Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Is any hostel ever really that “great”? It is a niche market, to be sure, but Ireland actually does have some really nice hostels. There are of course the grungy city hostels filled with haven’t-showered-in-5-days backpackers getting hopped up on cans of Carlsberg, but there are also some really fun, really scenic and truly original hostels across the country, too.
It’s easy to forget that not all hostels are total dives, and they can be a great option if you’re planning a weekend away or just want to go out drinking on a different scene. Likewise, visitors from overseas can avail of the many hostels around the country to save a few quid.
I’ve stayed at a fair few Irish hostels myself, but I didn’t want to just give you my opinion on these, so I’ve mixed in the top-rated hostels from the respected site, Hostelworld, to give you a broader view.
Generally speaking, I prefer to avoid chains of anything, but Sleepzone is an exception to that rule. This Irish company owns three hostel properties in Galway City, Connemara and The Burren (Co. Clare), and I’ve had the pleasure of staying in all three, after being so impressed with their stunning Connemara hostel. Housed in a lofty reconverted hunting lodge, Sleepzone Connemara overlooks Killary Fjord with perhaps the most beautiful coastal view in the whole country. All three hostels are kept spick and span, with a variety of room choices from dorms to private rooms, and they are comfy enough for people of all ages (my mum enjoyed stays in two of them!). Rooms run anywhere between €15-25.
Located on College St. in Dublin, the Times Hostel is one of Hostelworld’s top 5 rated properties in Ireland. The hostel was built in a former pub near the old Irish Times building, which is where it gets its name. This hostel runs a nice balance between “party” and “family-friendly”, offering games and free dinner nights to laid back travelers, but also situated right next door to Doyle’s, a legendary late night pub. Rates run from €15-27.
Alright, so it’s a wee bit off the beaten path, but if you want to explore the Aran Islands, this is the only hostel to stay in. Literally. But the lack of competition hasn’t stopped Kilronan Hostel from keeping up the quality, as it is ranked 4th on Hostelworld’s list of Irish hostels. Located in Kilronan Village and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this hostel countermands the unruly local weather with a super friendly staff that are always smiling and ready to serve you a heaping pint of Guinness. 4, 5 and 6-bed dorms are available (no private rooms, unfortunately). Beds in the biggest dorm go for €20.
Killarney is an easy place to find a hostel, but most of them are going to be noisy and overcrowded, or else a bit of a walk from the main action. Neptune Hostel somehow succeeds in being centrally located but not too big or crazy. First of all, it is family-run and adheres to a strict Green policy that includes a strict recycling programme, use of biodegradable and environmentally friendly products, low energy lighting and Fair Trade offerings in their kitchen. It also has a groovy vibe, with a number of mis-matched old chairs and couches strewn under locally painted murals, and offers everything from single rooms to 8-bed dorms, which range in price from €16-40.
This party-happy group of hostels would not be my first choice, but it is the perfect find for young, single backpackers that are looking for a great atmosphere and to meet other people. Barnacles operates hostels in Galway and Dublin, including one very soundly located right in Temple Bar on the doorstep of Dublin’s best nightlife. Barnacles is the type of place where you can easily meet someone new in the common room and go out drinking all night long and bump into random strangers. It is the type of place to stay if you want to come away with a really. great. story. And it gets a very good rating on Hostelworld, to boot. Private doubles to 16-bed mixed dorms – €16-32.
Did I fail to mention your favorite Irish hostel? Leave a comment below and let me know!