A Guide to Visiting Ireland in February

Visiting Ireland in February can be a great move. Once St. Patrick’s Day comes around in March things begin to get a little busier, tourist wise. And by Summer Ireland is very much filled with tourists checking out cool and interesting sights around the country. However, if you want to get here before its too busy, then February could be the right time.

Some things you can do that month include:

● Celebrate Biddy’s Day

● Visit Dublin

● Celebrate Chinese New Year

● See a Hurling Match

● Bray Comedy Festival

Celebrate Biddy’s Day down in County Kerry

At the start of February every year in the small town of Killorglin in Co. Kerry, Biddy’s Day is celebrated. Biddy’s day has its origins in a mash between ancient Celtic and Christian traditions. It celebrates the Irish Christian saint, Saint Bridget, but it also infuses the ancient Celtic celebration of Imbolg. It is believed that a visit from the Biddy was a sign of good luck.

The result in the cultural fusion is an unbelievably interesting experience where dozens of people dressed in eye grabbing straw hats dance, sing and celebrate around the town. Bonfires can also be seen and don’t be surprised that by the end of the day when someone in the crowd is announced King of the Biddy’s and are hence crowned on the spot.

Killorglin is in a beautiful spot of the country, so it’s worth heading down there even if you’re unlucky enough to miss Biddy’s Day.

Visit Dublin

There’s no denying that Dublin is an expensive city. Maybe not at the same level as Stockholm or New York, but it is still quite pricey. Dublin is no doubt one of the more expensive places to stay during your trip in Ireland, however if you come in February prices could be a little lower since it’s during off season.

There is a tonne of things to do in the capital if you decide to visit. I will just give you a brief run down of a few of those things below.

Check out Glasnevin Cemetery. The cemetery is rather large and is located at the north-side of the city. The reason why this cemetery is recommended is the fact that there are quite a few famous figures from Irish history that are buried on the grounds. This fact alone draws many people who are interested in seeing where these people are buried.

One person who was buried here includes Michael Collins. Collins was the leading figure on the Irish side during the Irish War of Independence toward the beginning of the twentieth century. He led a successful campaign against British forces who then in turn had to make several concessions under the Anglo-Irish Treaty. This treaty was the first real major step to complete independence from the Crown. However, a fierce Civil War ensued within Ireland after the Treaty was signed, leading to the death of Collins. Thus, every year in the cemetery there is a remembrance ceremony held for him.

Another significant Irish figure buried here is Constance Markievicz. She was born in London and came from a privileged background, however she eventually decided to join Irish forces that launched the unsuccessful 1916 Easter Rising against the British.

She is one of the most significant female figures in Irish history and she is noted for her involvement in the political process within Ireland after it gained independence from Britain.

The cemetery has a guided tour that will help you learn about these individuals and many more important people in Irish history who have graves there.

There is also a museum on the grounds and the cemetery is also located beside the beautiful National Botanic Gardens, so you can make your way to view the beautiful floral sights once you’ve seen the cemetery.

Another place in Dublin jam packed with history is Dublin Castle. The castle lies in the center of the city and was once the hub for British administrative rule in Ireland. Built on the site of a Viking settlement, the castle was mostly completed within the first half of the 13th century.

During the Irish War of Independence, it was a crucially important component of the British forces fight against Irish rebels. Many rebels were tortured and killed behind the walls of the castle during that war and during previous rebellions before it.

The castle has several museums on its premise including the Garda (Irish police) museum and the Revenue museum.  These two public bodies still maintain some of their offices to this day within the site.

The castle has also seen itself on the silver screen. The castle appeared in Michael Collins, the biographical Irish War of Independence film. This makes a lot of sense, considering many things of importance happened in Dublin Castle around the time of the War.

Below the castle you can view excavations that expose remains of the original Medieval castle’s wall. There is also part of an old town wall with an arch for a moat that can also be viewed. This will really give you sense of what the building was like when the castle was first build.

A Tower at Dublin Castle

The castle also contains a Medieval tower that is fully visible above ground and is one of the most visually significant features of the castle. The tower was built around the time the entire original castle was constructed, which means it is about an incredible 800 years old.  At times, the King’s treasure was even stored at the tower. Other times the tower was used to hold prisoners. One of the last uses for the tower was as a storage facility for many state records.

The Castle Gardens are another great feature of Dublin Castle. The grounds contain many beautiful and historically relevant sculptures that were commissioned. The main lawn in the gardens is believed to be located over the pool of water in which Dublin was named (Dubh Linn in Irish literally means ‘black’ ‘pool’). It is believed that Vikings settled and docked in and around this pool of water and then the town of Dublin sprung up around it. 

Celebrate Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is also celebrated in Ireland usually around February. Dublin has the most significant Chinese community in Ireland and hence would have the biggest celebrations. Like in China, the celebrations can span for over two weeks. They may not be as extravagant or massive as the New Year celebrations in China, however they are still a ton of fun.

Many buildings throughout Dublin red lights projected o them to signify the Chinese celebration. In addition to this there are usually some workshops that take place in the city relating to Chinese art and design.

There’s probably no better way to take part in the holiday than eating out in a Chinese restaurant. The city has many, but there is a large concentration of them in the north side of the city centre. Part of Parnell street in the north inner-city has received calls to be made into a Chinatown, however this still hasn’t come to reality. In the meantime, people should enjoy the several Chinese restaurants that are in the vicinity. I went to a Chinese restaurant on Capel street just off Parnell street with some Chinese friends. They all  stated that for them the place was top notch and was incredibly similar Chinese restaurants back in Asia .

Another amazing Chinese restaurant is in Sandyford in the south of the city. It is called China Sichuan. This is probably the nicest Chinese restaurant I’ve been to outside of China. The food and service is absolutely amazing. As the name suggests the restaurants serves delicious Sichuan food. You will also find several vegetarian options on their menus that are simply sublime.

See a Hurling Match

A Hurling Match

Hurling is one of Ireland’s oldest sports, with its origins dating back to 4,000 years ago. It has evolved a lot since that time, however much of its main components remain the same. It is a field sport where players use sticks (hurls) to carry a small ball called a ‘sliotar’. They run with the ball and try to hit it with the stick into or above the goals of the opposing team.

The sport is even referenced in ancient Irish mythology. Cú Chulainn is one of the most notable Irish mythological figures. He is said to have defended the northern province of Ulster single-handedly from the armies of Connaught. Cú Chulainn loved the sport of hurling throughout his life and would often play it with other children when he was young.

As legend goes, he was invited to the home of a smith named Culann for a feast. The smith however forget that he invited him and thus released his aggressive wolfhound to defend his house when Cú Chulainn arrived. Cú Chulainn defended himself with his hurl by firing a sliotar down the throat of the hound, killing it. Culann, the smith, of course wasn’t happy with this, so Cú Chulainn offered to raise a hound for him and guard his premises until the new hound was old enough. Up until that time Cú Chulainn was known as Setanta, however from the time he took over as guard of the smith’s home he became known as Cú Chulainn which means ‘Culann’s hound’.

Contemporary Hurling remains extremely popular particularly in the southern half of the country. Some counties where the sport is very popular include Limerick, Kilkenny, Clare, Galway and Cork to name a few. Contemporary hurling’s most popular variety is that of inter-county competitions where counties play each other for a range of titles.

The most prominent of the hurling championships that take place include the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. This competition usually takes place between the months of May to August in Ireland. However, another league that runs a bit earlier is the National Hurling League, which usually takes place between January and April. This league might be easier to get tickets to compared to the more watched senior championship. In addition to this you could be distracted in the summer months from attending the senior championship due to all the other festival and events on throughout the country. Thus, a hurling math in February could suit someone visiting Ireland, particularly if you have an interest sport.

Even if sport is not really your thing, I would still highly recommend seeing a game of hurling. It’s extremely fast moving, and you’ll be guaranteed to be taken aback by the unusual and unique game-play that you’ll see on the pitch.

Enjoy the Bray Comedy Festival

One of the highlights every year in the comedy world in Ireland is the Bray Comedy Festival. It is usually about a five-day event that takes place in February and showcases some of Ireland’s best comedic talent. If you’re interested in seeing what Irish comedy looks like, then it is really a no brainer to make the trip down to Bray to get a glimpse.

Venues are usually dotted around Bray, so if you decide to go to a few gigs you’ll get to see most of the town.

Previous performers at the event include comedians Tommy Tiernan, David McSavage and Colin Murphy. If you’re not aware of any of these great Irish comedians, then you might be lucky enough to see them return at future festivals in this Wicklow town.

Geographically speaking Bray is very convenient to get to. It is in County Wicklow, however it is just south of Dublin city and is accessible by rail and Dublin bus. This means that even if you’re staying in Dublin for your trip to Ireland you could still make a visit down to the festival and be back in your hotel by that evening.

The town of Bray itself is nestled by the sea and has an incredibly beautiful promenade. Further south of the town is Greystones. This is another seaside gem. A gorgeous town in Wicklow that is surrounded by the Wicklow mountains.  Both from Bray and Greystones the Wicklow mountains are very easy to access. So, you can decide to go on a hike if you have had your fill of laughs from the festival.

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