Whatever your interests, there’s a perfect winter break waiting for you on the island of Ireland.
Whether you’re the great outdoors type, prefer to mull through a museum, love a festival, or are happy to relax by an open fire, you’ll find the perfect winter break on the island of Ireland. Here are six ways to enjoy what the island offers.
1 Winter hikes
Ireland’s dramatic landscape is a walker’s delight and on a bright winter’s day it’s a joy to head out on a hike. Scale the heights of the mighty Mournes in Northern Ireland, step out on the stunning Wicklow Way in Ireland’s Ancient East or challenge yourself to climb McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland. Less arduous but equally beautiful walks can be enjoyed along the island’s traffic-free greenways.
2 Star gazing
Winter is the perfect time to do a bit of star gazing and on the island of Ireland you can choose from three dark sky areas where thousands of stars are visible to the naked eye. County Kerry’s Dark Sky Reserve offers guided star gazing experiences, while in County Tyrone, the Om Dark Sky Park has a great Stars and Stones experience that combines astronomy and archaeology. The Mayo International Dark Sky Park’s festival (4–6 November) presents a programme that will enthral serious and amateur astronomers alike.
3 Cultural hotspots
If your perfect winter break involves delving into history and heritage, there is a wealth of castles, manors, museums and exhibitions to explore across the island. In Northern Ireland don’t miss Mount Stewart, a gorgeous neo-classical house, and the Game of Thrones Studio Tour, a must-visit for fans of the blockbuster TV series. Dublin has amazing museums, from the traditional National Museum of Ireland to the quirky Irish Rock and Roll Museum Experience, while elsewhere castles and cultural hotspots abound.
4 Wild swimming
There are lots of wonderful wild swimming spots on the island of Ireland from wild Atlantic waters to sheltered bays and lakes. Keem Bay on Achill Island was recently voted the number one wild swimming spot in the UK and Ireland. For more sheltered waters head to beautiful Lough Erne in County Fermanagh or to the glacial fjord of Carlingford Lough, County Louth. Remember to bring a wetsuit, these waters are cold!
5 Festival fun
You are never far from a festival on the island of Ireland and wintertime is no exception. Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the acclaimed Belfast International Arts Festival (running until 6 November) is the ideal way for arts lovers to spend a weekend. In December, Christmas festivals such as Waterford Winterval light up the island, while Dublin’s two-day New Year Festival is a stomping way to end the year. In January, Ireland’s biggest festival of trad and folk music, TradFest Temple Bar keeps the festival vibe going.
6 Cosy retreats
If relaxing by an open fire, savouring fine food, enjoying gorgeous views and experiencing world-class spa treatments appeal, you’ll be spoiled for choice on the island of Ireland. Hole up in Blackhead lighthouse, County Antrim, to watch the vagaries of the winter sea, or head to Knockranny House Hotel and Spa, County Mayo, for some serious pampering. For an unforgettable experience, treat yourself to a stay in Adare Manor, County Limerick, recently named the number one resort in the world by Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2022.