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 will uncover deals like two nights and a B&B with two dinners, all for about half of the full price, sometimes with a third night free. Many hotels have halved their prices since 2008, the height of the Celtic Tiger boom years. So remember to ask for a discount and see what they offer.
In Dublin and other cities, boutique hotels combine luxury with contemporary (and often truly Irish) design. Manors and castles offer 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 can meet a wide 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 and are usually considered more reputable than unregistered ones. 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 accommodation, 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 to the hotel manager and/or Fáilte Ireland.
Fáilte Ireland (1890/324–583 in Ireland. www.discoverireland.ie.)
At Home Abroad (212/421–9165. www.athomeabroadinc.com.)
Barclay International Group (516/364–0064 or 800/845–6636. www.barclayweb.com.)
Interhome (800/882–6864. www.interhomeusa.com.)
Villas & Apartments Abroad (212/213–6435 or 800/433–3020. www.vaanyc.com.)
Villas International (415/499–9490 or 800/221–2260. www.villasintl.com.)
Bed and Breakfasts
B&Bs are classified either as town homes, country homes, or farmhouses. Most B&Bs now 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, and rooms are priced accordingly. At the lower end of the price scale, expect to pay an average of €35–€40 per person per night. Ask for a reduction if you are 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 weekends are the exception to this rule, with B&Bs often getting booked up far in advance, so keep an eye on the calendar of local holidays. 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 part of a home. As a rule, they're cheaper (some include an optional evening meal) and offer 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, a TV, and a direct-dial phone in each room. Premier Guesthouses are generally small inns, run by the owner, and hard to distinguish from hotels.
Family Homes of Ireland (091/552–000. www.familyhomes.ie.)
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 (Co. Clare), Ashford (Co. Galway), and Waterford Castle (near Waterford City). For directories to help you get to know the wide array of manor house and castle accommodations, including a goodly number of private country estates and castles, 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 all the other modern conveniences. It's essential to reserve in advance.
Discover Northern Ireland (59 North St., Belfast. 44 28/9024–6609. www.discovernorthernireland.com.)
Irish Cottage Holiday Homes (Bracken Court, Bracken Rd., Sandyford, Dublin, Co. Dublin, 8. 01/205–2777. www.irishcottageholidays.com.)
Standard features in most hotels include private bath, two twin beds (you can usually ask for a king-size instead), TV (often with DVD), free parking, and no-smoking rooms. There's usually no extra charge for these services. All hotels listed have private bath unless otherwise noted.
Irish Hotels Federation (1800/989–909 within Ireland; 353/1293–9170 from other countries. www.irelandhotels.com.)
Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (028/9077–6635. www.nihf.co.uk.)
Discover Ireland (1890/324–583 within Ireland. www.discoverireland.com.)
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