Ireland is best known for its endless, rolling green hills, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and some of the world’s best literature, music, and beer. But did you know that Ireland also boasts some of the best surf in the world? And what about its St. Stephen’s Day traditions, or Kilkenny’s annual art festival?
Detailed below are the best times throughout the year to visit Ireland based on the weather, holidays, and special events. We hope you find this useful in planning your next trip to the stunning Emerald Isle!
Believe it or not, Ireland is more than just Guinness, potatoes and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Rumor on the street has spread that Ireland is actually home to some of the world’s best surf and most epic waves.
Spring and autumn are allegedly the best times to surf in Ireland, with toppling waves, favorable winds and ideal temperatures. Known as the country’s surf capital, Bundoran is located in County Donegal and home to some of the finest surf schools in the nation. For beginner and intermediate surfers, check out Tullan Strand and Rossnowlagh beaches. More advanced riders can brave the waves at Inishowen, Fanad Head, Dunfanaghy, Bloody Foreland and Dungloe.
Click here for a full list of Bundoran’s best surf schools.
Insider Tip: When visiting Bundoran, be sure to stop at The Peak, deemed one of the finest restaurants in Northwest Ireland with panoramic sea views of Donegal Bay. The restaurant is located at 2-8 W. End, Magheracar, County Donegal.
Another prime surf spot, Sligo has just the right waves for both beginners and seasoned surfers at Strandhill and Enniscrone beaches. Easkey is the area’s most popular surfing hub and the town prides itself on being a rare village that has remained unspoiled and escaped mass development. This picturesque and traditional Irish village will make you feel like a local. Unique to Sligo, the town even offers women-only surf classes with professional female instructors.
Click here for more information on Sligo and all that it has to offer its visitors.
Paddleboarding and surfing are popular pastimes in Mayo, another ideal surfing location in northwest Ireland. Its most popular beaches are Bertra, Belmullet, and Keel Strand. Home to one of the first-ever surf schools established in Ireland, the town’s SurfMayo at Carrownisky Strand offers lessons seven days a week.
For a full list of all the best surf spots in Ireland, click here.
Celebrated National Holidays in Ireland
December and March are two months out of the year to consider traveling to Ireland due to unmissable national holidays observed in these months.
St. Stephen’s Day, Dec. 26
The day after Christmas, Irish residents celebrate St. Stephen’s Day, otherwise known as the “Day of the Wren.” A Christian Saint’s day to commemorate the believed-to-be first ever Christian martyr, the holiday is celebrated by children — often referred to as “wrenboys” or “mummers” — going door-to-door dressed in old clothes and straw hats while carrying fake wrens as they sing, play music, and perform traditional dances.
If you really want to live like a local during this cherished Irish holiday, be sure to attend a pantomime. Pantomimes in Ireland are musical-comedy productions based on fairy tales that incorporate audience participation, cross-dressing, double entendre, and references to recent local events.
While many businesses and organizations are closed for St. Stephen’s Day, most shops and pubs remain open.
You can get a little sense of St. Stephen’s Day by watching this video:
St. Patrick’s Day, Mar. 17
It’s no surprise that March is a great time to visit Ireland since it includes the nation’s most celebrated national holiday, St. Patrick’s Day.
While many countries have attempted to mimic this proud Irish holiday (cough, America, cough), nothing compares to being in the actual place where it all began. Celebrated on the day of the saint’s death, Paddy’s Day, as the locals call it, is filled with beer-drinking, parade-going and, surprisingly, a lot of family-friendly fun.
While Dingle in County Kerry is home to the first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade, the country’s capital boasts the biggest carnival-style extravaganza for the holiday. Those wishing to attend Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day parade should arrive a few days early, as some holiday celebrations start before March 17. The city’s famed Temple Bar is where most of the action will be taking place, with the parade weaving through the streets in and around this renowned Irish pub.
For more information on the best cities to celebrate Paddy’s Day in Ireland, click here.
Special Annual Events and Festivals in Ireland
If you want to visit Ireland during some of their other most epic annual events and festivals, consider the following times of year:
June: Cat Laughs Comedy Festival
Founded in 1944, Kilkenny’s Cat Laughs Comedy Festival was established in response to the abundance of Irish comics that had no outlet for their talents. The festival falls during the first weekend in June, a favorable month for weather in Ireland. Some of this year’s talent included Aisling Bea, Reginald D. Hunter, and Jason Manford.
August: Kilkenny Arts Festival
Another Kilkenny event, Kilkenny Arts Festival was founded by a collaboration of classical music enthusiasts in the ’70s. Today, the festival incorporates theatre, dance, visual arts and crafts, and various forms of literature and musical performances.
September: Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival
Foodies of all sorts will love Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival, known as Ireland’s longest running and greatest gourmet extravaganza. Established in 1954, this cherished Irish festival is considered the world’s oldest oyster festival and the nation’s second most popular tradition after St. Patrick’s Day. Be sure to come hungry for the experience of a lifetime along the Bay Coast Seafood Trail.
October: Guinness Cork Jazz Festival
Southern Ireland is home to the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, a musical spectacular that will be celebrating its 41st anniversary this year. Head to Cork in October for this event and witness some of the greatest jazz artists gracing the stage with their outstanding talent, including Billy Childs All-Star Quartet, Billy Cobham Band, Brian Deady, Laura Mvula, and Linley Hamilton.
We hope this gave you some food for thought. There are plenty of great times and reasons to visit Ireland beyond the obvious. Happy trails!