Ireland? "It'd be a great country if it had a roof over it," says comedian Noel V. Ginnity.
His joke about the country's sometimes drizzly weather merely drives home the point that you don't go to Ireland for its climate. You go for the beauty and the history, the sights and the friendliness, all of which is as abundant in fall and winter as in the height of the summer tourist season. In addition, the attractions are less crowded, so you won't get stuck behind a half-dozen tour buses while viewing, say, the Ring of Kerry. Then there are the costs, which can plummet in the off-season, especially if you plan ahead. Some examples:
Brian Moore International Tours is offering a week in Ireland beginning at $299 on selected dates Nov. 1-March 24. The price includes air fare from Boston (or New York) and a rental car. Ah, but you can't sleep in your car, so six nights' bed-and-breakfast accommodations are offered for $43 a night. If it's the music of Ireland you'd be wanting to hear, there is a package Feb. 6-11 for the Donegal Music Festival, with prices starting at $699, including air fare, sightseeing, a tour director, four nights' hotel, full Irish breakfasts, three dinners, and admission to the three-day festival.
(The fine print: The offers mentioned exclude airport fees and other costs of about $80-$100.)
Call 800-982-2299 or visit www.bmit.com.
Virgin Vacations will give you a week in Dublin including air fare from Boston, six nights' hotel, and daily breakfast for a starting price of $679 for trips Nov. 1-Dec. 9 and Jan. 12-March 18. Purchase deadline is July 29.
Visit www.virgin-vacations.com or call 425-402-4189. Phone bookings cost $20 extra.
Combine Christmas shopping with a tour led by Patricia Preston, author of 10 books on Ireland. The Nov. 6-13 jaunt costs $1,399 for air fare from Kennedy Airport, rooms, many meals, sightseeing, and admissions. The land-only price is $1,049. (Book by Wednesday and save $100 a couple.)
The trip goes through Clare, Tipperary, Wicklow, Wexford, Kildare, Dublin, Kilkenny, Waterford, and Limerick, and includes some top shopping spots.
Call 845-758-1232 or visit www.irelandexpert.com.
Ireland.com has a six-night Emerald Isle Escape November-February beginning at $499, with no cutoff date. That means you can make reservations anytime, but if you want to get the lowest price, early booking is advised. The package includes air fare from Boston, the first night in a hotel, and the rest in any of Ireland's 500 farmhouse bed- and- breakfasts, and a rental car.
Visit www.ireland.com/travel or call 800-896-4600.