Irish Weather—Not Everyone’s Cup Of Tea
In the interest of full disclosure, let me be plain: Ireland’s weather is not for everyone.
The Irish climate is generally moderate compared with that of the United States. According to Met Éireann, Ireland’s national weather service, the warm North Atlantic drift current keeps the climate on the island mild relative to its latitude; otherwise, Ireland might be as cold as southern Alaska.
Temperatures in Ireland don’t reach extremes of blistering heat or sub-zero cold, and, while small tornadoes and snowstorms do occur, they have nothing like the ferocity of summer or winter storms roaring across the American Great Plains. The average winter temperatures in Kerry, where we’re living, hover in the high 40s, but that average figure is misleading. Winter here still packs a punch. Strong winds with gale force gusts drive rain and sleet against windows. Stinging showers of ice pellets can hammer down every other day. False spring is followed by a near-freezing cold snap. For our part, we love it. But the real question is, how about you?
For many people an ideal climate might include cloudless skies and warm ocean breezes. If that’s your goal, by all means, follow your heart. Ireland calls for a different type. Arizona taught me that I am not a hot weather person. The ferocious summer heat kept me indoors as surely as any blizzard, sapping my energy and enthusiasm, and the endless sunshine became, well, for me, boring. I can’t tell you how I yearned for a loud, scary thunderstorm or two.
Contrast that desert climate with what we found on our first full day in Ireland. We landed in Dublin on an overcast winter morning with a long drive to Kerry ahead of us. Within two hours, by 10 a.m., the clouds had broken and we were traveling in dazzling sunshine southwest through Kildare. By noon we were having lunch in Laois and the heavens opened, pouring down rain mixed with sleet. We drove more cautiously across the heartland of North Tipperary into Limerick, where we found another patch of sun. Just after 3 p.m. Kerry welcomed us at last—through a curtain of blowing snow.
During the entire journey we marveled at the character of Irish weather, decisive and fickle at the same time. It was decisive in that it was unquestionably winter. It seemed, though, that winter just couldn’t make up its mind how to express itself, so it gave us a bit of everything. We knew for certain that we were in the right place for us.
I could be accused of overstating my case. High-pressure systems bringing blue skies do cross Ireland in the winter, too. Just recently, we had nearly a week of crisp, clear days and moonlit nights. Those times are gifts to be appreciated and enjoyed while you can. Mountain walking and sightseeing on these days are all the more special for knowing that the great weather won’t last long, and in a day or two you’ll be indoors again.
Having said that, there’s nothing at all to keep you from taking long walks in the rain. The Irish themselves certainly don’t let a gust of wind or a drop of rain stop them from a brisk outing. Just be sure to have the appropriate wet-weather gear and footwear. A local outerwear shop will have everything you need.
On days when you find the weather a bit too blustery, time spent indoors can be special, as well. As a child in the Midwest, I loved to fall asleep listening to the sound of falling rain. Here in Ireland, it’s equally comforting to settle into a cozy chair by the fire, listening to the rain on the roof and the wind wrapping the house like a blanket. Add a favorite book and a cup of tea, and I have all I need to feel secure, snug, and content.
Another part of the charm of Irish weather is how quickly it moves. From where we are, only a few miles from the Atlantic coast, we can see the leading edge of a storm front coming in from the west, north, or from any direction. The drama of the clouds as they move and build is riveting to watch. Wind currents at different altitudes push clouds this way and that, making towering, layered patterns. Ocean waves, recklessly driven forward by the wind, smash against coastal rocks and send sprays of water up cliff sides and over nearby roads. Plum-colored clouds grow larger and darker, and, before you can blink, ice pellets are thrashing the windows, getting louder with each gust and then retreating again.
After a few minutes the shower passes, then returns… then magically the sun breaks through the clouds, its light turning the flying ice bits into tiny shimmering crystals backed by a rainbow. It’s all you can do to keep from running outside to seek that mythical pot of gold.
In the end, it all comes down to you. Irish weather can be glorious for a brief time, and then turn damp, chilly, gray, and blustery. Would your spirits droop over a week of cloudy skies, let alone several weeks? If so, you have better choices for where to base yourself, and I’d say you should enjoy Ireland’s hospitality on a summer holiday instead.
However, if your imagination is stirred by dramatic clouds and lashing rain, if you believe, as we do, that there is no bad weather, just the wrong clothing, then come on over. Though we’re still getting wind and rain as I write, winter is passing to spring, and temperatures are creeping up. The fields are turning from their tired winter colors to luminous green, daffodils are blooming, and leaf buds are swelling on trees.
I’m sure Irish spring weather will have its drama, too, and I for one cannot wait to watch.
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