One of the terms you may hear or see while planning a visit to Ireland is “bank holiday”. Most of the bank holidays can be translated to “three day weekends” in US English…. These are the days defined by law in the Republic of Ireland when the banks are closed and most people have a day off. Most of the Bank Holidays are on a Monday, but not all. There are nine official bank holidays with a tenth unofficial day. Here is the complete list:
1-Jan - New Years Days
17-March - St. Patrick’s Day - Yes it is a National Holiday in Ireland and does NOT move to a Monday
Good Friday - An unofficial holiday. Banks are open but until recently the pubs are closed and some pubs continue to observe this tradition.
Easter Monday - The unofficial start of the tourist season
May Day - 1st Monday in May
June Bank Holiday - 1st Monday of June
August Bank Holiday - 1st Monday of August
October Bank Holiday - Last Monday of October - The unofficial close of the tourist season
25-December - Christmas Day - Pubs are closed
26-December - St Stephen’s Day
Pubs are closed on Christmas Day and some still close on Good Friday even though the law was changed a few years ago. As you can guess, this means that the country pretty much shuts down on these days.
Easter Monday is the unofficial start of the tourist season and the October Bank Holiday is the unofficial close. During the off-season some of the tourist establishments close and the weather is more iffy than usual. If you are willing to be flexible, then this won’t affect you. Just adjust your itinerary to sights and accommodations that are open and plan a couple of “pub days” in case a status red or orange storm comes blowing through (red and orange are storm warnings issued by the Irish Met at www.met.ie). The more rural tourist venues, B&Bs and restaurants tend to be closed during the off-season. You will always be able to find food and accommodation, but maybe not the variety and choices that would be available “in season”.
It is good to be aware of the Monday bank holidays during “the season” since the extra people out and about may crimp your ability to be spontaneous. On these weekends you will likely need to book your accommodations and meals in advance, particularly if you are in a rural area. Additionally, you will see quite a bit more traffic on the road, particularly if the weather is sunny. On the more positive side, the pubs will be full, probably have music, and the “Craic will be Mighty” (it will be a lot of fun and you will meet a lot of people).
When planning your trip also try to be aware of the local festivals. You may be attracted to these festivals, or not. Just like Bank Holidays, the festivals will add people and probably add to the festive feeling. An example would be the Galway Races during the last week in July (actually the week before the August Bank Holiday). If you decide to visit a city during a big festival (such as the Galway Races), it is best to make your reservations for accommodations well in advance and plan to up your budget a little, as the price of hotel rooms will increase slightly.
No matter your style, you will have a great time in Ireland. Even if introverts are plopped into the middle of a a crowded pub on a Bank Holiday Weekend, or extraverts find themselves in a quiet pub with the musicians playing only to them, All is Good!!
See You in the Pub!
Jet Lag Jack