Backpacking in Ireland
Strap on your backpack and get set for a whirlwind adventure through the wonderfully wild island of Ireland
Right, I’m off backpacking, why should I come to Ireland?
Small in size but big in personality, Ireland is one of the hottest destinations in the world right now for the intrepid backpacker. From hip, buzzy cities to remote, isolated islands, this is one country that can offer a phenomenal range of experiences. How about scrambling to the top of a holy mountain in your bare feet; whale watching off the wild Cork coast; discovering remote islands where the Gaelic language and traditional culture is rich and alive; or even kickstarting your trip with a spot of Ulster-Scots Highland dancing. There is such a variety of experiences to enjoy that it’s hard to know where to start.
Are cities good fun for backpackers?
Absolutely. Almost half of Ireland’s population is under 25 and cities like Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Galway and Limerick are legendary for their history, culture, nightlife and huge student populations. You’ll find hip clubs, cracking traditional pubs, cool new music venues, chic cafés and some of the best restaurants in Europe. From high art to hedonism and from distinguished architecture to downright debauchery, Ireland’s cities have a fast pace of life, buckets of energy and an open, honest and friendly vibe that make them utterly unique. From the boho buzz of Galway to Belfast’s legendary nightlife, you’re guaranteed an experience to remember.
I’m feeling kind of active so what’s on offer then?
Luckily, Ireland has activities completely covered. There’s a mind-blowing array of stuff to do here from extreme adventure sports to cycling, horseriding, every conceivable type of high-octane watersport, and even fishing for those looking for a more leisurely trip. You could try your hand at a cookery course in an island cottage, clip-clop around the countryside in a horse-drawn carriage or plunge into the ocean and dive down to a sunken wreck!
I’m on a budget – is that going to be difficult?
Not at all. Getting around Ireland is relatively cheap and easy with a great infrastructure of trains, buses and coaches, as well as ferries and boats to the islands. There are even specialist tour companies who cater solely for the intrepid adventurers of the world, bringing you off the beaten track so you get to explore just that little bit more. There’s a wide variety of places to stay, too, from reasonably-priced guesthouses and B&Bs to an excellent selection of well-equipped hostels where you can hook up with other travellers and share experiences and tips. In most major cities, you can stay in university digs throughout the summer, giving you the opportunity to experience a taste of Ireland’s campus life. Eating out is also good value and there are heaps of early bird menus and set-price lunches at even the most elegant of restaurants, along with well-priced cafés and a good variety of farmers’ markets where you can pick up fine food on the hoof!
So when’s a good time to go?
That’s completely up to you. Ireland’s mild temperate climate makes it great to enjoy year round. If you’re after the festival experience then summer is a great time to join in the fun – the country is literally hopping with colourful, vibrant festivals with small towns and big cities celebrating everything from global culture to traditional music, as well as theatre, art, street performance, food and literature. So, go on, embrace your spirit of adventure, strap on your backpack and get going to Ireland!
Sounds good, but where should I start then?
That’s entirely up to you. Although Ireland’s small size makes it easy to get around, there are so many things to see and do that it may take a while to get through them all. It’s a cinch to get off the beaten track with a stunning array of sparsely populated islands that offer breathtaking scenery and incredible hiking opportunities whether you want island-hopping treks or a simple day trip. There are also awesome national parks with soaring mountains, crashing waterfalls, tranquil lakes and haunting boglands located close to pretty, welcoming fishing villages.