Affordable Ireland Accomodations
January 27, 2006 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Traveling to Ireland in Sept. Will be renting a car in Dublin and seeing the countryside for a week. Any suggestions for affordable (<100 eu per person per night) castle accommodations? Recommendations on B&B's also welcome. Also, what are the must-see, non-"touristy" attractions.
posted by unccivil to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Well... it's not not a touristy spot, but I would highly suggest visiting the Cliffs of Moher while you're there. You hear about them a lot, but they really are breathtaking -- and I don't seem to recall them being crowded at all, either.

Glendalough Abbey is also quite pretty (and has a very old graveyard), as are most of the other old churches.
posted by kaseijin at 6:30 AM on January 27, 2006

My wife and I are planning something similar. One of our ideas was to try and stay a weekend at a Irish Landmark Trust building. A lot of them have pretty decent rates (~300 Euros for a Fri-Mon weekend in the mid-season) and look pretty cool to stay in.

I've been on a tour of Ireland previously and remember the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, and pretty much all of the West being my favorite. You can check out some of those planned itinerary coach vacations to see where they stop. There were some things I saw I could have done without (Beleek) and wish I had the power to pull over to look at a castle or two that we passed along the way.

If you don't mind a follow-up question, is it better/easier/cheaper to fly into Dublin and leave, say, via Shannon? Or is Ireland small enough that a round trip in and out of a single airport wouldn't take too much travel time?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:30 AM on January 27, 2006

Last summer I also hired a car in Dublin, when in Belfast I stayed at a nice Bed and breakfast on the main street in the student area close the university and botanical gardens.
I loved the drive along the north coast, stopping in tiny seaside villages for a Guiness.
Giants Causway is also very cool, can be touristy but it was so worth it. The pistures I took on the north Irish coast were my desktop backgroud for along time.
posted by sandrapbrady at 6:37 AM on January 27, 2006

You know, I absolutely hate organized touristy stuff but one of the best things I did in Ireland (besides just explore the west, stopping at pubs and walking on beaches and finding random B&Bs for the night) was a tour of the Waterford factory. You get to see them blow glass up close and it's still a pretty basic operation. You see guys do staggeringly amazing things with molten crystal. It's way cool.

Also, spend a night getting sloshed in Doolin, which is trad central. There are I think three pubs and all had terrific music.

On accomodations, we had no trouble at all finding a nice cheap room in whatever village we happened to be in and decided to stop at. Just look for B&B signs which are everywhere.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:59 AM on January 27, 2006

My dad runs a hostel in Kinvara. I's sure he could give you some great advice on lodging in the country. If you want to email me, I can provide you with his contact info.
posted by miss meg at 7:06 AM on January 27, 2006

The Doo Lough Valley is one of the most scenic drives I've been on, if not the best.
posted by beowulf573 at 7:12 AM on January 27, 2006

I would have to second Glendalough... yes, it's touristy, but if you're going to Ireland and you DON'T see it, you are missing some of the best scenery Ireland has to offer.

Also, Newgrange I didn't expect it to be interesting at ALL, but when you go inside that tomb and they tell you that it was built 5000 years ago? You will be impressed.
posted by antifuse at 7:27 AM on January 27, 2006

I've done this twice. You are going to love it.

For what it's worth, I have two travelogues here with hundreds of photos and much tourist-centric observations.

My advice would be to get B&B vouchers rather than book specific places. Being able to pick up and move at a whim is very nice. And you never know when you'll find an area where you want to spend more time. I got my vouchers through Sceptre Tours, but I think the Irish tourist board will point you to several places to get those. They gave me an extremely well designed book with numbers and locations for all participating B&Bs. I would just call a day ahead to book a room. But I was mostly out in the countryside, so I'm not sure how well that would work in the cities.

Bring lots of maps. A good copilot and navigator will save you hours of being lost. And if you can find some books with local restaurant reviews get that as well.

Must see -

- The Rock of Cashel is touristy, but go anyway.

- Various stone circles and standing stones are everywhere. Take the time to visit a few.

- Knocknara. Climb to the top. Easy hike and fully wonderous.

- Carrowkeel tombs - A must. Hard to get to but worth it. Bring flashlights and climb inside the tombs.

- Slieve League cliffs - This was the most fun I had hiking. The trail out to the cliffs is bad, but it's the most breath taking place I've ever been.

- Newgrande - Very touristy. Go anyway. Be there when they open to avoid lines.

- Dublin is worth a week all on it's own. Do the touristy stuff. The national museum is very nice. See the Book of Kells.

- Galway - Seafood heaven.

- Glendalough should not be missed.

Also - Ireland is dotted with 3000-5000 year old tombs, stone circles, dolmens, etc. Most of these are in someones sheep pasture. In the U.S. we live with the idea that a landowner will shoot us if we wander onto their farm, but in Ireland it's not quite like that. For the most part you can wander into the fields without offending anyone. Just be responsible and respectful. Of course a few places are marked no trespassing, and some ask for donations. But if you just stay in the car you'll miss some of the oldest stone monuments in the world. My link above has links to sources for maps that show the megolithic stuff.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:58 AM on January 27, 2006

Damn. Here's the link to my travelogues.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:59 AM on January 27, 2006

Also - I love Ireland. But it's the land of mud, rain, and sheep shit. Do not underestimate that. And if you stay inside because of rain you'll miss half your trip. Bring rain gear and waterproof shoes/boots. If you can stand wearing galoshes the whole trip, that might not be a bad idea. And have a change of shoes and pants in the car. I had a few embarrassing nights when I came back to the B&B covered in mud after some rather easy hikes.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:09 AM on January 27, 2006

I've been twice, as well and y6y6y6 gives great information. I absolutely agree on getting B&B vouchers. I got my vouchers through Brian Moore International. I got a book of B&Bs and was able to email a lot of them before I left to hold a room.

Some of my favorite spots included:
-- Rock of Cashel - it's really stunning

--Driving through Connemara's small towns and seeing Kylemore Abbey (a girls school tucked into the hills)

--the Cliffs of Moher and the town of Doolin. I made sure to visit Doolin on both trips because I loved it so much. There's always great music to be found there.

--We did a walking tour in Dublin led by a History student from Trinity which was pretty excellent.

--The drive over Conor Pass on the Dingle Peninsula is amazing, as well.

Honestly there wasn't much in Ireland that wasn't beautiful.
posted by jdl at 8:16 AM on January 27, 2006

To answer robocop is bleeding's question :

I flew in and out of Shannon once and in and out of Dublin once. The Shannon experience was perfect since we spent most of our time up and down the West Coast. We didn't time the Dublin one well and ended up rushing across the country to get back in time (we were taken by Galway and spent too much time). So I think it depends on where you'll be visiting.

When booking my trips it seemed cheaper to fly in and out of one airport (same for renting a car and dropping it off in the same spot), but perhaps that has changed.
posted by jdl at 8:20 AM on January 27, 2006

If you don't have a problem with travel agents, Isle Inn Tours is an agency in Alexandria, VA that specializes in travel to Ireland. We did a November tour of Ireland a few years ago, and they recommended a number of places that we never would have found on our own at good rates, including a night at Dromoland Castle (which I will admit is prone to being touristy). But we got a great discount rate there.

Robocop - when we went, it was cheaper all around to fly in and out of Dublin, but that was a special rate, so YMMV. It's definitely possible to do a loop tour starting and ending in Dublin as long as (a) you don't want to see the North and (b) you're willing to not stay in any one place too long.

One high point of our trip: driving from Waterford to Cobh in the dark and the rain. Not for the faint of heart.
posted by fochsenhirt at 8:22 AM on January 27, 2006

Thanks for the info, jdl. Hrm. I guess our choice is 'countryside in the west/south' or 'Dublin'. Or maybe the real answer is 'plan a longer vacation!'
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:26 AM on January 27, 2006

"is it better/easier/cheaper to fly into Dublin and leave, say, via Shannon?"

On my first trip I flew into Dublin and out of Shannon. The second trip was the reverse. Both trips went perfectly fine, including the car rental. I think it was actually cheaper to do it that way, but that might have been due to some special.

And the reason I did it that way was to be able to get in more sights. It's certainly possible to drive across the island in a few hours. But only in theory. You'll want to pull over constantly, and speeds on Irish roads are lower than you'd think.

A note on drive times - Irish roads can be very narrow. Especially if you plan on doing the non-tourist stuff. And they tend to be windy with lots of blind turns. For many rural roads 30-40 mph is a good speed.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:28 AM on January 27, 2006

We went to down south to Baltimore. That whole area down there is gorgeous.
posted by gt at 8:40 AM on January 27, 2006

Elstead Maps is where I got my maps. The Ordnance Survey Ireland Discovery Maps are the ones that show all the good stuff. They're expensive, but worth it if you want to find the seriously out of the way stuff.

Also, is pure gold if you plan on getting off the road and visiting some rarely seen wonders.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:48 AM on January 27, 2006

I just remembered a site that may be helpful to robocop and the original poster. Ireland Expert is the site of a woman who has written travel books on Ireland. She has a forum called "Ask Pat" where she'll give you input on your itinerary. She saved me during my second trip from thinking I could drive between two places that really weren't as close as they appeared. It's pretty amazing that she takes the time to answer every single question.
posted by jdl at 9:14 AM on January 27, 2006

Best answer: My wife and I did this in 2001. We had a booklet of farm based B&B's which were in some cases even nicer than those in towns/cities. One of our favourites, more due to the woman running the place (and the view from our room) was outside of Kinsale. South West of Kinsale by about 10km I think.

Some of the places listed in Rick Steeves book are not bad, but we didn't like his Dingle recommendation (we used about 2 of his recommened B&B's).

Also, near the Cliffs of Moher is a really cute town that has extremely good musicians visiting all the time. Can't remember the name of course.
posted by smcniven at 9:22 AM on January 27, 2006

Another thing: The Michelin Road map of Ireland is a must. Very, very detailed.
posted by smcniven at 9:28 AM on January 27, 2006

Slightly off topic, but hard experience worth sharing: under no conditions allow your rental car agency to "upgrade" you to a larger car. You'll be on a lot of roads where a full-size American car will cover both lanes.
posted by tkolar at 10:15 AM on January 27, 2006

Also, what are the must-see, non-"touristy" attractions.

Achill Island.. In season, it's full of outdoor sports people; out of season, it's quiet and breathtakingly beautiful.

My favourite guidebook is the Footprint guide. Incredibly good at helping you avoid the American tour buses while you drive around the country. Get stuck behind one of those on a narrow, twisty road, and you will want to kill yourself.

is Ireland small enough that a round trip in and out of a single airport wouldn't take too much travel time?

My American wife drove from Dublin to Galway in an afternoon, and from Sligo to Dublin in a morning, with a break to visit Tara (it's a hill, it's a bit meh). It's not a big country if you're an American, and used to American road-trips. And yes, Ireland's roads are narrow. Rent a small car, and pin a 'KEEP LEFT' postit to your centre console.
posted by holgate at 11:40 AM on January 27, 2006

Further to my posts above, the Farmhouse B&B was called Seafield Farmhouse.

And the town the Cliffs of Moher is called Doolin.

Also, if you have time the Aran Islands are well worth a visit (either for a day, or overnight). We stayed in a thatched cottage near Spiddal where the owner made bread in the fireplace ashes. I believe it's called An Caladh Gearr Thatched Cottage.
posted by smcniven at 5:41 PM on January 27, 2006

I highly recommend Westport for a visit (beyond the fact that my entire family is there). It's a great typical Irish town. They're very welcoming. It's about 20 minutes away from Croagh Patrick, a truly spiritual and phenomenal spot - I suggest climbing the mountain - bring a camera for the BEST photos of the countryside. It's about a three and a half to four hour round-trip if you take your time. Rent/buy/find a walking stick for the climb down - you'll regret it if you don't. They're available for purchase and rent at the base. Also, bring a raincoat; sometimes it rains up on the summit even if it's dry at the base. Climbing boots are ideal but sneakers will do (that's what I used). Really, the walking stick is key. A lot of the climb down is more of a standing slide, and the stick will keep you from sliding over the edge.

If you're looking for a good hotel, my cousins work in management at the Castlecourt (click on weddings, and you can see photos from their reception). We've stayed there every time we've gone, and it makes a great base camp (there's even a grocery store across the street for inexpensive staple purchases - pack a picnic when you climb the Reek).

I can also recommend a number of B&B's in the area if you want. My email address is in my profile.

Westport is in the west (obviously), and like I said, it makes for a nice base camp for travels around there - everything from The Quiet Man cottage to Achill Island to Kylemore Abbey to Knock to Connemera is within driving distance.

As for a castle stay, it's not cheap, but I recommend Ashford Castle, even for just one night. It was owned by the same group that owned Drumoland, but a group of Americans recently purchased the castle and have made it significantly less touristy. It's very private and very chic. There's some great music every night, and the food is unmatched. The Quiet Man cottage is in Cong, just outside the gates. There's also a thatched cottage on the property. Opportunities abound for cultural and outdoors pursuits.

You may wish to fly into Dublin and out of Shannon if you stay in Westport at the tail end of your trip; it's a shorter drive.

I would seriously avoid Blarney Castle and the surrounding tourist trap. Not only is it miserably oppressive, but I got the worst food poisoning when I was there - I ended up in a Limerick hospital, where they mentioned that they see a few cases of food poisoning each week from tourists. I've been there twice and both times I was disappointed. Better deals on merchandise can be found in towns like Westport.

I have to disagree with y6's statement that the speeds on Irish roads are lower than you would think - for highways, yeah, but you will be surprised about the country roads/back roads. The road one of my cousins lives on is 70 kph. It is a ONE LANE farm road that has a number of switchbacks, blind turns, and absolutely no shoulder. If you are driving, you really need to be comfortable with tight corners, high speeds, and mountain roads. Be wary of driving anytime after 10 p.m. - the Irish (stereotypical, I know, but you can look up the stats) have a big problem with drunk driving. Cabs or walking are your best bets for returning to your hotel (it's not like there's any shortage of pubs around hotels, anyways).

I hope you enjoy your trip. :)
posted by MeetMegan at 6:14 PM on January 27, 2006

Just in case you come back to read this thread, be aware that the Ryder Cup will be going on in Ireland Sept 22nd - Sept 24th. I imagine that accomidations will be somewhat more limited during that weekend than it normally would. But, if you are a fan of golf, it would be a great treat to see.
posted by stovenator at 12:31 AM on January 28, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the input!!! Much help! I noticed that not one mention about the Ring of it missable? That could save a whole day if so.
posted by unccivil at 9:01 PM on January 29, 2006

I've been to Ireland a bunch of times and I have never seen the Ring of Kerry. The pictures I've seen haven't thrilled me enough to push me into going there. I know my parents went but they didn't think it was any big deal. I'd say see it if you think that the pictures you've seen haven't done it justice.

Also, though, keep in mind, you asked for non-touristy recommendations; the Ring of Kerry is one of those tourist spots.
posted by MeetMegan at 12:11 PM on January 30, 2006

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