Thinking about traveling to Ireland in December? Wondering what it is really like? While I am not an expert, I can share what I have found from my two trips in south County Tipperary (2012) and County Wicklow (2014).
The Weather. The published average temperature is 48F. I have found that it is relatively accurate. But don’t be surprised if you see the upper-fifties or even freezing temperatures. Rain is a given, but the sun will also shine … sometime in tandem. Simply plan on dressing in layers. Oh, and wool socks are a must!
Twenty Shades of Green. The countryside goes from forty shades to about twenty. The areas that I have traveled in December (south-central to southeast) still have green grass. There are plenty of pine trees and moss begins to cover everything. There are deep browns and the yellows can light up like fire under sunlight. They blend together giving the colors a deep, earthy tone.
Driving. There are less people on the roads … Yeah! Irish drivers still zip around those sharp bends. There are two things I noticed this trip. First, the sun stays lower on the horizon. Therefore, when you are driving south, the sun can be blinding. Even more so if the roads are wet and creating a glare. It is easy to fix … sunglasses. The second, if the temperature does go below zero, frost may form in the road. It creates black ice. I found listening to the radio for road warnings helped.
Attractions. This can be a bit of an obstacle. Many places close in October. The large attractions can be open. I did experience a new trend in 2014. Many places that would normally be closed were actually open for Christmas activities. While tours may not be available, the grounds are open for wandering. I suggest using the Internet to confirm which places are open; tour books may be inaccurate.
Attractions II. The one thing I love about December is that it there are plenty of ruins that are open twenty-four hours. Take advantage of them. They are part of Ireland’s history. And it is real fun to traipse across a field or two.
The Coastline. I discovered the southeast coastline. It can be a bit breezy, but the colors are fantastic. There are often trails to follow and I found myself mesmerized by the fishing boats.
Less Tourists. It can get a bit claustrophobic in the summer with all the tourists. Trying to take that iconic picture? It can be difficult with the twenty people trying to do the same thing. In December, you can show up and the place is yours. I had Glendalough to myself for an hour. When people did arrive, it was a small fraction of the summer months.
Christmas Decorations. Do not expect to see every town decked out. You will find wreaths on doors and some towns hang lights. The larger cities have Christmas markets and they can be a great way to taste a variety of foods and find local artisian wares. The larger attractions do decorate a bit more for the tourists, but in December, I believe the country decorates for the locals.
Ireland in December is definitely more than ‘doable’. I will admit that I was a bit unprepared in 2012. It took a few days to adjust. I packed the wrong clothes and I expected more activities in the rural areas. I adjusted and it turned into a great vacation. This 2014 vacation has been wonderful. I bit of rest along the way, many great landscapes, a few fields and ruins … and I am already thinking ahead to my next winter trip.