Ireland is never too cold to enjoy, and we often get delightful winter mornings with clear blue skies and sunshine. Make the most of it with a cliff-top stroll on Achill Island on the Wild Atlantic Way, enjoy tall tales along the Causeway Coast, or explore the hidden mysteries of countless castles in Ireland’s Ancient East. And if we do ever get a dusting of snow, well, just wrap up well and enjoy!
Tuck into some of Ireland’s traditional dishes, such as a hearty bowl of Irish stew or seafood chowder, to warm you from the inside out. In County Cork, the local delicacy is spiced beef, cooked with sugar, spices and berries. Pick some up at Tom Durcan’s stall in the English Market; or go one step further with the Guinness and cider spiced beef from McCarthy’s of Kanturk.
What can we say? The atmosphere in our cities is electric during winter. Dublin’s Grafton Street lights up with all things festive, while the New Year's Festival rocks across the city for two action-packed days. In Belfast, catch a show at the MAC, browse to your heart’s content at the Christmas Market in Belfast’s City Hall, or enjoy some afternoon tea at Titanic Belfast. Meanwhile, Waterford’s Winterval transforms this Viking city into a twinkly winter wonderland.
There are some spots on the island that simply transform during winter. Take the white-capped Mourne Mountains in County Down, where author CS Lewis was inspired to create Narnia; or Mayo’s Croagh Patrick, that glistens so magically when snow finally settles on its scree-covered peaks. Further south, the rugged landscape of Cork’s Beara Peninsula is only embellished by the howling winds and crashing waves that whip along its incredible coastline.
On a cold night in Ireland, the pub is where everyone gathers – and everyone’s welcome! Check out An Spailpín Fánach in Cork city, where some of the area’s finest musicians and singers regularly get together for great trad sessions – if you love your Irish music this is one you won’t want to miss. Or snuggle up out of the cold with a hot whiskey at Strangford Lough’s Saltwater Brig in County Down – you might even get some pancakes fresh off the griddle…
The daddy of the winter solstice spectacle has to be Newgrange in County Meath’s Brú na Bóinne, where a lucky few are selected by yearly lottery to enter the burial mound during its phenomenal 5,000-year-old light show. There are other places that will make you go wow, too. At Slieve Gullion in County Armagh, the southern passage tomb has a winter solstice alignment at sunset; while at Beaghmore in County Tyrone, watch the sunrise align with the stone rows. Magical.
Staying in a lightkeeper’s house tops our list of wonderfully unique winter hideaways: check out Blackhead Lightkeeper’s House in County Antrim, where stunning seascapes are guaranteed. Out west at Temple House, County Sligo, expect a welcome as warm as the fireside from the Percevels. Their family home since 1655, this historic pile overlooks Temple House Lake and the 13th century Knights Templar castle. Bliss.
Think the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) only materialise in Scandinavia, North America or Greenland? Think again. Thanks to its location and its low levels of light pollution, Ireland's northern coastline offers amazing opportunities to see this natural phenomenon. Try a visit to the Inishowen Peninsula, where Aurora sightings are frequent. While there’s no guarantee they’ll appear when you visit, spaceweather.com can send you Aurora alerts!