Think spring and summer are the best times for an Irish or Scottish getaway? Think again. With a mosaic of fall foliage unfolding, the crisp autumn air, a lineup of traditional festivals, and harvest happiness from some of the friendliest people on the planet, it’s no wonder people fall in love with Ireland and Scotland in autumn.
When a region is geographically blessed with rugged terrain, emerald waters and coastal villages, it’s an open invitation to explore its natural beauty. Peak seasons are popular, but there’s something special about these destinations when they fall into autumn and offer one-a-kind local experiences.
If this is your first time venturing off to Ireland or Scotland, rest assured there will be no regrets when you travel during the unhurried off-season. Not only can you expect smaller crowds and amazing deals on tours and airfares, but you’ll also have easier access to attractions thanks to fewer tourists. And as a bonus: The mild fall climate lends itself to both indoor and outdoor adventures.
Fall is when Ireland shows its true colors picked right from nature’s palette with hints of warm reds, vibrant oranges and bright yellows. Listen to the sound of rustling leaves, soothing uilleann pipes and hear the echo of a gentle flute. It’s the island’s way of saying, “Welcome to Ireland.”
Catch glimpses of red leaves bashfully hugging the sides of Victorian buildings while sightseeing and appreciate the autumnal beauty. Feel the pride and spirit of Dublin coming from the roaring cheers of September’s Gaelic Games at the massive Croke Park Stadium.
Having birthed some of the greatest literary giants and artists in the world, Dublin loves to celebrate its culture. In the fall, you can take in the Dublin Theatre Festival or sample the best cocktails during October’s much-anticipated Irish Cocktail Fest. And with Halloween around the corner, you just might want to see where Bram Stoker, the mastermind behind the novel “Dracula,” lived and worked.
Top off your visit with a freshly poured pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar at Guinness Storehouse as you soak up dramatic views of Dublin’s historical skyline – it’s the ultimate brewery experience.
Belfast, in Northern Ireland, is a wonderland during the fall season. It might have something to do with the scenic walks along the parks and beautiful trails along the River Lagan, with multicolored leaves guiding the way. But a visit to Belfast isn’t complete without learning about its industrial and shipbuilding past. Thanks to thinner crowds, you can take your time and meander around interpretive exhibits at Titanic Belfast. The site where the ill-fated Titanic was built is one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions.
October is prime time for the city, with the International Arts Festival rolling in from Oct. 6-20. And what better time to go ghost hunting than in the fall – just in time for spooky happenings. Make your way to Belfast’s supposedly haunted Crumlin Road Gaol, a four-hour paranormal investigation you won’t want to miss.
Some places were born to be visited again and again. Scotland is one of those magical spots. Scotland’s rugged highlands, pristine lochs and cobbled streets are all brimming with shades of golden brown in the fall. Take it up a notch and experience October’s award-winning sound and light show, Enchanted Forest, outside of Pitlochry. It’s the perfect way to relish Scotland’s enchanting countryside.
Get to know Glasgow
Expand your knowledge of the arts in Scotland’s largest city, which is full of Victorian buildings, lush gardens and parks, museums galore, vibrant festivals and plenty of retail therapy. Celebrate heritage and architecture at September’s Doors Open Days Festival, Scotland’s largest free event giving visitors access hundreds of unique buildings. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Riverside Museum, and the Burrell Collection are all worth visiting as well.
Come autumn, the bustling metropolis of hilly Edinburgh is in its element offering festivals, markets, fairs, and an Oktoberfest brimming with fantastic food and music. From castles and kilts to museums and mansions, you won’t find a shortage of things to do.
Perched high above the city is the famous Edinburgh Castle, where you’ll find the impressive crown jewels and royal apartments. From here you’ll have an extraordinary vantage point for leaf peeping. Afterward, satisfy your appetite at the Edinburgh Craft Beer Revolution Festival, which serves up street food and craft beers from Scotland’s – and Europe’s – best brewers.
If whisky is more to your liking, you can indulge in a tasting, learn the art of blending and see the largest collection in the world at the Scotch Whisky Experience. If you’d like to spend some autumn days surrounded by Scottish traditions, take in the International Storytelling Festival in October. This 10-day cultural exchange features live storytelling, music and oral traditions with Scots and people from all over the world.
CIE Tours International, based in Morristown, N.J., and Dublin, Ireland, has offered escorted coach tours of Ireland, Scotland, Britain, Eastern Europe and Italy for 85 years.