As anybody who has visited Ireland knows, it’s easy to spend a lot of money in both the Republic and the North. There’s no shortage of expensive five-star hotels, often in landmark castles, grand country houses or big city blocks but finding more modest places to stay that are also interesting, individual and independent is a harder task; but it is possible. Here is our pick of stylishly good value accommodation, most around or below the €100-€150 B&B mark, that will stretch your euros and pounds just that little bit further.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Dublin: Kelly’s Hotel
If you’re looking for somewhere chic and central to stay this “urban boutique hotel” on the corner of South Great George’s Street and Fade Street is the place to go. It’s in a warren of corridors and rooms above popular hangout Hogan’s Bar and French brasserie l’Gueuleton (where Kelly’s continental breakfasts are served), and next to the still just about hip and happening Bar With No Name. The hotel has 16 design-led bedrooms, mostly small and stylishly minimal. There’s even a small (again) residents’ bar. Not the quietest place to stay, especially at 1.30am on a Sunday, but fun and funky all the same.
• Doubles from €74 B&B, +353 1 648 0010, kellysdublin.com
Dublin: Number 31
If you’re prepared to pay that little bit more in the capital, but get quite a lot more in return, this boutique B&B, in a mews, behind a creeper-covered wall a five-minute walk from St Stephen’s Green, is hard to beat. There are 21 luxurious bedrooms over two contrasting buildings: a classic Georgian townhouse; and, opposite, a modernist mews-house, with a groovy 1970s interior, designed by, and the first home of, a man who was one of Ireland’s leading architects: Sam Stephenson. A beautiful private garden links the two houses and there are hearty organic breakfasts, too. A relaxed and hospitable haven in the middle of a modern city.
• Doubles from €190 B&B, +353 1 676 5011, number31.ie
Dublin: Ariel House
With 37 rooms, across three grand adjoining red-brick Victorian houses (and a modern garden wing), Ariel House is more like a small professionally run hotel than a large family-owned B&B. It’s also tucked away, in the shadow of the Aviva stadium, around 2km (a seven-minute Dart train ride to Landsdowne Road), from the city centre – in the genteel southside Dublin 4 suburb of Ballsbridge. Yet the warmth of its welcome, the charm of its opulent rooms and period features and the quality of its celebrated breakfasts (and complimentary afternoon cakes and scones) make this a great place to stay.
• Doubles from €99 B&B, +353 1 668 5512, ariel-house.net
Wicklow: Glendalough and Knockree Hostels
The sixth-century monastic settlement of Glendalough, with its 30-metre-high round tower and granite arched gateway, is one of Ireland’s most impressive and important historical sites. Just a few minutes walk away, off the steep-sided road to the Upper Lake, is the Glendalough International Hostel (dorm beds from €16pp, doubles from €50, breakfast €5, +353 1 830 4555), in a chalet-style lodge, once known as Swiss Cottage. Thirty kilometres to the north (and just to the south of Dublin), also on the famed Wicklow Way walking route, is the newer, purpose-built Knockree Youth Hostel (dorm bed €20pp, doubles from €60, breakfast €5, +353 1 830 4555) handy for trips to handsome Powerscourt House and Gardens. Catering primarily for youth and student groups, in dorms, the hostels have just two private double rooms each (though there are more family rooms) – so plan ahead.
Kilkenny: Zuni Townhouse
Kilkenny is a friendly city, with such attractions as medieval Kilkenny Castle, St Canice’s Cathedral, with its 100ft 9th-century round tower, and the fine National Craft Gallery. Since it opened in 2000, Zuni has made its name primarily as a fine, bustling, city centre, “modern European” restaurant, spearheaded by star chef Maria Raftery – but it has always offered rooms upstairs, in a 1902 building that originally housed the city’s first theatre. The 13 well-priced bedrooms are clean, bright and simple in design, enhanced by a palette of rich and rusty browns.
• Doubles from €85 B&B, +353 56 772 3999, zuni.ie
Waterford: The Tannery Townhouse
Part of an expanding local setup that includes a restaurant, cookery school and wine bar, this 14-room B&B – in two 19th-century townhouses near the harbour, and run by acclaimed chef Paul Flynn and his wife Máire – is the best place to stay in the pretty coastal town of Dungarvan. Bedrooms are comfortable and (mostly) spacious, with louvred shutters and a restrained colour palette of warm and muted natural shades. Guests stroll around the corner to the smart and light-filled restaurant, once a leather warehouse, for breakfasts of homemade breads and pastries – and, of course, a gourmet “full Irish”.
• Doubles from €115 B&B, +353 58 45420, tannery.ie
Cork: Glamping at Ballyvolane
A charming and informal country house, built in 1728, and near the scenic Blackwater valley, this has six elegant bedrooms costing upwards of €198 a night B&B. A cheaper option, however, between May and September, is to check in to one of the 11 simple bell-tents (or the single, more sturdy, timber-lined “glamping arc”) that are set up – behind the croquet lawn and mighty copper beech tree – in one of the estate’s mature gardens. Tents have raised timber beds, coir carpets and tea-light chandeliers; on arrival, you are given a welcome box containing essentials such as matches and head-lamps – and, better still, homemade chocolate cookies and local apple juice. A heated washhouse is nearby, and glampers get full use of the rooms in the main house, where communal breakfasts are served, until noon.
• Tent for two from €150 B&B, +353 25 36349, ballyvolanehouse.ie.
Cork: Cafe Paradiso Rooms
Strictly speaking, you can only book into these two smart rooms above Denis Cotter’s famed Cafe Paradiso restaurant in Cork city as part of a dinner, B&B package for two. But if you’re going to stop over in the vibrant and rebellious “real capital of Ireland”, why would you not visit a relaxed and friendly bistro that many consider to be the finest vegetarian restaurant in Britain, or Ireland, and even beyond? Both double bedrooms have good-size beds, as well as a sofa, CD player/iPod dock, mini-fridge, coffee machine and organic bathroom products; the room at the front is larger and less red, though potentially more noisy. In-room “picnic-style” breakfasts are generous and equally high-quality: a box of pastries, plus bread, fruit, granola, yogurt and local farmhouse cheeses.
• Doubles from €220, including dinner and B&B, +353 21 427 7939,cafeparadiso.ie
Cork: Chléire Haven Yurts
The 45-minute ferry ride out to Cape Clear, the most southerly inhabited island off Ireland’s coast, is one of the country’s great journeys. Passing through treacherous tidal waters, you reach a small island remarkable for its isolation, beauty, wild weather, spoken Irish, and annual storytelling festival. There are no supermarkets, secondary schools, doctors or gardai – and, until fairly recently, nowhere much to stay. Launched in 2009 as the first glamp site in Ireland, and perched on a clifftop overlooking the south harbour, Chléire Haven is a small, well-run eco-campsite with eight Mongolian yurts: tall, spacious, round tents that can sleep up to six. They are furnished with raised wooden floors, good beds, small kitchens and even wood-burning stoves; six have front decks. Lighting is solar-powered, as are the showers.
• Yurt for two from €90, plus €6pp for a locally sourced “cook-your-own breakfast pack”, +353 86 197 1956, yurt-holidays-ireland.com
Kerry: Dromquinna Luxury Camping
The historic market town of Kenmare is a perfect stopover on the famed Ring of Kerry, if only for the quality of its many bars and restaurants. While there is no shortage of guesthouses in the town, your best bet, during May to September at least, is to journey 5km out west to the luxury camping at Dromquinna Manor. Owned and run by the team behind Kenmare’s five-star Park Hotel, the woodland site is in a spectacular setting beside Kenmare Bay. There are high-quality king-size “wilderness beds” and showers are nearby. A continental breakfast is delivered in the morning and the 40-acre estate has its own shop and waterside bistro.
• Tent for two from €150, +353 64 664 2888, dromquinnamanor.com
Clare: Wild Honey Inn
On the edge of the small town of Lisdoonvarna, home of the famous annual matchmaking festival, and close to the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and Doolin, for trips to the Aran Islands, this superb gastropub with rooms is owned and run by chef Aidan McGrath and his wife Kate Sweeney. The first pub in Ireland to be given a Bib Gourmand (an award for quality food at affordable prices) in the Michelin Guide, Wild Honey is a relaxed and traditional Victorian coaching inn with some modern design touches. There are 14 great-value bedrooms; most look out to the garden and glorious Clare countryside beyond.
• Doubles from €80, +353 65 707 4300, wildhoneyinn.com
Galway: House Hotel
Galway is a compact, historic, vibrant, youthful and cultural seaside city. But where to stay? The “luxury city centre boutique” House Hotel may be a little too garishly pink, bright and blatant for some but its location in the city’s buzzing Latin Quarter, just five minutes from Eyre Square, and its good-value room rates, make it a great choice. Some of the 40 rooms are on the small side, but most have comfortable king-size beds, as well as Orla Kiely toiletries and “rainforest” showers. The hotel also has a good bistro and a popular cocktail bar featuring DJs and live music at the weekend.
• Doubles from €149 B&B, +353 91 538 900, househotel.ie
Galway: The Quay House
This is a wonderfully restored and elegantly individual Georgian harbourside townhouse in the 19th-century market town of Clifden. While not exactly minimalist, the 14 period bedrooms are decorated with warmth, charm and originality – with lots of rich fabrics, quaint details and original antiques and artworks – by owners with a fine eye. Most bedrooms look out over the water and fishing boats; all have large bathrooms with tubs and showers. Award-winning breakfasts, which include oysters, kedgeree, devilled kidneys and homemade brown bread, are served in a bright conservatory. Nearby is the 11km circular Sky Road, so named because it affords big blue views of the strikingly indented Galway coastline, and the barren, beautiful Connemara moorlands.
• Doubles from €140 B&B, +353 95 21369, thequayhouse.com
Mayo: Ice House Hotel
A Victorian building near Ballina, once partly used as cold store for wild salmon, with striking modern stone, timber and glass extensions. This is a restful quayside retreat owned and run by the husband and wife team behind the equally secluded and well-regarded Wineport Lodge, near Athlone. The 32 light and spacious bedrooms have underfloor heating, goose-down duvets and Voya Irish organic seaweed toiletries. Most have long views over the Moy river estuary to the wildlife and woodlands beyond. Other highlights include a fine collection of modern Irish art, and complimentary access to the hotel spa, with its outdoor cedar barrel sauna and two riverside hot tubs.
• Doubles from €130 B&B, +353 96 23500. icehousehotel.ie
Donegal: Bruckless House
There are grander Georgian country houses to stop off at in splendid Donegal;Rathmullan House, on Lough Swilly, for one. But the 18th-century Bruckless House, 20km west of Donegal town, more than delivers in terms of value, history and tranquillity. The Virginia creeper-clad house is in 18 acres of parkland and mature gardens that stretch down to the Atlantic shoreline. Bruckless has just one double, one twin, and two single rooms, and there is communal dining at the homemade and estate-sourced breakfast – so be prepared to be social. Connemara ponies are bred on the grounds, and the sea cliffs at Slieve League, some of the highest in Europe (and three times higher than the far more visited Cliffs of Moher), are just half an hour or so away by car.
• Doubles from €120 B&B, +353 74 973 7071, bruckless.com
Derry: Ardtara Country House
A carefully restored former linen magnate’s Victorian mansion amid eight acres of woodlands, Ardtara is near Maghera in the heart of Northern Ireland. Attractions such as the Glens of Antrim and the natural wonder of the Giant’s Causeway are all within a 45-minute drive. A member of the leading Blue Book hotel association, and recently taken over by the Browns Restaurant Group in Derry, the country house hotel now has an excellent restaurant, as well as hallways featuring impressive antique tapestries. There are nine good-size, if rather unremarkable, bedrooms with large beds and working fireplaces.
• Doubles from £89 B&B, 028 7964 4490, ardtara.com
County Down: The Cuan
A cosy and popular gastro-inn that specialises in seafood, the Cuan is on the main square in Strangford village and near the shores of stunning Strangford Lough. It is owned and run by chef Peter McErlean and his wife Caroline. There are nine homely bedrooms, though some are a little small; the restaurant serves local mussels and scampi, and a signature seafood chowder, available as a main. The magnificent Mourne Mountains, with their many great walking routes, are 30 minutes’ drive away.
• Doubles from £85 B&B, 028 4488 1222, thecuan.com
Belfast: Ten Square
Belfast’s first and still best-value boutique hotel is in the Grade I-listed Yorkshire House, a former linen warehouse built in 1862. Recently refurbished throughout, Ten Square could not be more central to the city: it’s right behind City Hall, overlooking Donegall Square and Linenhall Street. The 23 bedrooms are boldly designed – in a very royal blue, crushed velvet sort of way – and have “super-king-size beds”. A fine full Ulster fry breakfast (with both soda and potato bread) is served in the hotel’s restaurant, Jospers Steakhouse – a buzzing and popular city spot, along with the Linen Bar, especially at weekends.
• Doubles from £95 B&B, 028 9024 1001, tensquare.co.uk