IRELAND’S SHOULDER SEASONS:
SPRING AND FALL
Summer in Ireland is a fantastic experience, but do you know that the spring and fall are equally magical?
These are known as the shoulder seasons, and they are becoming a popular alternative to the peak season for travelers. In Ireland, you still get to enjoy the amazing scenery and cultural activities and great hospitality, but in spring and fall the island is less crowded and also less expensive than the high season of summer.
Plus, during the shoulder seasons, the Irish people are more relaxed and able to spend time enjoying their surroundings too. It’s a perfect time to enjoy Ireland at its most relaxed. Finally, because of its temperate climate, Ireland is in full bloom in the spring and it has a fall foliage season that of muted orange, reds and yellows. As New Englanders, you’ll feel right at home in either season.
Here are ideas for seeing Ireland this spring and fall.
WALK LIKE THE IRISH
The Siúl Eile Trail (another walk) walking program reveals rural Ireland – and the people who live there - at their best. Surrounded by four mountain ranges – the Knockmealdowns, Galtees, Slievenamon and the Comeraghs – the Tipperary Heritage Way is a 35 mile low-level linear walking route beginning in Cloheen and following the course of the River Suir northward toward the historic town of Cashel.
Spring walks take place in April and May, providing walkers a chance to enjoy the peace and tranquility at their own pace, stopping to take in the stunning views, ancient forests, flowing rivers, historic castles and the passage of nature while walking alongside people living in the area. siuleile.com
TRAVEL BY CANOE
Ireland’s amazing network of waterways offers a perfect place to take a canoe or kayaking trip. One journey of note is the 12.5-mile River Blackwater Canoe Trail in Ulster, which winds through beautiful countryside, from Maydown Bridge near Benburb in County Tyrone to Lough Neagh in County Armagh. A popular itinerary begins in The Moy, a village in Tyrone with a beautiful town square, antique shops and good restaurants. From Moy, canoe northeast to Coney Island, situated in Lough Neagh and owned by the National Trust. Here canoeists can camp overnight, or continue along the Lough Neagh Trail and the Lower Bann Trail on the other side of the Lough. The trail is spectacular in spring and fall.
BICYCLING THE WEST
Cyclists can explore the stunning West of Ireland by taking the four-day Great Western Greenway Trail, Ireland’s longest off-road cycling and walking trail. Based in County Mayo, the trail travels through historic towns such as Westport, Newport and Mulranny to small islands and nature havens. You’ll see castles, ancestral homesteads and historic houses as well as Ballycroy National Park, Clare Island in Clew Bay and Achill Island on the Currane Peninsula.
Along the way, you’ll find references to Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of Connacht, Ireland’s only two-towered lighthouse and Ireland’s first international Dark Sky Park, a place to watch thousands of stars and even meteor showers.
No matter what season you visit Ireland, you should put a visit to an Irish pub on your itinerary. Pubs are a beloved gathering place in cities, towns and villages across the island, a place where locals meet their neighbors after work or on the weekend.
The pub is a perfect place to grab a quick bite to eat, and a pint of Guinness, to have a conversation and a bit of fun. And in many pubs around Ireland, you’ll find entertainment on certain nights of the week – ranging from traditional Irish music to country and western.
Best of all, Irish pubs welcome tourists, especially the kind who want to engage with locals and to soak up the atmosphere. Don’t be surprised to find patrons from all around the world, enjoying a pint and the craic (fun).
There are dozens of Irish traditional festivals taking place around Ireland, culminating each August in the annual Fleadh Cheoil, an Irish music competition run by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (Irish Musicians Association), a non-profit Irish music organization that teaches and showcases the finest traditional musicians from around the world.
A buildup to the Fleadh Cheoil each spring is the Fleadh Nua (new festival) which features performances by some of Ireland's best young traditional musicians. Founded in 1974, the Fleadh Nua now offers 120 concerts, Céilís, sessions, recitals, sean nós dance competition and street entertainment.
The scene above is from the Ennis Fleadh Nua - just a twenty minute drive from Shannon Airport.