Despite the fact that Ireland has been ravaged by storms Abigail through Frank this season, winter is still one of the best times to visit the Emerald Isle.
Why? Fewer fellow tourists, walks in the brusque air, cozy pubs with fireplaces to seek refuge when the cold winds blow, and the frosty months and shorter days seem to show of the Irish landscape in a whole new light.
Here are some of the most beautiful spots to visit during a winter trip to Ireland. Do you have any other suggestions? Share your favorite winter locations in the comment section.
Powerscourt Estate and Gardens, Co. Wicklow
Be they covered with or lightly dusted with snow, the Powerscourt Gardens are the epitome of a winter wonderland. The 47-acre Enniskerry estate – complete with an historic house, landscaped grounds and a powerful waterfall – overlooks the Sugarloaf Mountain. The Powerscourt Hotel also makes for a sumptuous retreat.
The Cavan Burren
Lesser-known than its counterpart in Co. Clare, this megalithic landscape looks even more otherworldly in winter light. The Cavan Burren is part of the Marble Arches Caves Geopark, which offers even more geological wonders to explore.
Mount Errigal, Donegal
The ethereal Mount Errigal, which presides of County Donegal, is perhaps at its most beautiful in the winter. There are a number of walks and hikes for outdoor adventurers of all experience levels, and Letterkenny, the nearest town, offers a range of other attractions and nice places to stay.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
There’s an abundance to see and to do in the Northern Irish capital – much of it within a relatively close distance, making Belfast a smart winter destination. Go on a black taxi tour of the city’s political murals, and check out City Hall, the Titanic Quarter (the dock where the famous ship was built is pictured above), the gorgeous grounds of Cave Hill, and the city center’s historic pubs.
The Aran Islands
The three famous Islands off the coast of Connemara (Inis Mor – pictured above, Inis Meain and Inis Oirr) are a massive tourist attraction year-round. Though their total population is less than 1,200, tourism brings an extra quarter of a million people to the islands each year, particularly in the summer months. A winter visit to any of the islands offers you space to roam.
Strandhill Beach, Co. Sligo
Strandhill Beach is lovely during the summer, dotted with swimmers and sunbathers. But there’s something surreal about being at the beach during the winter, and Strandhill manages to capture this feeling perfectly, especially with Knocknarea Mountain looming in the near distance. The four star Strandhill Lodge is close, if you’re looking for a luxurious stay, and there’s plenty more to explore in nearby Sligo Town.
Maamturk Mountains, Connemara
This venture is not for the faint of heart. The Maamturk Mountain range is not exactly the most popular tourist attraction, known for its changeable weather conditions and challenging paths (or lack thereof). But for the skilled and adventurous traveler, a trip to the mountains will offer solitude and stunning views different from anything else in Ireland.
Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne, Co. Derry
The Mussenden Temple, built in 1785 and inspired by the Roman Temple of Vesta, can be found in the beautiful surroundings of Downhill Demesne near Castlerock in Co. Derry. It perches dramatically on a 120 ft cliff top, high above the Atlantic Ocean, and offers spectacular westerly views of Downhill Strand, Magilligan Point and County Donegal and to the east Castlerock beach towards Portstewart, Portrush and Fair Head.
Strangford Lough, Co. Down
Strangford Louch, a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, is Northern Ireland’s first marine nature preserve. It’s a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise, with over 70 islands to explore. There’s also a trail that lets you follow in the footsteps of St. Patrick, who came to Downpatrick via Strangford Lough in the year 432.
With its myriad of museums, galleries, historic sites and charming pubs, Dublin is a good place to be in the winter time. The city especially comes alive for New Year’s Eve, with vibrant celebrations across the city, like the parade above.
What are your favorite winter destinations in Ireland? Share your thoughts in the comment section.