From cottages to castles, Ireland has a vast range of accommodations. And while some of them rank among Europe's prettiest and priciest, the recent economic downturn has meant one thing: bargains galore. One minute of research uncovers deals like two nights at a B&B for about half price, sometimes with a third night free, and many hotels have also slashed their prices due to an excess of supply over demand. So remember to ask for a discount and see what they offer.
In Dublin and other cities, boutique hotels blend luxury with contemporary (and often truly Irish) design. Manors and castles boast a unique combination of luxury and history. Less impressive, but equally charming, are the provincial inns and country hotels with simple but adequate facilities.
You'll meet a cross section of Irish people by hopping from one bed-and-breakfast to the next, or you can keep to yourself for a week or two in a thatched cottage. B&Bs approved by Tourism Ireland display a green shamrock outside. Hotels and other accommodations in Northern Ireland are similar to those in the Republic of Ireland.
Fáilte Ireland has a grading system and maintains a list of registered hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, farmhouses, hostels, and campgrounds. For each accommodations, the list gives a maximum charge that can't be exceeded without special authorization. Prices must be displayed in every room; if the hotel oversteps its limit, don't hesitate to complain.
Fáilte Ireland. 1890/324–583; www.discoverireland.ie.
Online Booking Resources
At Home Abroad. 212/421–9165; www.athomeabroadinc.com.
Interhome. 800/882–6864; www.interhomeusa.com.
Villas & Apartments Abroad. 212/213–6435; www.vaanyc.com.
Villas International. 415/499–9490; 800/221–2260; www.villasintl.com.
B&Bs are classified either as town homes, country homes, or farmhouses. Most B&Bs have private bathrooms for most bedrooms, but don't expect this as a matter of course. Some B&Bs are on farms, but the "farmhouses" are more likely to be modern bungalows or undistinguished two-story houses than creeper-clad Georgian mansions. However, there are some mansions offering B&B rooms, and they are priced accordingly.
At the lower end of the price scale, expect to pay an average of €30–€40 per person per night. Ask for a reduction if staying more than one night. Many travelers don't bother booking a B&B in advance. They are so plentiful in rural areas that it's often more fun to leave the decision open, allowing yourself a choice of final destinations for the night. Long holiday weekends are the exception to this rule, with B&Bs often getting booked up far in advance, so keep an eye on the calendar. If you want to be sure of staying in a family home, check out the places listed by Family Homes of Ireland.
To qualify as a guesthouse, establishments must have at least five bedrooms. Some guesthouses are above a bar or restaurant; others are in someone's home. As a rule, they're cheaper (some include an optional evening meal) and have fewer amenities than hotels. But often that's where the differences end. Most have high standards of cleanliness and hospitality, and most have a bathroom and a TV in each room. Premier Guesthouses are generally small inns, run by the owner, and hard to distinguish from hotels.
B&B Ireland. B&B Ireland 071/982–2222; www.bandbireland.com.
Premier Guesthouses of Ireland. 01/205–2826; www.premierguesthouses.com.
Castles and Manors
Among the most magical experiences on an Irish vacation are stays at some of the country's spectacular castle-hotels, such as Dromoland (County Clare), Ashford (County Galway), and Waterford Castle (near Waterford City). For directories to help you discover the wide array of manor house and castle accommodations, including a goodly number of private country estates, contact Ireland's Blue Book of Country Houses & Restaurants, or Hidden Ireland.
Hidden Ireland. 01/662–7166; www.hiddenireland.com.
Ireland's Blue Book. 01/676–9914; www.irelands-blue-book.ie.
Vacation cottages, which are usually in clusters, are rented by the week. Although often built in the traditional style, most have central heating and other modern conveniences. It's essential to reserve in advance.
Discover Northern Ireland. 59 North St., Belfast, Co. Down. 028/9024–6609; www.discovernorthernireland.com.
Standard features in most hotels include two twin beds (you can usually ask for a king-size instead), TVs (often with DVD), free parking, and no-smoking rooms. All hotels listed have private bath unless otherwise noted.
Discover Ireland. 1890/324–583; www.discoverireland.com.
Irish Hotels Federation. 1800/989–909; 01/293–9170; www.irelandhotels.com.
Northern Ireland Hotels Federation. 028/9077–6635; www.nihf.co.uk.