Ireland tends to be one of the more expensive European destinations. Getting there might be a bargain due to ever lower air fares - but this is just the start of the journey and travelers tend to be surprised by Irish prices. Even budget accommodation can exceed some budgets. Traveling on a shoestring seems to be a thing of the past, unless you walk and sleep rough.
But there are still things to be had for free - or at least for the moderate cost of getting there by bus or train:
1. Climb the High Cliffs
Forget the Cliffs of Moher
and head further north. Europe's highest sea cliffs are at Slieve League
, 595 meters). High hills as part of spectacular coastal scenery are a trademark of Achill Island (County Mayo). Near Achill Head you'll find Croaghaun (665 meters), further northwest Slievemore (671 meters).
2. See Top Heritage Attractions Withour Paying
Did you know that two of Ireland's top attractions, the Hill of Tara
, are actually free to visit? The entrance fee applies only to the local heritage center, not the attraction itself. This might not be immediately obvious to most visitors. And is amongst the best-hidden secrets of the Irish tourism industry. The same applies to many other sites, a short "reconnaissance" of the area could save you several Euros.
3. Visit Belfast's Murals and the Ulster Museum
You do not have to pay for a tour to see the famous political wall-paintings of Belfast
- just walk, it is safe! The neighboring West Belfast areas of Shankill (strictly Loyalist) and Falls (staunchly Republican) provide splendid murals and the experience of communities living next to but totally isolated from each other. Round off your Belfast experience with a look at the splendid Ulster Museum
Why waste money on some spectacular but ultimately artificial evening entertainment with a "traditional" twist? You can have the same for free in literally hundreds of pubs up and down the island! Many pubs host free sessions
that usually bring out the best local talent. For the price of a pint you can listen in - see our listing of traditional sessions in Ireland's pubs
for details, times and places.
If hiking in Ireland tickles your fancy, why not use one of the many waymarked ways. These range from easy local walks to the epic Ulster Way. But take note that camping without the explicit consent of the owner is illegal, even on public land.
6. Visit Ireland's National Parks
Ireland's National Parks are free to enjoy for everybody, entrance fees only apply to special attractions. Especially parks like Killarney
are firm favorites with tourists - and quite rightly so. A great alternative up North are the Forest Parks like Glenariff in the Glens of Antrim.
7. Go Whalewatching
Marine mammals of all sorts and sizes can be observed near Ireland's shoreline - dolphins, whales, orcas and seals. Regular visitors also include the giant basking sharks, smaller sharks may even swim around your ankles when you are wading out. All you need to bring is time and maybe binoculars. And these natural encounters will leave Fungi the Dingle Dolphin
looking like a very poor cousin.
8. Stroll Around Ireland's Heritage Towns
Ireland has a large number of designated "Heritage Towns", all providing a fascinating glimpse of times past. Trim
for instance provides a whole medieval townscape with only the castle actually charging visitors. Monastic remains, a round tower
and high crosses recommend Kells
to visitors. And Birr
is famous for Georgian architecture.
9. Enjoy Stunning Views and Mysterious Tombs Passage tombs
like Newgrange and Knowth
are visitor-friendly but costly. Others are no less spectacular, but their location requires effort. Loughcrew
in County Meath is one of the largest megalithic cemeteries in existence. Queen Maeve's Tomb on Knocknarea
(near Sligo) is unexplored but surrounded by myths and legends. The views from both locations are breathtaking ... so is the ascent.
10. Walk in Saint Patrick's Footsteps
Ireland's Patron Saint has been commercialized in many ways, but you can still follow in many of Patrick's holy footsteps
for free: The two cathedrals of Armagh, Downpatrick Cathedral with his (reputed) grave, the site of his first church at Saul
. And don't forget Croagh Patrick
, Ireland's holy mountain and open 24/7/365 for hardy hillwalkers or pious pilgrims.