You’ve spent a wonderful day sightseeing in the Irish countryside and you’ve pulled up to your lodging for the night. Your host warmly welcomes you with a hot cup of tea and a biscuit. You relax in an over-sized chair in the sitting room and warm yourself by a crackling fire. This scene isn’t fantasy, its reality nearly every day in Ireland’s fantastic bed and breakfasts.
There are plenty of bed and breakfasts in Ireland and Northern Ireland, but standards vary wildly. On our most recent trip to Ireland, we were faced with a decision early in the planning process – where to stay? Ireland has a long tradition of B&Bs and they are very popular with travelers.
Historically, it was common for Irish families to rent out the extra room in their house for a night and staying with a family puts you in closer proximity to the Irish people. But, how do you choose a great Irish bed and breakfast inn? Do you book your B&B individually or do you sign up for one of the bed and breakfast voucher schemes? Here is everything you need to know about bed and breakfasts in Ireland.
- 1 The Truth About Ireland Bed and Breakfast Vouchers
- 2 What to Consider When Selecting a B&B in Ireland
- 3 The Best Bed and Breakfasts in Ireland
- 4 The Best Bed and Breakfasts in Northern Ireland
- 5 A Final Note About Accommodations in Ireland
The Truth About Ireland Bed and Breakfast Vouchers
There are a number voucher schemes (including the popular Go-As-You-Please Ireland B&B Vouchers), but most travelers don’t really understand how they work. If you book an Ireland bed and breakfast tour, you get transportation and accommodations for a fixed cost. You will know your final cost when you book the trip. It sounds great, right? But…
In exchange for the certainty of pre-booking your trip, you give up flexibility. And you’ll likely pay a higher price. Also, your vouchers may only be accepted at a handful of B&Bs in a given city. If you try to use an Ireland bed and breakfast guide book to plan your trip, only a small number of B&Bs will be available to you. If you can’t find a B&B in a particular city, you may need to pay out of your own pocket (in essence paying twice). You may also find out that B&B owners aren’t particularly thrilled with accepting vouchers, which is why so many don’t or they will tell voucher customers that the inn is full.
Rather than get locked into B&B Ireland vouchers, we recommend researching specific options and booking online so you can pay by credit card. The guide to Irish bed and breakfasts below will tell you what you need to know to select a B&B as well as our recommendations throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland.
What to Consider When Selecting a B&B in Ireland
There are five criteria to consider in selecting a bed and breakfast in Ireland:
B&B’s in Ireland can be located anywhere – from the heart of a city to a farm in the country. We recommend experiencing a mix of village and farm B&B’s during your trip. We generally look for places that are within 1.0 km of a town – we like to go to the pub after dinner and don’t want to drive after we’ve been indulging. Also, we always look for a B&B with parking. While Ireland is much better than the European continent in terms of on-street parking, it’s just easier to not have to look.
Each host sets their own prices, so there is a great deal of variation in bed and breakfast cost. Our experience is to plan on about $50-60 per person, per night (or $100-$120 per night for a couple). You’ll get a really nice room with a private en suite bathroom and off-street parking for that price, plus breakfast. Sure, some places are cheaper and some are more expensive, but that is a good benchmark. It’s also common that many of the B&B’s in a general area charge roughly the same price. It’s not exactly price-fixing, but is…well…kind of price fixing.
As we mentioned above, there are numerous booking services and several different voucher schemes available. We generally prefer to research individual properties directly and then either pay cash upon checkout or book via an online booking service (as opposed to the various voucher schemes). It is extremely unusual to find a B&B accepting credit cards directly so booking services may be a better way to go if you want to pay with plastic. We recommend looking at Booking.com for both hotels as well as B&B’s and country inns. [There are also some B&B offerings on Airbnb, but they tend to be a little more expensive.]
One of the most important considerations at a B&B in Ireland is the bathroom. Historically, when the Irish rent out spare rooms in their homes, you were sharing a bathroom with either the family or other B&B guests. Many travelers, particularly those from America, are unaccustomed to the shared bathroom and rather skip that aspect of mingling.
Over the last decade or so, the majority of Irish bed and breakfasts have moved to private bathrooms (or, as they are called here, en suite). It’s not unusual for some B&Bs, particularly bed and breakfast in Northern Ireland, to have a mix of rooms and B&B en suite rooms. Most purpose-built bed and breakfasts, especially those in Ireland, are going to be all private bathrooms.
No Irish bed and breakfast would be complete without the morning meal and most hosts in Ireland will say something like “I pride myself in my Irish breakfast” or “We’ve won awards for our breakfasts.” And to be fair, in our trips to Ireland, most of the breakfasts have been pretty exceptional.
For breakfast, you should expect eggs cooked to order, two types of breakfast meat (usually sausage or ham), some kind of fruit, and toast or scones. Some hosts do the traditional black and white puddings, but they know North Americans can be unaccustomed to this, so they usually ask before preparing. You’ll also get tea or coffee (French press or drip; espresso-based coffees are unusual at B&Bs). Irish breakfasts tend to be social occasions and we’re always surprised how long breakfasts take (usually allow for about an hour to eat breakfast and socialize with your host and other guests).
Overall B&B Ambiance
In the past, Ireland B&Bs were generally the same – a spare room or two in the house, usually upstairs. The majority of B&Bs are still of that variety. However, in recent years, there has been a trend towards purpose-built B&Bs in Ireland. These resemble small hotels and offer a more comfortable experience, larger rooms, thicker walls between the bedrooms and other amenities.
But that can come at a cost – you don’t have the same proximity to your hosts. The hosts of the B&B are really the ones who make the experience – otherwise, you’re just staying in a room. On our trips, we select a mix of newer, purpose-built B&Bs and quainter, family-run B&Bs.
On our tours of Ireland and Northern Ireland, we’ve encountered some fantastic B&B properties. Here are our favorites: the best bed and breakfasts in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Best Bed and Breakfasts in Ireland
Dublin Bed and Breakfast Recommendations
Most B&Bs in Dublin tend to be small inns or located on the outskirts of the city. Generally hotels will provide you with better locations, but at a higher price. However, there are a couple of good Dublin B&B options:
- Portobello B&B: Located off the circular road near the canal on the south side of Dublin, this B&B is close to Griffith College. Portobello offers free parking, private bathrooms, a delicious breakfast and very cozy rooms. It’s a 20 minute walk into the heart of the city, but it is very close to restaurants, shops and there’s a bus stop in front of the B&B. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
- Gardiner Lodge: While called a lodge, this is actually one of the best bed and breakfasts in Dublin. This property is located in central Dublin near everything. It offers the best location of any B&B in the city. The downside is that there’s no parking. However, you’ll find cozy rooms, private bathrooms, and a sophisticated elegance you don’t normally find in a B&B. Gardiner Lodge books up far in advance, so if this is your pick, be sure to book early. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
Kenmare Bed and Breakfast Recommendations
Abbey Court B&B in Kenmare
This purpose-built Kenmare B&B makes a perfect base to explore the Ring of Kerry. This was one of our favorites on our first trip to Ireland several years ago. Over the years, Abbey Court garners consistently rave reviews from visitors. It is designed for people who are road tripping in Ireland: there’s lots of parking and it is easy to get to with a car. From here, you can leave the car and walk the 1km into the town of Kenmare to restaurants, or a bit of nightlife (we ended up a dance with locals during our visit!).
However, two things really stood out about Abbey Court (other than the castle-like architectural style). First, it was incredibly quiet and tranquil. We felt like we were the only ones there…and we may have been. Second, it’s location outside of town is absolutely beautiful. This includes a garden, views of the Kenmare Bay, and the mountains in the distance. Abbey Court is a great base to explore County Kerry.
Other Kenmare B&B options:
- Hawthorn House B&B: When it comes to location, there’s no better bed & breakfast in the Ring of Kerry area. The rustic Hawthorn House oozes comfort and charm. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
- The White House B&B: Located on the same road as Abbey Court, The White House B&B has a lovely garden and the host, Patricia, fixes a wonderful breakfast. There’s plenty of parking and it is a quick walk into town. (Book a room)
Kilkenny Bed and Breakfast Recommendations
Alcantra B&B in Kilkenny
South of the Wicklow Mountains, Alcantra B&B in Kilkenny offers the best bed and breakfast in Ireland that we experienced. In fact, it is so delightful, we’ve stayed there on two different trips!
You’ll find them at the end of a cul-de-sac off the Kells Road, 1km from downtown Kilkenny. In the evening, this will make a delightful walk to dinner and then home from the pub. The hosts, Liam and Brigid, are a charming couple who have the service gene in their DNA. Everything about Alcantra is perfect (I mean perfect): it is immaculately clean, the hosts are gracious and pay special attention to the little details. Our first time staying at Alcantra was during the winter and we returned from dinner to find warm water bottles in the bed to heat it.
Breakfast is served on fine china and from organic ingredients including eggs, Irish bacon and sausage, organic grain cereal, fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh fruit and the best scones we’ve ever had. This makes the perfect base to explore the Celtic ruins in the region – from the Rock of Cashel to Glendalough.
Other Kilkenny B&B options:
- Rosquil House B&B: A nice purpose-built B&B located a 15-minute walk from the city center of Kilkenny. Consistently gets some of the best reviews of any B&B in Ireland. Private parking and exceptional breakfast. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
- Castle Lodge B&B: Despite the name, Castle Lodge is actually a bed and breakfast inn. There’s plenty of private off-street parking, which makes it perfect to park and forget it. Located close to Kilkenny and the city center, it’s close but also quiet. Castle Lodge is no frills, but does offer really good value for the money. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
Kinsale Bed and Breakfast Recommendations
Quaint Kinsale on Ireland’s southern coast makes a great overnight spot to break up trips from Dublin to the west coast. The compact city center is highly walkable, making it possible to leave your car at your Kinsale B&B as you head out to dinner and explore. Here are a couple good B&Bs in Kinsale:
- Danabel B&B: Located a short three-minute walk from the center of Kinsale, this spot has a perfect location, private parking, private bathrooms, great wifi, and some rooms have ocean views. The Danabel B&B is more of a budget option. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
- Rocklands House Bed and Breakfast: While not located in downtown Kinsale, it is less than a mile walk on a hiking trail to get there. Rocklands House is also one of the highest rated B&Bs in Ireland. There’s wifi, private parking, most rooms have ocean views, and some rooms even have a mini-kitchen. Most visitors love the outdoor patio space that looks out on the bay. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
The Best Bed and Breakfasts in Northern Ireland
Belfast Bed and Breakfast Recommendations
In major cities, hotels can often be easier and more centrally located. Most of the Belfast B&B options are located south of the city center near Queen’s University Belfast. This means most B&Bs are close to shops, restaurants, and pubs. Two good B&Bs in Belfast are:
- Harpers Boutique Bed and Breakfast: Located just over 1 mile from the city center and close to the university, Harpers has a modern design, spacious rooms, private bathrooms, and wifi. Parking is on street, but usually not much of a problem. This is one of the most popular Belfast B&Bs and frequently books up. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
- Avenue Guesthouse: Close to the university and several museums, Avenue is one of the best values in Belfast. Avenue has private bathrooms, cozy rooms, as well as a book and movie lending library. Park is on street. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
Derry/Londonderry Bed and Breakfast Recommendations
Caw Cottage in Derry/Londonderry
Set in a home in a suburban neighborhood off Limavady Road, Caw Cottage is 1km walk into downtown Derry over the Peace Bridge. The hosts, Dee and Jim, are both extremely extroverted and offer lots of conversation with a beautiful irreverence. We bedded down in Room #3, which is quite cozy with two beds – but they were the most comfortable beds we slept on in Ireland (the Irish tend to like their mattresses firm).
Caw Cottage has a “kick back room,” which is the perfect place to watch a documentary on Bloody Sunday (either before or after taking in Derry’s famous Troubles Murals). Breakfast was a healthy portion of eggs, sausage, bacon, tomato and mushrooms, along with cereal and bread. We stayed for two nights and loved every minute of it!
Other Derry/Londonderry B&B options:
- Amore Bed & Breakfast: When it comes to location, no B&B is better located in Derry. There’s parking, great wifi, and full English breakfast. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
- Serendipity House: This B&B has a good location near the cathedral and is very close to shopping and restaurants. There’s wifi, private parking and private bathrooms. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
Portrush Bed and Breakfast Recommendations
Shola Coach House B&B in Portrush
On the Antrim Coast, Shola Coach House feels like a country house – wildflowers in the garden, views of the sea over the hills, and birds chirping in the trees. Located in the country a few kilometers outside of Portrush, Northern Ireland on the Giant’s Causeway Coast (too far to walk into town for dinner, but a quick drive), this is the perfect base to explore the Antrim Coast.
The bedrooms are located on the second floor of this converted coach house/barn and up a spiral staircase. Every detail of the B&B is designed for total relaxation – a massive wood table to play games, over-sized couches to relax and read a book. Their breakfast includes the traditional Ulster fry, along with a delightful homemade yogurt and fresh fruit. In retrospect, we wish we’d stayed more than one night.
Other Portrush B&B options:
- Pier39Portrush: This modern B&B is a 5 minute walk to the beach, many rooms offer ocean views, there are private bathrooms, wifi and a garden for some privacy. (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
- Harbour Heights B&B: Boasting ocean views in one of the oldest sections of the town, the Harbour Heights has a cozy charm, wifi, plenty of street parking and private bathrooms. It’s also a short walk to the beach and our favorite restaurant in town (Ramore Harbour Bistro and Wine Bar). (Read TripAdvisor reviews | Book a room)
A Final Note About Accommodations in Ireland
In general, you’re going to want to see as much of the country as possible. That means moving around every night or two. We do not recommend using vacation or apartment rental services in Ireland (outside of the major cities) because those types of accommodations usually require 2-3 night minimums to be cost effective. Also, if you’re really exploring the Irish countryside, you’ll find yourself doing a lot of backtracking to get back to your vacation rental. Unless you really want to spend most of your time in a specific area, Irish bed & breakfasts really are the option to see the country.
The last thing to keep in mind is that the bed and breakfasts in Ireland tend to book up quickly. And the best B&Bs tend to book up the fastest. Keep that in mind and book your bed and breakfast as soon as your travel plans are solidified.
We were the guests of Alcantra B&B in Kilkenny on our second visit there, but all opinions on Ireland bed and breakfasts are our own. Note: Some links may be affiliate links, which means Travel Addicts may earn a few pennies if you buy something – all at no additional cost to you.