The Best Time to Visit Northern Ireland

An Insider Guide to Choosing the Perfect Time

Weather, public holidays, daylight, peak season and opening times, here’s what you need to know when planning the timing of your Northern Ireland trip.

Contents

1. Embracing the light: daylight hours make a difference

2. Weather insights: pack a raincoat and you’ll be grand!

3. Year-round hospitality: we’re mostly always open

4. Steering clear of peak times can save ££

5. The golden window: ideal timeframes


1. Embracing the light: daylight hours make a difference

Portstewart Strand - Surfing on a summer evening
Portstewart Strand – Surfing on a summer evening, 2 June, 8:40pm

Northern Ireland’s geographical location places us quite far north – akin to Denmark, Newfoundland, and Russia’s Omsk. As a result, we have dark winters with just seven hours of daylight in the darkest months, but we have amazing long days in the summer where it barely gets dark. For visitors this means that coming in winter really cuts short your sightseeing time but in mid-summer you will have daylight from 5am to 10pm. You’ll fit two days into one!

For your reference:

  • Early Spring (28 February): Sunrise 7:15 am / Sunset 6 pm
  • Mid-Summer (21 June): Sunrise 5 am / Sunset 10 pm
  • Late Autumn/Fall (31 October): Sunrise 7:30 am / Sunset 5 pm
  • Mid-Winter (21 December): Sunrise 8:45 am / Sunset 4 pm

Remember, daylight-saving changes occur, with clocks springing forward by an hour at 1 am on the last Sunday of March and falling back by an hour at 2 am on the last Sunday of October.

Winter sunset and snow
Winter still has its charms – sunset and rare snowfall – 12 December, 4pm


2. Weather insights: pack a raincoat and you’ll be grand!

A rainstorm passing by
A rainstorm passing by doesn’t ruin a walk

Although Northern Ireland shares its latitude with places like Denmark and Newfoundland, we benefit from the warming and dampening effect of the ‘North Atlantic drift’, an ocean current bringing warm water up from the equator.

Famously, that means it rains a lot here with average monthly rainfall set between about 60-80mm February to September, rising to around 90-100mm October to January. However, typically the rain bands pass over quickly and you are soon back to sunshine and the big, big blue skies you see in so many photos on this website. Check the Met Office website for more detail.

It also never gets very cold with the temperature rarely dipping below freezing in winter, but neither does it get very hot; we consider 23 centigrade a heatwave.

For weather considerations, timing isn’t overly crucial; however, carrying a raincoat is!


3. Year-round hospitality: we’re mostly always open

Giants Causeway in November
Giant’s Causeway is always open – there’s something bracing about the causeway in November!

Like most places in the world, attractions do have restricted opening hours off season however Northern Ireland’s icons – Giant’s Causeway, Titanic Belfast, the Dark Hedges, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle, and Londonderry Derry City walls – remain open throughout the year. Smaller and outdoor attractions, such as boat trips, do take a hiatus in winter but usually start opening up again around Easter.

When it comes to events it’s true that the summer months are hectic with festivals and activities, but there is still a lot going on through the winter months including ‘Derry Halloween’, St Patrick’s Day in March, Belfast Tradfest and other arts and music festivals, beer festivals and Christmas Fairs. Check our annual events calendar to get an idea of what is on through a typical year!

The warm cosy pubs are always open (during legal opening hours of course)!


4. Steering clear of peak times can save ££

May events and scenes in Northern Ireland
May is often a pleasant month with warmer weather and events such as the Balmoral Agricultural Show, the NW200 road race and the Rathlin Sound Festival in Ballycastle

Northern Ireland’s summer school break spans July 1 to September 1 when accommodation prices surge alongside demand. If you plan a trip during this period, early booking is essential to secure accommodation, but also to get the best value for money. The best places will always get booked up first!

Other busy periods also coincide with other school holidays and public holidays such as Easter, and big events such as the NW200 road race which is held every year in May in Portrush. Check our annual events calendar so that you can take these holidays and events into account when planning your trip.


Browse accomodation

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5. The golden window: ideal timeframes

St Patrick's Centre and Down Cathedral in Downpatrick
St Patrick’s Centre and Down Cathedral in Downpatrick where St Patrick is said to be buried – open all year round

Let’s quickly address the time when Northern Ireland might not be at its best – January and February. These months tend to be dark, cold, wet and a lot of smaller attractions are closed, including some accommodation. However, there are still festivals (Imbolc, Belfast Tradfest) and a warm pub fire to brighten your days so if you’re visiting then, you’ll still have a fabulous time.

Other than that, here’s a summary of the best times to visit:

  • Any period from March to December is favourable for a Northern Ireland adventure since nobody really comes for the weather.
  • July and August are fun with so many festivals and long, long days – but secure accommodation and book attractions in advance to make the most of your visit.
  • To sidestep crowds while still enjoying warmer weather and longer days, May-June and September-October are often regarded as the golden window.

Plan wisely, and let Northern Ireland enchant you with its myriad experiences throughout the year. For more details on annual events, attractions, and planning, explore our annual events calendar. 

 

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