The advantages of going somewhere during the off-season are simple—better deals, smaller crowds —and they derive from the premise that off-peak travel must involve lowered expectations and certain compromises. A few rare places, however, hold hidden allure in the quiet months: castles on a rainy day, fishing-boat fairy lights, the braying of amorous penguins. As local experts make clear in the following year-round selection, you don't need to go peak to hit the heights.
There are few places where drizzle is a selling point, and County Clare is one of them. Its landscapes are better experienced through a haze, says old-timer Willie Daly, cupid in residence at the area’s September-long Matchmaking Festival—as are its pubs.
“You have the likes of the Burren and Doonagore Castle here, enchanted places that have majesty when it’s sunny and fine, but take on a special magic when the weather is gray.
“For our festival we do a ‘love trail,’ where we set out on horses through the countryside. Some horses like each other and some don’t, so if we have two people who seem right, we’ll put them on horses that get along.
“We go by the coast, the Cliffs of Moher, through mountains and to the Burren, which is like a lunar landscape. It’s a magical area—it increases passion and puts you in a romantic frame of mind. Enhanced by a few pints of Guinness, of course.”