If you are traveling to Ireland on a budget, chances are that you are flying into Dublin. I lived and worked in Dublin for a college internship and let me tell you, Dublin has a huge spot in my heart. BUT, if you really want to get that true Irish feel - rolling green fields, gorgeous coastlines and hole-in-the-wall pubs, you should most definitely get out of the city and go to the countryside. Here are five of my favorite full-day and weekend trips from Dublin on a college sized budget!
Port of Howth:
Port of Howth is on the outskirts of Dublin but feels like a whole new world compared to the city. Howth boasts of beautiful ocean views and a magnificent hike along lovely Irish homes that leads to a striking cliff lookout. Howth also has a strip of adorable little shops and restaurants along the port, which is filled with boats and a lighthouse. This is the perfect half-day or full-day trip to get out of the city and rejuvenate by the peaceful seaside.
BONUS - if you fancy a good fish and chips, there are plenty of places to fuel you back up after your hike.
If you are staying in Dublin from 3 days to a week, I would highly suggest getting the leap visitor card. This card will give you access to all parts of the town via the Airlink, Dublin Bus, Luas, DART and Commuter Rail. In order to get to Howth, I would suggest taking the DART. The DART is the local commuter train and it goes Directly to Port of Howth (the last stop).
Northern Ireland & Giant’s Causeway:
This day trip was a little more pricey but 100% worth it. It is my favorite day trip thus far and so easy to plan because it is a pre-planned tour! I used Wild Rover Tours (Paddywagon is also a good choice but I enjoyed Wild Rover the most. Not sure if it was just luck of the tour guide I had though). The tour I took was called Giant's Causeway, Belfast City & Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge Day Tour from Dublin.
This tour is a very full day and goes from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. But, it drops you back off in Dublin just in time to relax with a nice pint of Guinness in town. Ask your tour director who he or she thinks serves the best pint of Guinness in Dublin and head there (it truly makes a difference!).
This trip is a wonderful experience for someone who wants to get a small glance of Northern Ireland and see some of the wonders it beholds. With this tour one gets to choose between the Black Taxi Political Tour and the Titanic Museum. I personally chose the Taxi tour and it was extremely interesting (the people who went to the museum really enjoyed it but hey, the actual Titanic is at the bottom of the ocean so I figured I can read the history online). Our tour guide for the Black Taxi Tour took us around to different political murals all over Belfast as they told us what it was like to live through the troubles and how it is now in a time of peace.
Then we headed to the coast. If you are a Game Of Thrones fan then there is an incredible photo opportunity on the way - the unique Dunluce Castle located on the edge of the north Atlantic coast.
Next we headed to the Giant’s Causeway. As described by Wild Rover Tours Website, “The Giant’s Causeway is a Unesco World Heritage-listed site and was created more than 60 million years ago after a series of volcanic eruptions. The Causeway is best known for its distinctive rock formations that span nearly 18 miles (29 kms) of coastline and once we arrive you can stroll along this spectacular site and see formations such as the Wishing Chair and the Giant’s Boot and Organ.” The Giant's Causeway was a brilliant sight to behold, it was unlike anything I have ever seen.
The tour allows you to grab a bite to eat near the Causeway, but I would suggest to pack a lunch or grab a quick one during a fuel stop in order to spend as much time as you can exploring. The cliffs around the Giant’s Causeway are about as spectacular as the Causeway itself and I highly suggest taking the long walk to the Causeway.
Lastly, Wild Rover Tours took us to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which connected the mainland to the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede. The views of this entire tour are incredible and well worth the trip.The tour ends in Dublin at about 8:30 p.m., just in time for casual pint or even a night out if you aren’t too exhausted!
Killarney & The Ring Of Kerry:
Killarney is an adorable Irish town. I suggest spending at least two days in Killarney in order to get the full effect. There is great shopping, dining, and pubs in town as well as must-see historical and scenic places close by.I chose to take the Irish Rail from Dublin to Killarney (be sure to look at the times because one of the later trains has a layover and you don’t want to waste your precious time with that!).
I stayed in Three Lakes Hostel and it was a decent place with a nice outdoor space and a kitchen to cook. If I were to do it again though, I would stay in a hostel closer to town.
For the first day in Killarney, I would suggest taking advantage of the Killarney Shuttle bus. This will take you to many of the famous sites in Killarney including the Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey, Muckross House and Traditional Farms, Torc Waterfall and Ladies View. I would then end the day exploring the city and catching dinner in town.
As for the second day, I would highly suggest a tour of the Ring of Kerry. Paddywagon Tours does a good tour and lunch! The views are well worth the trip! The views of the Ring of Kerry are some of the most beautiful in Ireland. But, if you are not feeling a long bus trip, I would suggest instead renting a bike and traveling around Killarney National Park. The views are also remarkable and you will definitely get your exercise in!
Cliffs of Moher & Galway:
The Cliffs of Moher & Galway are an absolutely MUST DO TRIP. This is by far my favorite weekend trip from Dublin. The Irish call Galway the "graveyard of ambition," but in the most loving way - once you live there you never want to leave.
Galway boasts of sensational live music, dance and street shows. The night life is by far my favorite in Ireland and the locals are some of the most friendly in the world.
From Dublin, I would again suggest using Wild Rover Tours to get to the Cliffs of Moher and Galway. The Trip I took was called Cliffs Of Moher, Atlantic Edge Ocean Walk & Galway City Day Tour From Dublin. The bus picks you up in Dublin at 7 a.m. and heads right to the cliffs. To me, the Cliffs are one of the most breathtaking views I have seen but certainly not the best place for anyone who is afraid of heights! From there, the tour goes to the Atlantic Edge Ocean Walk which looks like a sight straight out of Lord of the Rings.
Then on to Galway. The tour of Galway is short, about 25 minutes. Because I wanted to stay in Galway, I simply grabbed my backpack from the bus when we got out and told the tour director that I would be staying so he didn't wait for me. After the tour was over I headed to check into my hostel which was only a short walk away.
I suggest staying at Barnacles Hostel downtown. Barnacles is right by many amazing local pubs and shops - the perfect spot to catch some z's after a night out. And don’t forget to head to SuperMacs for a delicious night cap!
To get home, I suggest booking a bus back to Dublin in advance. I used City Link and it was only €10.
Cork & The Blarney Castle:
I describe Cork as an Irish town somewhat between the vibes of Dublin and Galway. The city boasts of many pubs, restaurants and shops. We stayed in a hostel downtown called the Bru Bar & Hostel which had a pub attached and was next to a delicious BBQ place called White Rabbit Bar & BBQ.
The night life is a grand time and the locals highly suggest Reardon’s on Washington Street. As for a quick bite, the locals mouths water as they suggest KC & Sons, where they serve up a variety of different locally grown and produced foods.
One of the main reasons for many tourists to visit Cork is to explore the Blarney Castle and Kiss the Blarney stone. We took a taxi to the Blarney castle which was about €20 but there is also a bus to get there.
As a side note, in Ireland they rarely use Uber but instead use MyTaxi. I found MyTaxi to actually feel much safer and more regulated than Uber.
For transportation to and from Cork, I also used the CityLink bus. Be sure to book in advance and get there on time!
To finish off our Cork Trip we had a delicious Irish Breakfast at Tara's Tea Room and headed back to Dublin.
There you are! Feel free to leave me a comment or shoot me a message with any questions or comments you have! Wishing you safe & memorable travels!