A visit to Ireland in the summer is very different from a trip in the winter. Apart from climatic considerations, there are the issues of cost, closures, and crowds. Generally speaking, in summer, airfares, car-rental rates, and hotel prices are highest and crowds at their most intense. But the days are long (6am sunrises and 10pm sunsets), the weather is warm, and every sightseeing attraction and B&B is open. In winter, you can get rock-bottom prices on airfare and hotels. But it will rain and the wind will blow, and many rural sights and a fair proportion of the rural B&Bs and restaurants will be closed.
All things considered, we think the best time to visit is in spring and fall, when weather falls in between bad and good, but you get lower-than-high-season prices and the crowds have yet to descend.
Rain is the one constant in Irish weather, although a bit of sunshine is usually just around the corner. The best of times and the worst of times are often only hours, or even minutes, apart. It can be chilly in Ireland at any time of year, so think layers when you pack.
Winters can be brutal, as the wind blows in off the Atlantic with numbing constancy, and gales are common. But deep snow is rare, and temperatures rarely drop much below freezing. In fact, Ireland is a fairly temperate place: January and February bring frosts but seldom snow, and July and August are very warm, but rarely hot. The Irish consider any temperature over 68°F (20°C) to be "roasting," and below 34°F (1°C) as bone chilling. For a complete online guide to Irish weather, consult www.ireland.com/weather.
The Republic observes the following national holidays: New Year's Day (Jan 1); St. Patrick's Day (Mar 17); Easter Monday (variable); May Day (May 1); first Mondays in June and August (summer bank holidays); last Monday in October (autumn bank holiday); Christmas (Dec 25); and St. Stephen's Day (Dec 26). Good Friday (the Fri before Easter) is mostly observed, but not statutory.
In the North, the schedule of holidays is the same as in the Republic, with some exceptions: the North's summer bank holidays fall on the last Monday of May and August; the Battle of the Boyne is celebrated on Orangeman's Day (July 12); and Boxing Day (Dec 26) follows Christmas.
In both Ireland and Northern Ireland, holidays that fall on weekends are celebrated the following Monday.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.