As beautiful as the island of Ireland is, it’s also known for its unpredictable weather. And with just over seven-and-a-half hours of daylight on the shortest day of the year, winters in the country can be tough. If you’re already lamenting the loss of the sunshine – or you’re at the other extreme and dreaming of a white Christmas – one of these quick winter breaks from Dublin could be just what you need.
Flight time: 4 hours
Enjoying up to 200 hours of sunshine and temperatures in the 20s while everyone else is bundled in their winter warmers, the Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands off the north-west African coast is officially the warmest place in Europe during the winter months. That does mean many sun-seekers migrate in this direction, but places like Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Fuerteventura will still be significantly less crowded than they are in summer. The lesser-known islands like La Palma are even more peaceful.
Flight time: 5 hours, 40 minutes to Casablanca (with one stopover)
Another destination worth considering that’s balmy all year-round is Morocco, with an average winter temperature of 21 degrees Celsius. The best choice of location depends on what you want from your holiday: Agadir’s coastal position makes it ideal if you’re looking to bliss out and read books on the beach, while Marrakesh is great for shopping and soaking up the market culture – it may only be the country’s fourth-largest city, but it has its largest traditional market or souk. Meanwhile, Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco, will impress lovers of 20th-century architecture.
Flight time: 3 hours, 38 minutes
Having achieved independence from its most recent rulers – the United Kingdom – in 1964, the tiny archipelago of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea is densely populated with UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the 316 square-kilometre country has three of them. Average winter temperatures are around 14 degrees – so not sunbathing weather, but definitely mild enough to get out and enjoy the many historical and architectural attractions that Malta has to offer. The entire capital city of Valletta is a World Heritage Site, brimming with buildings dating back as far as the 16th century onwards. The seven Megalithic Temples of Malta are among the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Flight time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
If you’re seeking more wintery conditions, rather than less, head east to Prague. This option may not be for the faint-hearted – the average high here is two degrees Celsius – but once you have your warmest winter gear on, you’ll find Prague to be festive, beautiful and charming. A unique place to do your Christmas shopping, enjoy some of Europe’s best old-style Christmas markets in the city, which take place daily from November 26th to January 1st in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.
Flight time: 6 hours, 52 minutes
The Irish have an understandably strong connection to the city of New York, having seen vast numbers of the population emigrate there from the Great Famine onwards. But New York in winter is appealing to most people, whether you’re dreaming about seeing the giant tree at Rockefeller Center and skating in Central Park, or making the most of the post-Christmas sales on Fifth Avenue. There are multiple direct flights to New York from Dublin daily, meaning you can easily have breakfast in Ireland and an early dinner in Midtown.