actually  works in our favour as we are able to enjoy the beauty of winter snow without its disruptions or safety concerns. Highest snowfall is generally found in counties Wicklow, Monaghan, Donegal, and inland in the Midlands, with between 12-20 days with snowfall on the ground.

Winter Wildlife

Winter is a quiet time of year, for humans as well as flora and fauna. However, that doesn’t mean that winter doesn’t hold its own beauty. 

Foxes do not hibernate and are some of Europe’s hardiest animals. Foxes can be quite active in winter as they forage for food, often coming out more frequently and closer to human habitations as food resources are scarcer in winter. 

Grey seals give birth later in the year (unlike common seals who give birth in late spring/early winter). Grey seals pupping season runs from autumn to early winter. When young, grey seal pups are fluffy and white, and they stay onshore for several weeks to fatten up, meaning you have a good chance of spotting grey seal pups into December while walking along Ireland’s shores. 

Most bird species migrate to warmer climes, winter in Ireland welcomes the arrival of winter migrating species such as redwings and Brent geese

Spotting deer in winter is often easier without the thick undergrowth. While autumn is the deer’s most active season while they are rutting and the males are fighting for the females, it’s possible to see deer herds into winter as well.

Ireland's Winter Pantry

Winter is certainly the most stark time of year, and it’s a time when many of Ireland’s flora and fauna go to ground. However, that doesn’t mean that Ireland’s ‘larder’ is empty! See below for what winter has to offer.

December 
January
February
Vegetables & Fruits
Root vegetables, broccoli & leeks. Beetroot, parsnips, turnip, leeks. Beetroot, parsnips, turnip, leeks.
Meat & Game
Venison, hare, pheasant, goose, woodcock. Venison, hare, pheasant, goose, woodcock. Venison, hare, pheasant, goose, woodcock.
Fish & Seafood
Herrings, Haddock, cockles, John Dory, Sardines, Plaice, Clams. Herrings, Haddock, cockles, John Dory, Sardines, Plaice, Clams. Herrings, Haddock, cockles, John Dory, Sardines, Plaice, Clams.

 

Winter FAQs

What are the seasons in Ireland? Read More

Ireland is home to ever-changing weather and 4 relatively mild seasons, and sometimes you get to experience them all in one day!

Spring is technically the months of March, April and May though the Gaelic calendar has spring staring in February. The Irish countryside comes to life again during spring, with rolling hills and crags bursting with wildflowers, and fields full of fluffy new lambs. April and May are actually some of the driest months, but beware that, as with anywhere and anytime in Ireland, the weather is quite changeable, and you’ll still need warm and rainproof gear. Spring temperatures are on average a a crisp 7-15°C.

Summer ranges across June, July and August, though the Gaelic Calendar starts summer in May. The earlier part of the season are typically the driest and warmest months and the most popular for visitors, but by August, the weather starts to turn, and rainfall tends to increase. Average temperature ranges between 12°C and 18°C.  June 21st is the longest day of the year, with some 17 hours of daylight! In fact, around the summer solstice, even at midnight, it’ll seem like twilight. You’ll still get rain though – though usually showers that blow over quickly – be sure to bring the rain gear!

Autumn technically starts in Ireland in September and goes on through to November, though as with the other seasons, the Gaelic Calendar starts autumn in August. Though perhaps less dramatically colourful than Scotland, Irish landscapes are still magical during autumn. The temperature during autumn is on generally between 5-12°C, though it can be up to 15-16 some days. Traditionally, Irish autumn – the harvest season – finishes on Samhain, the festival celebrated on 31st October, and the origin of what we today call Halloween.

Winter in Ireland takes place between December, January and February (with the Gaelic Calendar marking the start in November, and the end on 1 Feb.). Winter months are the darkest and shortest days of the year. Though possible, and varying across the country in amount, Ireland doesn’t get much snowfall, perhaps a couple of dustings with one or two bigger storms each year (though with no more than a few centimetres of accumulation). The daytime temperature during winter in Ireland is on average 3-9°C. Winter is perhaps home to some of Ireland’s most beautiful sunrises and sunsets though! 

What is the weather like in Ireland in December? Read More

According to the Gaelic Calendar, winter starts on the 1st of November, but according to more conventional calendars, winter is December through February. Highs are up to 9°C and lows are just 4°C (39°-49°F). Precipitation can increase, with an average of 80mm, though some of this can be snow and ice. Though skies may be overcast, showers are generally fleeting. Days are slowly getting shorter, with sunrise between 8.30-9am and sunset between 4-4.30pm, which makes it easier to enjoy Ireland’s lovely sunrises and sunsets. December contains the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day of the year and also very important to the ancient peoples of Ireland, particularly in the Neolithic Age, who once aligned monuments with this day. The ambience in Ireland in December is often very festive as Christmas, followed by New Years, are important times of the year here. 

*Info based on Shannon Airport on the west coast of Ireland.

What is the weather like in Ireland in January? Read More

January temperatures have a high of 9° and a low of 4°C (39-40°F), and of about 78mm, making the weather very similar to December. The good news is that we’ve passed the Winter Solstice (21st or 22nd December), and the days are progressively getting longer. Sunrise is usually between 8.30-9 am, and sunset around 4.30-5.15 pm. Longer nights often make for some great moonscapes and stargazing, and even the rare chance to see the Northern Lights in northern reaches of the island such as Donegal. Tourism is generally at its least busy at this time of year, and while not everything is open, this is a good time to year to visit popular sites like the Giant’s Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher, or the Kerry Peninsulas and have them largely to yourself. 

*Info based on Shannon Airport on the west coast of Ireland.

What is the weather like in Ireland in February? Read More

February is the shortest month of the year and everyone knows it! In traditional calendars, February is still very much winter. However, on the Gaelic calendar, February 1st, or St Brigid’s Day (or Imbolc, the pagan name for the festival), is actually the start of spring. The tradition is to make St Brigid’s crosses, woven out of rushes or straw, to celebrate the coming of spring, and pay homage to St Brigid, the life-giving pagan goddess-turned-saint. Expect temperatures from 3-8°C (41-51°F), while rainfall drops to an average of 51mm, the lowest monthly average since September. Sunset is not until after 9pm making it easier to spend longer out in the wilds. The terrain is usually less boggy, and the fields are full of wildflowers. 

*Info based on Shannon Airport on the west coast of Ireland.

Does it snow in Ireland? Read More

No, it doesn’t snow much in Ireland, and very rarely in spring. There may be the occasional winter snow, but it’s usually more of a dusting or just a few centimetres than major snows – though the infrequent snowfall in Ireland means that when we do get snow, it can be disruptive.

Coastal regions rarely see snow as the sea temperatures are warmer than the coast meaning coastal precipitation will be rain. Do keep in mind that during the same snowstorm, you’ll see snow just a few miles inland. The main areas of Ireland that get snow are generally inland (in the Irish Midlands), and on higher ground such as hills and mountains.

Does it rain much in Ireland? Read More

It does indeed rain in Ireland. The great thing about rain in Ireland is that it rarely rains all day – instead we get showers interspersed with dry periods of clouds, clear skies and sun. Good chance is that if it’s raining now, wait a bit and usually it’ll clear up! It does rain often here – with higher rainfall on the west coast, and even more so in the northwest – so it’s always good to come prepared with plenty of waterproofs.

Shannon’s annual rainfall is 732 mm while Dublin is 493mm and Belfast is 430mm. Compare this to other locations like London (565mm), Paris (590mm), Vancouver (797mm), Oslo (702mm), Chicago (430mm), and New York (620mm).

What should I wear in Ireland? Read More

Make sure that you wear lots of layers, as the weather can be quite changeable in Ireland. Avoid cottons at all cost. Be sure to bring a daypack in which to put extra layers in. Even in summer, you may need to have a hat or gloves while hiking, as mountaintops can be quite cold and windy. It’s important to have waterproofs (not water resistant materials), both waterproof jackets and waterproof pants/trousers. Good boots and wool socks are a must as well.

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Why should I visit Ireland in winter? Read More

From Christmas and New Years festivities and celebrations, to ancient archeology based around the Winter Solstice, great stargazing, beautiful snow dusting the mountains, and the rare possibility of seeing the Northern Lights, visiting Ireland in winter is a rare chance to explore the country without other visitors. While the weather can be chilly and the days are short, hiking and even biking are both very possible. Roads and trails are quiet, and there are few other tourists. Do keep in mind that some businesses close for the parts of the winter, so be sure to research, plan and book ahead.

Our vacations reviewed
in your own words

Loved everything about this trip - our delightful, accommodating, encouraging guides, the well-planned routes, the food, the wildflowers and waterfalls, the music (live in the van and in Dingle). We rode up Conor Pass! Can't wait to come back and ride in Ireland again.

Helen Triolo
Deluxe Bike Tour - The Kerry Peninsulas
Reviewed on 11/08/2019

Rated 4.94 out of 5 based on 173 reviews

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