Winter in Ireland gets a bit of a bad rap. But it’s not all short days and crap weather…
OK, there are a lot of short says and the weather in Ireland in winter can be terrible, but it’s far from all doom and gloom.
Winter is the off-season in Ireland and it can be a great time to explore, once you’re happy to take a risk.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything from average temperatures and what to expect to things to do during winter in Ireland.
Some quick need-to-knows about winter in Ireland
Spending winter in Ireland comes with a handful of need-to-knows that’ll help you quickly decide whether this month will or won’t suit you.
1. When is it
The winter months in Ireland are December, January and February. These are some of the main off-season months for tourism across Ireland.
2. The weather
The weather in Ireland in winter can vary greatly. In Ireland in December we get average highs of 10°C and lows around 3°C. In January in Ireland we get average highs of 8°C and lows of 3°C. In February in Ireland we get average highs of 8°C and average lows of 2°C.
3. It’s the off-season
There’s pros and cons to this, as you’ll discover below. Flights and accommodation tend to be cheaper (aside from at Christmas and New Years) but some fee-paying attractions and tours will be closed until spring.
4. Short days
One of the pains of spending winter in Ireland is the short days. In January, for example, the sun doesn’t rise until 08:40 and it sets at 16:20. This can make planning your Ireland itinerary tricky.
5. There’s still plenty to do
If you’re starting to worry, don’t! There’s still plenty of things to do in Ireland in winter, from the various Christmas markets in Ireland and evenings spent tucked away in cosy pubs to hikes, walks and more (see below).
An overview of the average temperature during the winter months in Ireland
|Killarney||6 °C/42.9 °F||5.5 °C/42 °F||5.5 °C/42 °F|
|Dublin||4.8 °C/40.6 °F||4.7 °C/40.5 °F||4.8 °C/40.6 °F|
|Cobh||7.1 °C/44.8 °F||6.5 °C/43.8 °F||6.4 °C/43.5 °F|
|Galway||5.9 °C/42.5 °F||5.8 °C/42.5 °F||5.9 °C/42.5 °F|
In the table above, you’ll get a sense of the average temperature in Ireland in winter across several different locations. The one thing that I want to stress is that the weather in Ireland in winter is very unpredictable.
We’ve had mild winters in the past but we’ve also had ones with plenty of storms. So, if you’re planning a trip to Ireland and considering winter, keep in mind that the weather could be terrible.
December 2020 and 2021
- Overall: 2021 was mild, changeable and windy at times while 2020 was cool, wet and windy
- Days when rain fell: Rain fell between 15 and 26 days in 2021 and between 20 and 31 days in 2020
- Avg. temperature: In 2021, the average ranged between 7.0 °C and 7.2 °C while in 2020, it ranged between 4.9 °C to 5.8 °C
January 2020 and 2021
- Overall: 2021 was dry and cool, but we recorded above average rainfall in most places while 2020 was reasonably mild and dry
- Days when rain fell: Between 15 and 29 days in 2021 and between 13 and 23 days in 2020
- Temperature: In 2021, it ranged from -1.6 °C to 13.3 °C. In 2020, the temperature ranged from 0.4 °C to 14.4 °C
February 2020 and 2021
- Overall: 2021 was wet but reasonably mild while 2020 was wet, windy and wild
- Days when rain fell: In 2021, it fell between 16 and 25 days while in 2020, several parts of the country recorded their wettest February on record
- Avg. temperature: The average temperature in 2021 was 6.6 °C while in 2020, it was 6.0 °C
The pros and cons of visiting Ireland in the winter
If you read our guide to the best time to visit Ireland, you’ll know that every month comes with its pros and cons, which can make planning a trip to Ireland confusing for some.
I’m going to lay out some of the pros and cons that I’ve experienced over the last 32 years of spending winter in Ireland:
- December: There’s a festive buzz that brings a lovely atmosphere to many towns, villages and cities and it’s much quieter, as it’s off-season
- January: Flights and accommodation will be cheaper and many attractions will be much quieter
- February: Tends to be cheaper for flights and accommodation and places are still quiet as it’s off-season
- December: The days are short (sun rises 08:22 and it sets at 16:19) and the weather can be very unpredictable, Flights are also pricey, as people fly home for Christmas
- January: The days are short (sun rises at 08:40 and it sets at 16:20) and the weather can be wintery
- February: The days are short (sun rises at 07:40 and sets at 17:37) and stormy weather can be common
Things to do in Ireland in winter
There’s plenty of things to do in Ireland in winter, but you just need to be prepared for the worst case scenario weather wise.
I’ll give you some suggestions below, but if you hop into our counties hub you’ll be able to find places to visit in each individual county.
1. Christmas markets
Yes, there’s Christmas markets in Ireland! Many kick-start in the third week of November and run right the way up until Christmas Eve. Here are some worth checking out:
- Dublin Christmas markets
- Galway Christmas market
- Belfast Christmas market
- Glow Cork
- Waterford Winterval
2. Indoor attractions
The weather in Ireland in winter can be crap, so you need to have back-up plans in place if the rain starts lashing down. Luckily, there’s plenty of excellent indoor attractions dotted across the island.
If you hop into our counties hub, click on the place you’re visiting and you’ll find heaps of places to drop into to keep you dry and entertained.
3. Well planned road trips
As the days are much shorter during winter in Ireland, you need to plan any road trip carefully, to make the most of the daylight hours.
This can be stressful for some. However, if you use our easy-to-follow Ireland itinerary planner, it’ll prove to be more straightforward than you thought.
Or, you could just use our ready-made 5 days in Ireland itinerary or our one week in Ireland itinerary!
4. Hikes, walks, scenic drives and tourist favourites
Just because winter is the off-season doesn’t mean you need to restrict yourself. There’s plenty of hikes in Ireland to head off on on those fine winter days.
There’s also heaps of scenic drives and, of course, the tourist favourites, like Killarney, Connemara, the Antrim Coast and more.
FAQs about spending summer in Ireland
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Is Ireland in the winter worth it?’ to ‘Is Ireland pretty in the winter?’ (it is!).
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
When is winter in Ireland?
Going off the Meteorological seasons, winter begins on the 1st of December and ends on the 28th of February.
What are winters like in Ireland?
The days are short (for example, in January, the sun doesn’t rise until 08:40 and it sets at 16:20) and the weather is very unpredictable.
Is winter a good time to visit Ireland?
Yes and no (see pros and cons in guide above). The shorter days give you less time to explore. However, there’s a lovely festive buzz in December. Flights and hotels can be cheaper, too.