First, happy St. Patrick’s Day!! My favorite holiday! Since I’m not in Ireland (too bad!), I will be spending St. Patrick’s Day at my favorite bar, Morgan’s, in Tappan, New York! With lots of inexpensive flights to and from Ireland these days, St. Patrick’s Day is a great time to plan your next getaway to Ireland. Dan and I went most recently last Thanksgiving, and we had a lovely time!!
Dan and I have somewhat of a trend of going to colder climates for Thanksgiving (or in the winter) – we’ve been to Stockholm, Montreal, Italy, and Quebec City. We’ve also been to warm destinations, including Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, but people always ask about the colder destinations. Was it worth it? Was the weather terrible? Would you do it again? Well, the answer is almost always yes! It has always been worth it, we would re-do all of our off-season trips, and the weather has never been terrible (fingers crossed!).
This past Thanksgiving, we traveled to Ireland for the long weekend – leaving Tuesday night and coming back Sunday evening. Yes, it was a short trip but Ireland is only a 6.5 hour flight from New York (about the same as going to California!). We toured Ireland few years ago, and we had really been wanting to go back! And, we got married in Portugal in August, so we really were not into planning an exotic getaway that required a lot of work. Our long weekend in Ireland worked out great and was exactly what we were looking for!
Since we were only in Ireland for five days and we had been to Ireland before, we wanted to focus our time in one or two towns, and end close to the airport. This ended up working out to two days in Dublin and two days in Galway.
Our flight landed in Dublin at the absurd hour of 5:00. Woah. We got really, really lucky and our hotel, the Jurys Inn on Parnell Street, had a room ready for us!! A Thanksgiving miracle! We napped for a couple hours, showered, and then set out to explore Dublin! On our first day, we did the Guinness Connoisseurs Tasting Experience and had dinner at Gallagher’s Boxty House. We ended our evening with a pint at the touristy, yet super fun, Gogarty’s pub in Temple Bar. It did rain our first day; that did not really matter though, because most of our activities were indoor activities.
On Thursday, Thanksgiving day in the US, we took a morning train from Dublin to Galway, which took about 2.5 hours. You can see the ride below, and it was quite stunning. Thankfully, it did not rain this day, nor the rest of our trip!
After check-in in Galway (we also got to check-in here early – yay Jurys Inn properties!), we lunched at the most delicious pizza restaurant – the Dough Bros. For reals, do not hate on Irish pizza before you try it; it was awesome. We spent the remainder of the afternoon walking around Galway and ended the day with a fancy Thanksgiving dinner at Ard Bia at Nimmo’s, one of our favorite restaurants in Galway!
Our third day of the trip was spent on a food tour in Galway. I feel like people always hate on Irish food, but I actually enjoy Irish food. It was nice to try a lot of delicious , local foods! It was also nice to have a local show us around town and give us some tips on Galway!
On our final full day in Ireland, we started the morning with a visit to the St. Nicholas church market, where I had a complet crepe from Yummy Crepes. Awesome!! We also visited a Christmas fair and picked up some snacks for the train from Griffins Bakery. We took the afternoon train back to Dublin (again, about 2.5 hours).
Once back in Dublin Dublin, we walked down the fun Grafton street toured the newly opened Teeling Distillery, which was really cool. Definitely check out Teeling’s if you are in town! We almost skipped it but we really glad that we did not. The Teeling Distillery tour is so much better than the Jameson Experience in Dublin.
We ended our final full day in Dublin day at a really good restaurant, L. Mulligan Grocer. L. Mulligan Grocer is a craft beer pub (i.e. no Guinness) that also serves creative and delicious food from a limited menu. It was one of our favorite meals of the trip! Favorite dish: the scotch egg!
Our last morning was spent back in Dublin and enjoying the very large breakfast at our hotel. We eventually caught an Uber to the airport and were back in New York by dinner time!
Some Thoughts On Off-Season Travel In Ireland
1. Most tourist attractions are open year-round, but have shorter hours in the off-season (November – March) and some, especially those outdoor or out-of-the-way spots, are closed in the off-season. Call to confirm hours if there is something you are dying to see.
2. Bring rain gear and clothes that layer. However, this is really a year-round Ireland tip! It can be cold and rainy in the middle of June. You are certainly not guaranteed to have better weather during any particular time of year.
3. Restaurant reservations are easier to get in the off-season and most tourist attractions are less crowded during the off-season.
4. Ireland puts up Christmas decorations EARLY (like mid-November). We enjoyed them in both Dublin and Galway!
5. Plane tickets (at least from the US) are often much less expensive in the off-season. We got our tickets for $425 round-trip on Aer Lingus.
6. No, the Irish do not celebrate US Thanksgiving, and you are going to have a very difficult time finding a restaurant serving a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
7. It gets dark early, around 4:30 p.m., which is fine if you plan your sightseeing early.
8. On that note, if you arrive really early in the morning (often the case from the US East Coast), you may want to consider booking a hotel room the night before, so that you can have a place to relax before the sun comes up. Sightseeing in the cold and dark morning is not ideal. We got really lucky that our room was ready; this is usually not the case!
In sum, would I go back to Ireland over Thanksgiving? Absolutely! And I would recommend it to others, especially if it is your only opportunity to go! That being said, the “ideal” Irish vacation is probably best hand in the middle of Summer, when the days are longer and the weather is more likely to be somewhat nice. If you do go in the off-season, follow these tips and you will have a great time!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Jurys Inn Parnell Street: Moore Street Plaza, Parnell St, Dublin 1, D01 E0H3. Prices vary by time of year/weekend. Advance booking strongly suggested. Breakfast not included in daily rates.
Guinness Storehouse: St James’s Gate, Ushers, Dublin 8, Ireland. Open daily 9:30 – 17h. Buy tickets online in advance for a discount!
Gallagher’s Boxty House: 20-21 Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland. Open daily 11 – 22h30. Casual, although advance reservations are welcome and often necessary. While touristy, this is a good spot in Temple Bar.
Irish Rail: Irish rail. The place to buy your train tickets. Keep your ticket for the entire duration of your trip (you often need it to exit the train).
Jurys’ Inn Galway: Quay St, Galway, H91 E8D7, Ireland. Big box hotel in an excellent location. A good choice for Americans who are not big into traveling. Make reservations in advance through their website. Breakfast not included in daily rates.
The Dough Bros: 1, Cathedral Building, Middle St, Galway, Ireland. Open daily 12h – 21h. Reservations not required. Don’t write off the pizza in Galway!
Ard Bia at Nimmo’s: Spanish Arch, Long Walk, Galway, H91 E9XA, Ireland. Open daily 10h – 15h and 18h – 21h. Reservations recommended for dinner.
Galway Food Tours: The only food tour company in Galway offering several different tours (including Vegan tours). Reservations should be made via their website in advance, as the tours are small and they do book up in advance.
Teeling Distillery: 13-17 Newmarket, Dublin 8, D08 KD91, Ireland. Open daily 10 – 17h40. Book online in advance as tours often sell out. Teeling’s also has a fabulous cocktail bar on premises. No need to take the tour to visit the cocktail bar or the gift shop.
L. Mulligan Grocer:18 Stoneybatter, Arran Quay, Dublin 7, Ireland. Open daily 16h – 23h30 (later on weekends). I recommend emailing for a reservation; they are quite responsive.
Radisson Blu Dublin: Western hotel in downtown Dublin. Good location to walk to Grafton Street, etc.
ON A BUDGET
If you are on a budget, November is a prime time to visit Ireland. Plane tickets are cheaper, hotel rates are generally cheaper (as long is there is nothing big happening where you are visiting). My only recommendation is to check site/attraction hours before you visit and bringing clothes that layer, including an umbrella, hat, and gloves. Nothing will ruin your budget like buying a new wardrobe in Ireland because you did not pack properly. There are also a lot of free things going on around the holidays, often starting even before Thanksgiving definitely check these out. Finally, attractions, especially the more expensive ones, such as the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Experience, offer small discounts if you book online in advance.