Friendly locals, incredible landscapes and cheap flights makes Ireland a fantastic backpacking destination. Whether you have a few days or a few weeks to spend, Ireland has more than enough to keep you busy, just be sure to bring your camera along with you.
To catch a glimpse of some of the major attractions, catching the bus can often be the most affordable option with an open road ticket offering three days of unlimited travel for €60. Flexible train tickets are widely available too however and these can be refunded up to 90 minutes before departure, perfect for backpackers who want freedom within their itinerary.
Almost half of Ireland’s urban population can be found in Dublin, making it the beating heart of this nation. Many who come here go straight for the Guinness Storehouse in St James’s Gate Brewery to learn about the 250 year history of Ireland’s most famous beverage. Admission includes the freshest pint of Guinness you are ever going to try but there is a rooftop bar serving other drinks if stout isn’t your thing. Advanced tickets start at a fairly expensive €17.50 and for a cheaper attraction, Kilmainham Gaol is a fine alternative, costing €8 for adults or €4 for students. Advanced booking is essential here to get a closer look at a jail which became notorious for the conditions it kept political prisoners locked up in.
Much of the city can be explored on foot and walking tours are widely available if you want to hear more about the history of Dublin. If you prefer to be your own guide then make sure to walk through the beautiful St Stephen’s Green as well as going past Trinity College, built over 400 years ago. Such delights can be enjoyed at no cost at all but Dublin can be a bit pricey, especially when it comes to accommodation. In the peak season, you will do well to book a bed in a hostel for under €35 per night so backpackers travelling on a budget may not want to stay for too long.
On the opposite side of Ireland you will find the city of Galway, popularised by Ed Sheeran’s song which topped the Irish music charts upon its release. Take a stroll past the brightly painted shops and pubs especially those down the wonderful Quay Street with its range of energetic street performers. There’s no shortage of atmosphere here and the same can be said about the vibrant Latin Quarter which again has plenty of buskers trying to entertain passers-by.
There’s plenty that pleases the eye in the centre of Galway including the views across the Bay but many of the best landscapes lie outside the city. Connnmara National Park is the perfect spot for hikers while the stunning Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most visit natural tourist attraction. The rugged walls tower 700ft over the Atlantic coastline, providing you with awe inspiring views and it is undoubtedly worth there 1.5 hour trip to get there.
Cork doesn’t have the reputation or influence of Dublin but it doesn’t stop locals here sometimes referring to it as the real capital of Ireland. The self-proclaimed ‘rebel city’ is backpacker friendly thanks to its youthful and cosmopolitan make-up that will be most welcoming to any overseas visitors. There’s a wonderful mix between traditional and trendy here and there’s no shortage of unique festivals which are organised all year round. On top of this, Cork is also the one of the best place to try out Irish cuisine. Freshly caught fish and locally sourced produced have helped develop its reputation as the culinary capital of the country.
This small town doesn’t offer the same buzz as others on this list but what it lacks in atmosphere it makes up in history and scenery. When it comes to history you have the 15th century Ross Castle to explore as well as the even older ruins of Muckross Abbey located in Killarney National Park. It’s in this park you will also find the charming Muckross House (€9 adults, €7.50 students) and the scenic Torc Waterfall. There’s plenty to feast your eyes upon here but you should also consider a Ring of Kerry tour (prices starting from around €30), the incredible popular 179km long driving route that passes delights such as Moll’s Gap, Dingle Pay and Ladies’ View.
While it’s not a destination, Gaelic Football is something that should feature on any Ireland trip for all the sports fans out there. Games are played throughout the year and fixtures are published online well in advance. If there is a match nearby during your Irish adventure then you should most certainly seek a first-hand view of this unique sport which is almost a cross between football and rugby. It’s hugely popular in Ireland with over 2500 clubs dedicated to the sport. You may not fully understand the rules by the end of it but you are sure to have a blast watching this fast-paced and physical version of football.