The Emerald Isle is at its peak when it’s coated in reds and golds. The tourist swathes have already pecked the Blarney Stone, sank their pint of the black stuff and returned home, leaving the rest of Ireland’s country escapes and city breaks less crowded and extra relaxed. Off-season rates are just a bonus.
Whales, grey seals and red deer can be spotted on sunshiney walks – with just the right amount of chill to give you plenty of excuses for fireside whiskeys. Talking of cosying up, we know where to find the snuggliest hotels in Ireland to end the day spectacularly. Whether you’re getting close to nature or getting spooky at a Halloween parade, these are our favourite ways to experience Irish life in autumn.
Look north for a little magic
End the day with a show in the sky, watching the Aurora Borealis (otherwise known as Northern Lights) dance across the stars. The Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal is a brilliant spot to catch its otherworldly hues from the end of autumn until spring – try Malin Head, Dunree Head and Kinnagoe Bay in Donegal.
WHERE TO STAY: You’ll be feeling electric after an evening of sky-gazing, so allow the wonderful Wheeler family at Rathmullan House to take you even deeper out of reality and wind you down into a world of complete serenity. This Donegal-based classic country house is full of modern surprises, including fresh stone-baked pizzas and local craft beer served in its more modern ‘Tap Room’.
Follow the contours of the coast
A bucket-list road trip for any driver is the 1,600-mile Wild Atlantic Way. One of the world’s most captivating coastlines, it’s even lovelier when the shades of autumn emerge in full technicolour. Highlights are Mizen Head and Dursey Island in Cork, Slea Head Drive in Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher in Clare and Benbulben in Sligo (the mountain that inspired WB Yeats). If you can only do a portion of the drive, we recommend the Ring of Kerry – a 179km coastal stretch with everywhere from Killarney National Park to Skellig Islands along the way.
WHERE TO STAY: The Wild Atlantic Way can be done in your own style – and that includes your where you stay. During the scenic drive through the Ring of Kerry you’re spoilt for choice: Carrig Country House & Restaurant is the place to doze off in a comfy kingsize to the gentle sound of the lake lapping on the shore, while Ard na Sidhe Country House Hotel is the perfect spot to stop-off for afternoon tea and a grand night’s sleep in a four-poster bed.
Spend Halloween in its birthplace
With its roots in the ancient pagan holiday of Samhain, Halloween began with the Celts in Ireland 2,000 years ago. Naturally, no one celebrates the event in Europe quite like the Irish. Carnivals and festivals take place all over the country – one of the most spectacular taking place in Galway. The Aboo Halloween Festival turns the city’s medieval streets into a spooky bonanza, with costume parades, zombie chases and pumpkin patches.
WHERE TO STAY: Overlooking Galway Bay, the multi-award-winning Gregans Castle is one of the best hotels in Ireland to stay during autumn. Think open fires, candles, antiques, artisan-sourced dishes and Shelley the cat to keep you company. Hole up in one of 21 luxurious bedrooms and suites, many overlooking the colourful Burren Hills or the bay itself.