The choice accommodation for traveling Ireland is the bed and breakfast. Often run by the owners and their families, there isn’t any better way to be immersed in Irish culture and hospitality. The bed and breakfast can be as small as one or two rooms with a shared bathroom or as large as 10-15 rooms ensuite (private bathroom connected to your room) in a separate wing attached to the home.
Finding and Booking a B&B
You will not find any shortage of bed and breakfasts in Ireland. Rarely will you even have a problem showing up in a town and finding a room for that night. However, it is always recommended to book your first and last night’s stay. Double-check ahead that you won’t be arriving on a holiday or during festival, which may make accommodation scarce in some areas.
If you are a planner (like us) and want to make reservations ahead, you have many booking options available online. Most bed and breakfasts have an electronic reservation system on their website or an e-mail address to send an inquiry directly to the owner. A simple Google search for “bed and breakfast” and the name of town will usually give you a variety of initial places to begin your investigation. The websites below are quite helpful too.
I usually don’t book a B&B unless it has several pictures of the rooms and common areas on their website or favorable reviews on trip advisor. While I have never had a terrible Bed and Breakfast experience, some bad places exist. However with just a little time into research you shouldn’t need to worry.
Depending on how long you stay, you can often receive discounts for reservations for more than two or three nights. Also, don’t forget to ask for the lowest rate available. Sometimes if you speak to the owner, they might be willing to lower their costs to fill a bed if it would otherwise go unused. Room prices are listed per person. If you are traveling as a couple, you will need to double the cost listed. If you are traveling solo, you may need to pay a single supplement fee (up to half the cost of another person) in addition to the per person rate.
Confirm your reservation at least a week before you leave for your trip. The best way is to send a note by e-mail confirming the date(s) of your stay and the approximate time of arrival. Also ask for directions if they are not already listed on the website. Printing and placing this information in a binder for each B&B before you leave is very helpful in keeping organized while on your trip.
Check-in is often between 3:00 and 6:00 PM unless otherwise noted on their website or pre-arranged. If however, you are unable to arrive at that time be sure to call ahead and let the bed and breakfast know. It would be inappropriate to make them wait for an extended period of time (and you might find yourself out of a room if you check-in really late). An Irish bed and breakfast is much different from an American hotel. The owner often runs show and is simply opening up their home to you. They may need to run errands or move about their daily work. Be kind and courteous.
After checking-in, you will receive a room key as well as a front door key. After 9 or 10 o’clock, the front door is usually locked for the safety of the family and guests. You are free to go in and out as you please. But similar to any hotel-like situation, if you are coming in from a late night on the town be respectful of others who are perhaps already asleep nearby.
Your host will often ask you when you would like breakfast the next morning. Some will even have a menu for you to select breakfast options. If for no other reason (although there are many), a full Irish breakfast is a fantastic and delicious reason to stay at a bed and breakfast in Ireland. You will want to mention any dietary restrictions you have at this time. Most owners will be as accommodating as possible.
While credit is becoming more widely accepted, some bed and breakfasts accept cash only. Credit card companies charge owners per transaction. Many smaller B&B choose not to offer this service, so check with your host upon arrival or be ready to have cash available on the day of your departure.
In Ireland, you do not need to tip the bed and breakfast staff. All services and fees are built into the cost of your room. Again, most often it will be your host providing the usual maintenance. If you feel they have gone above and beyond the requirements, a small monetary contribution may be appreciated, but it is not expected.
Other Helpful Tips
The Irish are notoriously chatty and your bed and breakfast hosts will no doubt be some of the most gregarious of the bunch. Use this to your advantage and ask for recommendations for sites to visit, places to eat or off the beaten track treasures. They will usually be a font of information and give you tips the guidebooks are sure not to have. It is also a great idea to talk to other travelers around the breakfast table. People from all walks of life, countries and travel itineraries will give you a variety of things to discuss.
In some places, your hot water heater may need turned on by your host. It is always turned on in the morning and at night, but if you are coming in after a hike and need to shower midday you may want to ask before jumping in.
Many bed and breakfasts have family pets that are in the home. If you are allergic, it may be best to ask about where Spot is allowed in the home. This is not usually an issue as pets are almost always sequestered in another part of the house, but it might warrant consideration for the highly allergic.
Almost all European rooms are smaller than the US standard. It is always good to remember this when you don’t have a desk or that extra chair in the room. Again, take a look at the pictures provided on the website. It should give you a good idea of the room size and its amenities.