1. Escape the everyday
Nothing recharges your batteries like unplugging completely. Put the screen down and go off grid in Cavan at Cabü by the Lakes in Killykeen Forest Park, where you can dial up the cosiness in a lake view cabin or woodland hideaway. Once you’re settled, hop on a bike or paddleboard and explore the 100 acre estate before ending the day with a soothing soak in a hot tub.
Nestled in the Glen of Imaal, the Wicklow Escape is a self styled “mountain lodge for foodies.” During a three day retreat with a tasty twist, ramble up the Wicklow Mountains, paddle the Slaney or chill in the gardens rooms. You’ll be wined and dined throughout using on-site and neighbouring produce prepared by head chef Mark Ahessy, including Wagyu beef and Ballyhubbock halloumi.
2. Let your spirit soar
They say the best things in life are free and that’s certainly the case if you’ve witnessed thousands of starlings engaged in an aerial ballet known as a murmuration. Early evening during colder months is the best time to see them stage a show at key viewpoints like Westmeath’s Lough Ennell or Lough Ree in Roscommon.
Over in Dublin, pay a visit to the Brent geese at St Anne’s Park, Bull Island and Sandymount Strand. This protected species stops by every year in their thousands on the way to Iceland to dine out on Dublin’s grasslands. If you’re looking for a gander, these Canadian guests like to holiday in Ireland between October and April.
3. Look to the stars
With bright pink sunrises and glowing orange sunsets, Ireland’s skies are arguably at their most striking during the winter months. It’s also the best time to see the elusive Northern Lights. Every year, light chasers and amateur astrophotographers head to places like Malin Head in Donegal hoping to catch these celestial shimmers across the night sky.
Further south, on crystal clear nights it’s hard to beat constellation spotting at the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve, the only one of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere. You’ll see the stars as our ancestors did as well as spotting the Milky Way, planets and nebulas.
4. Winter wellness
Winter is always a good opportunity to work on your mind as well as your body. Get recentred at The Burren Yoga Retreat which specialises in meditation and guided outings to the Burren and by the sea. They also do amazing vegetarian food and have a glass-walled yoga studio that brings the Galway light and landscape inside.
In Ballynacally, County Clare, husband and wife team Rosie and Micheál welcome guests to the Shannon Estuary Way Retreat with a carefully prepared organic meal made with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Responsible dining is just part of the experience at this eco well-being centre, where nature walks and yoga classes are supplemented by dips in hot tubs and ice baths as well as barrel sauna sessions.
5. Learn a new skill
Start investing in yourself by taking up a new hobby. Budding photographers should check out Skellig Ring Photography Workshops in Kerry where award-winning photographer Stephen Power provides bespoke workshops for all levels. Or go on a multi day photography tour around Sligo and Mayo with Gareth McCormack, who’s a master at capturing Ireland’s most awe-inspiring landscapes.
Foodies can sharpen their skills at Ballyknocken Cookery School as celebrity chef Catherine Fulvio helps you put the best of Wicklow on a plate. Over in Longford, Cloughan Farm Cookery School will give you loads of ideas as Fiona and her husband Michael teach you bread baking and jam making. In Clare, Wild Kitchen takes you on a coastal adventure foraging for seaweed, edible berries and herbs before showing you how to put it all together in a cooking demo.
6. Spread a little light
Nothing shines a light on winter’s darkness quite like a lighthouse. You can actually stay in one at Wicklow Head Lighthouse, an octagonal tower with views across the Irish Sea. Or sleep in the old lightkeeper’s cottages at Fanad Lighthouse in north Donegal, where you’ll hear tales of shipwrecks and sunken treasure.
The tour at Hook Lighthouse in Wexford is well worth the 115 stair climb to the top, and your efforts are rewarded with panoramic sea views. The world’s oldest operational lighthouse once topped Lonely Planet’s list of flashiest lighthouses, too. There’s a cosy café to warm you up, and good whale spotting to be had in the winter months.
7. Take shelter in an Irish pub
The best place to warm up in winter? A traditional Irish pub. They have the cosiest corners, the warmest welcomes and real turf fires to help drive the cold out. Wherever you roam in Ireland, chances are there’s a stool with your name on it nearby.
See the cosiest pubs you need to visit this winter to get your fill of eccentric locals, celebrity encounters, hidden snugs and perfect pints. You’ll be stamping along to a live trad session before you know it.
Need another reason to take a winter break in Ireland? Check out what's on offer this Winter in Dublin.