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3 days in Ireland in December--where to go? What is even accessible?

We are going to be in London in December for 10 days to pick up our daughter from a study abroad program. Because my family is from Northern Ireland and she will not be traveling there during her semester I'd love to visit for a few days. I realize 3 days is barely enough to scratch the surface of any area but we are open to visiting either Northern Ireland or The Republic of Ireland. What is the best landing point for a December visit? Will we be limited in what we can see by weather and time of year? Anything special to see during that time? We are interested in landscape and history but realize landscape may be difficult due to weather. Thanks in advance to anyone who has input!

Posted by
317 posts

Greetings from Ireland,

Growing up in Northern Ireland I can say from experience that there isn't a whole lot happening at Christmas time. Belfast does have good Christmas markets, Derry to a lesser extent, its really a time for families to reunite and some huge gatherings in the pubs and nightclubs. Not sure if that would be the scene for an American family visiting as it can be pretty boisterous (the Romans didnt try to conquer us for a reason!), but it might be a highlight for you.
During Christmas Day and Dec 26th, the place is pretty much a ghost-town. Dublin quite similar. Though the latter has some good horse-racing on offer.
Dingle is a real gem for Christmas, the best and liveliest place in Ireland during the period, google it to understand why. its a massive festival. But accommodation is limited and Dingle isn't the easiest place to get to, I know as I now live there.
Best wishes to you and your clan
le meas/with respect
Stephen McPhilemy
Rick Steves Ireland Tour-Guide
Dingle & Derry

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you kindly for your recommendations -- we will be traveling the first half of the month-- will holiday festivities be in swing at that point? I am so thrilled to be able to visit at all but it's a daunting task to choose just one place that will give us the most bang for our short time. We don't need to have a schedule that keeps us going going going just something that will give us a taste of a day in the life of Ireland.
Thank you again for any additional input!

Posted by
5754 posts

You can fly directly into either Beflast or Dublin from London. Easy 2hour train or bus ride between both capital cities. I'd consider the following. Early flight London to Belfast. Stay over 2 nights at either city centre or Titanic Quarter Premiere Inn. The reason I dont suggest the Premiere Inn in the Cathedral Quarter is it can be noisy with all the adjacent pubs but maybe in December with the wetter and colder weather outside revelers will be inside. The Duke Of York pub is enjoyable as are the cobblestone alleys around it. Personally I prefer the small intimate pub The Spainard.

During your travel dates the Christmas market should be set up outside Belfast's City Hall. At least it was 2 years ago. Its great fun. You'll also enjoy meandering about St George's market which is a combo food and flea market. Titanic Musuem is stellar and must see. You should also visit the Crumlin Road Gaol and take a black cab tour of Shankill Road and the Troubles.

I'd be remiss if I didn't say you must have the seafood chowder at Mourne's Seafood off Bank. Its next to Kelley Cellars pub and kind of behind St Mary's church where theres's a funky grotto complete with statue to Mary. BEST seafood chowder anywhere! A bowl of their mussels. Oh My!! Honestly, I dream of that chowder.

From Belfast take the first train or bus back to Dublin. Its been nearly 2 decades since I've overnighted in Dublin so not much help as to where to stay. Temple Bar area was divey then. Its upscale and overpriced now. Still tourists enjoy it. Personally if I had one day in Dublin and it wasn't raining I'd rent a car at the airport and drive to Glendalough. About an hours drive. In my mind Glendaluogh and the Wicklow mountains are one of the more beautiful spots on the planet. Then again if weather isn't your friend the one spot I wouldn't miss seeing in Dublin is the Book of Kells which throughly fascinated me. However, what I saw and how the tour was set up 20 years past is far different from what I understand the tour is today. All I can say was when we walked upstairs to see the library it was an oh my moment. In fact a friend who was with me and is an avid reader said "when I die bury me here!"

Check airfares from both cities and see what's best for your budget and fly home from there unless you've already booked a return flight to the US from Heathrow.

Remember you'll need Euros in Ireland and Pounds in Belfast.

Lastly an Internet search of Christmas Activites in Belfast and Dublin should yield other things to see. By reading other posts on this forum you can get input about what else to experience in Dublin.

Enjoy your short respite and all you can do is pray for cloudy but not rainy weather.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you so much to both of you. I appreciate the help in beginning to wrap my head around the possibilities! I will definitely take your expert advice and see what will work best for the three of us. Best to you both!

Posted by
317 posts

Hi Sarah
I didnt know you are travelling the first half of December, if thats the case then the festive celebrations wont at all be in any swing except for the Christmas markets in Belfast (which are a fairly recent phenomenon, 5-7 years) and maybe an outdoor ice-rink in Dublin. Other than that it'll just be like travelling in Ireland at any other time of the year, but with less crowds, shorter days and cheaper prices.