A Guide to Visiting Ireland in January

Thinking of travelling to Ireland in January? Although the weather mightn’t be great, there will be lots for you to do including:

● Visit the Sunny South Eat

● The Temple Bar Tradfest

● The Pendulum Summit

● The Anime and Manga Convention in Galway

● Kilmainham Gaol

Visit Ireland’s Florida (well, kind of ?) – The Sunny South East

If the climate is really bothering, you or your from say California or South Africa and the prospect of experiencing a cold day with rain frightens you then heading to Ireland’s warmest location might be a good idea.

Ireland is a tiny country, so our weather doesn’t vary that much depending on where you go. Sure, it’s a bit wetter in the West and you get a bit more snow up North around county Derry and Antrim, but for the most part it is similar. In saying that, one of the slight climatic differences between the south east of the country and the rest of the country is that it is slightly (only slightly) warmer and more temperate.

The Sunny South East is made of counties Waterford, Kilkenny, Wexford and Carlow. There is a load to do in each county.

Kilkenny Castle

Make sure to visit Kilkenny Castle if you get a chance in County Kilkenny. This Norman castle is over 800 years old. The building itself is spectacular and it has a huge ground for you to walk around, so you shouldn’t be bored. There is a beautiful small lake at the back of the grounds, so make sure to pay it a visit when you are making your way around. Make sure to get to the castle before 5pm if you want to have a walk around the grounds as it may be closed off to visitors after that time.

The castle is nestled in Ireland’s smallest city Kilkenny. The city still has twisting roads that run throughout its centre that date back to its medieval routs. The nearby Left Bank bar, a stone throws away from the castle, is a nice place to visit if you wish to wet your beak with a pint after all the walking and sigh sighting. Kilkenny city really has a lot going for it, so make sure to visit there.

The Irish National Heritage Park is in County Wexford and is a fascinating place to visit.  This place shows you what life was like even before Kilkenny castle was built. The park has Celtic structures reconstructed that look like the homes of the ancient peoples of Ireland. They even have a Fulacht Fiadh. Fulacht Fiadhs were pits where red-hot stones were thrown into a pool of water and meat was cooked. A process that always fascinated me since I first learnt about them back when I was 8 or 9.  If you want to see Bronze Age Ireland, come here.   

The Dunbrody Famine Ship is located on New Ross docks in County Wexford and is an exact replica of the original famine ship that was first built in the 1840’s during the Irish Great Potato Famine.

You can enter and explore the ship to see how tens of thousands of Irish lived while they made their way over to North America during the famine times. The ship highlights the horrid and cramped conditions the passengers had to endure when travelling for months across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a better life. This is done through an excellent guided tour. There are also actors in costumes at times, who portray the ship passengers.

The Potato Famine wreaked havoc across the entirety of the Island of Ireland and no place didn’t in some ways feel the effects of its wrath. Hundreds upon hundreds of thousands died due to malnutrition, starvation or disease and many chose to emigrate. Thousands took a short trip across the Irish sea to Great Britain. They made their homes in some of Britian’s most industrial cites, most notably Liverpool. Waves of other people went further afield on famine ships like the Dunbrody to places such as New York, Boston and Canada.

These ships were often known as coffin ships due to the high mortality rate on them.

If you’re in the South-East make sure to give this excellent attraction a visit.

Another amazing place not too far from the Dunbroady Famine ship is Brownshill Dolmen in County Carlow. Its only a short drive from Carlow town and it is one of the most interesting historical sites you can visit in Ireland. The tomb is thousands of years old with many believing that it could have been built up to six thousand years ago, sometime between 4000 BC and 3000 BC.

This megalith portal tomb is heavy, with some believing it could be one of the heaviest tombs in western Europe. It is fascinating to think how people managed to construct it back then with limited technology.

The tomb is understood to have been built by some of Irelands first settlers. So, it could have been built by farmers who reached Ireland when it was completely uninhabited.

Another great thing about this attraction is that the price for admission is as of now it is completely free. There is parking nearby and you can make your way to the tomb from a walkway. It probably gets a lot less visitors than the similar Stonehenge in England, but like Stonehenge it is also very impressive. It really gives you a sense of how much history is on our little island and how long people have called it there home.

Check out the Temple Bar TradFest in Dublin city

The festival usually goes on for five days towards the end of January and can be summed up in one word Amaz… actually two words Absolutely Amazing! It’s in the Capital so you don’t need to travel far if you’ve just landed in Dublin airport or you want to remain in Dublin for your Irish visit.

The festival showcases some of Ireland’s best traditional music and is a huge deal in Ireland’s cultural world. Many critically applauded Irish groups have performed at the festival including The Dubliners and Clannad.

The festival has been going strong since 2005, drawing in thousands upon thousands of attendees a year from across the globe.

The festival itself is independent and not-for-profit so the ticket prices are usually quiet low. Not a bad time of year to find something affordable considering most of us go a little crazy with cash in December on the run up to Christmas. Well, at least I do.

The Ballincollig Winter Music Festival

Sticking with the theme of music festivals, another great one to go to in January is the Ballincollig Winter Music Festival down in Co. Cork. Ballincollig is a town just outside Cork city in the south of Ireland, so if you find yourself down in those parts or if you plan to fly into Cork Airport this might be something to consider dropping by to.

The festival hosts many successful contemporary and traditional Irish musical artists. It also has had musicians from abroad play before, like famous resonator guitar player Jerry Douglas from the United States. The musical sessions are often in extremely intimate settings such as pubs in the town. You will really get a chance to soak in the passion and raw talent of the artists in a beautiful area of Ireland.

Don’t be surprised to find out the festival does workshops that you can take part in. In previous years this has included fiddle and contemporary song writing workshops. You never know, if you head down to Ballincollig you might just pick up some new skills you never thought you would.

The Pendulum Summit in Dublin

The Pendulum Summit is a great event to go to if you’re into business or self-help and have a spare grand lying around. Alternatively, you could get very lucky like me one year and be given tickets by someone who couldn’t go.

This event usually takes place at the start of January in the Dublin Convention Centre. It is two days long and will make you feel like you can start a business from the change left over in your pocket and turn it into a global tech mega corporation.

The event is made up of a number of highly successful individuals and motivational speakers who give you insight into all things success. I was very fortunate to see the brilliant and inspiring Nick Vujicic at Pendulum (just look at a video of any speech of his on YouTube, they’re spectacular). He really inspires you to go out and live everyday to its fullest.

This event would really suit anyone in Ireland on business. The summit encourages networking so you will meet a bunch of Irish business owners and start-up folk. If you’re planning to work remotely in Ireland or start a tech company here maybe this is a place you should check out.

The event is also good for a laugh as it oftentimes host several entertainers. British comedian and Monty Python John Cleese attended the summit I was at. He had the whole room roaring in laugher telling jokes after he finished a speech on spurring creative thinking.

As I mentioned though, tickets are expensive. But the summit may be worth attending if you feel like it is right up your alley. 

Go to the Anime and Manga Convention in Galway (if that’s your thing)

Once a weekend every January in Galway city Akumakon takes place. Akumakon is a large Anime and Manga convention that attracts crowds from across Ireland who are passionate about those genres of Art.

If you like Dragon Ball Z or maybe Captain Tsubasa than this is the place to go to. Expect to see a lot of people dressed in amazing outfits representing their favorite Anime or Manga character. If you have some spare room in your luggage before you fly off to Ireland you might consider throwing in that Bleach Anime costume you have. The event has amazing guests at it, so don’t be surprised if you see an Ainme obsessed YouTuber you know there.

The event usually happens in the National University of Ireland, Galway. You’ll get a chance to look around one of the most pleasant university campuses in Ireland while at the event. The University has a gorgeous quad nestled beside the river Corrib. Not to mention it is only a ten-minute walk from Galway city center. Feel free to stroll into town for a pint after the convention is over.  Just maybe consider taking off your Pikachu costume first.

Visit Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Goal is a fascinating historical site in Dublin city. And since you will be inside the whole time while visiting, it’s probably a nice place to go if the January weather bothers you.

The former prison is now a museum that is packed with history. Many famous Irish revolutionaries were imprisoned here. This includes several of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, where a small faction of Irish rebels took on the might of the British Empire. The Rising failed, but ultimately inspired an Independence movement in Ireland that led to Ireland freeing itself from Britain.

The prison also housed Anne Devlin. Anne was an extremely strong and courageous person who was involved in the 1803 Irish Rebellion. She endured years of ill treatment and torture at the hands of British forces and prison staff while incarcerated. Despite this she refused to cooperate or betray her fellow freedom fighters.

If you want to find out more in relation to the Ireland’s history revolving around its independence movement then this is the place to go to.

The prison might also interest some film geeks as it was used to film several films. Part of the original The Italian Job was filmed here, along with most of the Oscar winning film In the Name of the Father. Some of Michael Collins was also shot at this location, which is rather fitting since the movie focused on the Irish independence struggle throughout the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War.

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