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Ireland's west coast welcomes winter visitors

  • Story Highlights
  • Dingle, Ireland, called "most beautiful place on Earth" by National Geographic
  • Escape summer crowds by traveling to Dingle Peninsula during winter months
  • Cottage rentals are cheaper in winter, and periods are more flexible
  • Winter temperatures in western Ireland average 46 degrees F (7 Celsius)
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DINGLE, Ireland (CNN) -- Fewer tourists and relatively warm temperatures may be reason enough to put Ireland on your list of winter travel destinations, especially Dingle Peninsula, once ranked by National Geographic Traveler as "the most beautiful place on Earth."

Winter offers tourists a chance to explore Ireland's west coast  unhindered by bothersome crowds.

Winter offers tourists a chance to explore Ireland's west coast unhindered by bothersome crowds.

The peninsula, on Ireland's west coast, includes the oceanside town of Dingle, which boasts more than 1,000 full-time residents.

Winter visitors will avoid the area's hundreds of thousands of summertime tourists.

Boats crowd Dingle's popular marina, bringing fresh seafood catches of the day.

Some of the marina vessels also will ferry visitors to see Fungie, a locally famous dolphin who has lived in the waters outside town since 1984. Photo See breathtaking photos of Dingle »

Outside Dingle, numerous vacation cottages are available to rent, including homes in the village of Dunquin. In winter, rates are drastically cut, and rental period dates may be more flexible.

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Most shops and restaurants have shorter hours during winter, and traditional music is found in some of the pubs on the weekends.

As with most of Ireland, pubs abound, even in the smallest villages. A beer (preferably Guinness) and some hearty pub grub are a perfect way to cap a day of exploring the wintry sights of the peninsula.

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Because Ireland sits near the warm waters of the Atlantic Gulf Stream, the Emerald Isle has an average temperature of 46 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celsius) during December, January and February.

But pack smart and bring layers of clothing, including warm sweaters and jackets, because winter weather often means rain on Ireland's western shore.

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