Home Travel Tips Ireland in January: all you need to know to plan a perfect trip

Ireland in January: all you need to know to plan a perfect trip

by Mama Loves Ireland
irish mouhntain on winter day with trail

All you need to know to plan a trip to Ireland in January: what to expect from the weather, what to pack, the best things to do in January in Ireland.

January is the heart of winter in Ireland. It is a dark and wet month, more suited to sitting in front of a fire with a cup of hot chocolate than sightseeing: however, this doesn’t mean visiting Ireland in January is a bad idea!

While you will need to wrap up well and come to terms with rather short hours of daylight, January in Ireland also has some perks, ranging from smaller crowds to lower prices and pretty spectacular hotel stays.

If you can choose when to visit Ireland, I believe you will have a better experience in spring or summer. However, if a trip to Ireland in January is in the cards for you, there are many ways to make the most of your time here.

In this travel guide, I share all you need to know to plan a trip to Ireland in January, what to expect and how to plan your time.

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Why visit Ireland in January

The main reasons for an Irish vacation in January are:

Low crowds – January is low tourism season in Ireland so you have most places for yourself

Low prices or at least lower than in high season!

Great interiors and museum experiences – if you come to Ireland hoping to enjoy cozy interiors, restaurants and museums, January is a great time!

To compensate for the bad weather, hotels and restaurants go above and beyond to make their rooms and lobbies welcoming and they end up being a real treat!  

Why not to visit Ireland in January

January is not a good time to visit Ireland if you are hoping to tap into the wild and wonderful scenery of the country.  

While, on a good day, it is possible to go on a short hike, weather conditions and short hours of daylight mean several areas may be treacherous or inaccessible.

Driving is also dangerous in darkness and mountains roads can get dangerous or even close.

If coming to Ireland in January to enjoy the outdoors, keeping your plans flexible and abiding by local rules and weather warnings is paramount.

The weather in Ireland in January: what to expect

January is the heart of the winter in Ireland and you should expect cold weather and rain.

In practice, this means you will need a good winter coat, rainproof shoes, scarf and hat.

Snow in Ireland in January is possible especially on the mountains: how much or how little of it is hard to predict; usually, however, it is a light dusting more than a full storm but we recently had those too! Keeping an eye on daily weather updates is helpful (and a national pastime!)

Mountain walk in snow in Dublin, Ireland: kids on ticknowck trail in snow
Mountain walk in snow in Dublin, Ireland

What to pack for Ireland in January

For January in Ireland, you need to pack winter clothing. Long sleeve tops, woolen jumpers, thermal base layer (top only) if used to warmer weather, rainproof shoes or boots, proper winter coat, scarf and hat.

You can find my complete packing list for Ireland in January here.

The best things to do in Ireland in January

The best things to do in Ireland in January are a mix of traditional sightseeing and enjoying Ireland’s cozy interiors.

These are our favorite winter activities in Ireland, weather-proof!

Marvel at the breathtaking Book of Kells – Dublin

The Book of Kells is one of the treasures of Ireland. It is a priceless medieval manuscript written and decorated by monks in the IX century AD and it is a unique testimony to the culture and skills of the time.

The book is preserved in the Trinity College Library, itself worth visiting and included in the ticket.

This is a perfect activity for a winter day in Dublin as the Book of Kells exhibition is fully indoors.

Get tickets here (self-guided) or book a tour here

Take a tour of Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle is one of the most significant castles in Ireland.

Child run-in gin front of Dublin Castle

Located in Dublin city center, the castle has an impressive medieval tower but what makes it stand out is not its appearance.

Rather, Dublin castle was the seat of the British power in Ireland and it is now used for government receptions and events.

Because of this role, it is a great place to tour if you want to learn about Irish history: the elegant interior will envelop this history lesson in a veil of beauty!   

Book tickets here.

Visit St Patrick’s Cathedral and the Marsh’s Library

San Patrick cathedral and the attached Marsh’s library are two of my favorite attractions in Dublin for a winter day.

The cathedral is impressive and significant, a wonderful example of Irish gothic architecture; the library is stunning and holds a secret: it hosts a ghost!

The best way to visit is to start from the cathedral and then move onto the library around the corner.

Get St Patrick’s cathedral tickets here and find Marsh’s Library opening hours here.

Have afternoon tea in one of Ireland’s most beautiful hotels

Sitting down for a cup of tea is traditional in Ireland (they say the average Irish person drinks over 1400 cups of tea per year!) and having high tea in a fancy hotel is one of the best ways to partake in this experience giving it a fun twist!

Multi layered tray with afternoon tea cakes
Afternoon tea served on a tiered cake stand

There are many places offering afternoon tea in Ireland. Some we recommend are:

  • The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin
  • Merrion Hotel, Dublin
  • Adare Manor, Limerick
  • Waterford Castle, Waterford

Visit the Guinness Storehouse

The Guinness storehouse is a huge building and an iconic Dublin attraction. In the old brewery, you can learn how Guinness is made, you can taste it in the fabulous gravity bar (it has 360 degrees views of the city) and you find many shops and even areas that are fun to see.

Get tickets here

Visit a distillery

If you love spirits, then you will love the many options to visit distilleries in Ireland.

The tours are informative, the tasting always worth it and they are the best places to get souvenirs for whiskey lovers. Some tours you may enjoy are:

Teeling Whiskey Distillery, Dublin

Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery Experience, Dublin

Jameson Experience (day trip from Cork)

Take a walk down Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile

Kilkenny is one of the prettiest cities in Ireland and one of the best examples of a medieval town in the country.

Kilkenny castle ireland

The city develops around the so-called medieval mile, a road along which you find the city’s main attractions.

Kilkenny is at its most pleasant in good weather; however, there are many indoor attractions on your way to let you escape the cold!

Kilkenny Castle and tea room, the Kilkenny medieval museum and St Canice’s cathedral are all must-sees.

Find here >>> our complete guide to a day in Kilkenny

Enjoy the buzzy atmosphere of Cork’s English market

Cork is one of the liveliest cities in Ireland and it has a fantastic historical market that is great for winter days too: the English market!

Here, you find stalls, cafes and restaurants and a wide array of people that is guaranteed to make your day.

Located in the city center, it is a great focal point for a day in Cork, before heading to the local shops and Cork university campus, both pleasant stops in the city.

Visit the gardens of Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle is one of the most or possibly the most visited attraction in Ireland.

Blarney castle against grey sky
Blarney castle against grey sky

The castle has large, impressive grounds that are best visited in good weather; however, good weather also brings crowds of which the castle is blessedly devoid of in January!

Make sure you wrap up and wear good walking shoes as the grounds of the castle can get slippery in rain.

Find here >>> our complete guide to Blarney Castle

Visit the cliffs of Moher – maybe

The cliffs of Moher are one of my favorite spots in Ireland and I always include them in my itineraries.

January is not the best time to see them; however, if the weather is on your side, it is possible to go and enjoy them. If you catch a sunny day, they are simply spectacular!

Cliffs of Moher in winter
Cliffs of Moher view

The main thing to remember to see the cliffs in January is that here the weather is king: make sure you only go if there is no weather warning, no storms and no adverse weather events forecast. The best way to be safe is to keep an eye on the cliff’s official site here.

Once at the cliffs, do not leave the manned path and do not venture away from the visitors center in case of poor visibility.

Find here >>> our complete guide to visiting the Cliffs of Moher

See Kylemore Abbey in winter

Kylemore Abbey is in Connemara, easily one of the rainiest areas of Ireland. However, it can be a bit of a treat in January!

With fewer crowds and possibly a dusting of snow, Kylemore in January has a special charm; bring rain and mud resistant shoes for comfort.

Find here >>> a recommended day tour of Connemara and Kylemore Abbey from Galway

See Ireland’s most famous monastic sites without the crowds

Ireland has stunning monastic sites that attract crowds of visitors from all over the world, especially in spring and summer. In January, however, they tend to be quieter, which means you can truly tap into their charm!

I recommend visiting both Glendalough and Clonmacnoise, very different from each other but both incredibly fascinating.

Glendalough on a cold day
Glendalough on a cold day

Stay in a castle hotel

Ireland has lovely castle hotels that, in winter, are lovely for a getaway.

Those I found most regal are Waterford castle hotel, Ashford Castle, Adare Manor and Dromoland Castle.  

Have a spa break

Ireland has lovely spas and you can get great spa break deals in winter.

Places you may enjoy are Brooklodge at Macreddin Village in Wicklow, Carton House Spa and Wellness in Kildare, Espa at Powerscourt in Wicklow and Shore Island Spa in Galway.

Take a traditional Irish dance class

Irish dance is super fun, danced to the beat of impossible-to-stay-still-music.

If you want to get the right moves, you can have fun with this Irish dance class, which is guaranteed fun for all ages and a fun way to escape the rain for a while!

Enjoy a local pub

A pint in a local pub is one of the best parts of a January trip to Ireland.

Pubs are everywhere and you’ll have no trouble finding one: the most traditional ones tend to have a limited choice of drinks and food but plenty of atmospheres.

Many modern establishments are a mix between a pub and a trendy bar – especially in the cities, the choice is endless. In the country is where you, often, still find what matches the traditional idea of an Irish pub.

traditional pub in Dublin

Visit Epic Ireland, Dublin

Epic Ireland is a fantastic museum in Dublin dedicated to Irish emigration and diaspora. It is a large modern space with plenty of things to see and do and a fascinating area where you can trace your Irish roots!

Get your ticket here

Visit Cobh Heritage Center

Cobh is a delightful town in Co Cork with a stunning waterfront and an interesting emigration museum.

This is the last place where the Titanic stopped and it is also where you can see reconstructions of transatlantic ships and learn all about Irish emigration.

Find here >>> info and tickets

Visit the stunning Titanic experience (Belfast)

If you are interested in the powerful story of the Titanic, then you cannot miss the place where it was built.

Titanic Belfast, outside
Titanic Experience, Belfast

The Titanic shipyard is in Belfast and it is breathtaking: one of the best places to visit in Ireland in January.

Find tickets here

Take a tour of Belfast

Belfast is a beautiful city with important history and the best way to learn about it is by joining a tour of its murals and political history.

There are several you can choose from: in January, bus and taxi ones are best in case of bad weather:

Belfast Political Taxi Tour

Belfast Political Wall Tours

Belfast conflict 3h walking tour

Visit Newgrange Passage Tomb

Newgrange passage tomb is one of the two UNESCO world heritage sites in Ireland and a very impressive place to visit.

The tomb dates from 3200 BC and it is known worldwide for a special phenomenon: this otherwise dark grave lights up with natural light at the winter solstice!

Newgrange is one of Ireland’s most popular attractions and January is a good month to visit as, usually, a little less busy.

Get tickets here or book a day trip to Newgrange from Dublin here.

Ireland in January with kids

January is probably one of the worst times to visit Ireland with kids (sorry for the brutal honesty!).

At this time, most of the best kids’ attractions in Ireland such as farms and outdoor parks are off-limits because of the weather and the short hours of daylight make outdoor pursuits more difficult.

That said, there are several things you can do in Ireland with kids in winter.

Imaginosity children museum (Dublin)

W5 interactive discovery center Belfast

Explorium Dublin

Blackrock observatory Cork

Ailwee caves, Clare

You can find here >>> my complete guide to the best things to do in Ireland with kids

I hope you enjoyed this overview of the best things to do in Ireland in January and it was helpful to plan your winter trip to Ireland/ Safe travel planning!

Tips for visiting Ireland in January – pin this!

Image of Irish mountains in winter with text: Ireland in January, trip planning guide

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