Karen Brown’s Travel Guide - Hotels in Ireland Travel Guide - Hotels, Accommodations, Bed & Breakfast, Self Catering Apartments Ireland Recommendtaions Travelers Trust Member or Property

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Overview:


Writers wax lyrical about Ireland's spectacular scenery: ever-changing landscapes, splendid seascapes, purple moorlands, monastic ruins, enchanting lakes, towering fortresses, and vast, spreading patchworks of fields in every shade of green. Our Ireland travel guide features five ITINERARIES throughout the land. The itineraries are paced to enjoy the scenery and wonderful people this magnificent country.

The best of Irish bed and breakfasts; sumptuous country house hotels; self-catering houses, cottages, and apartments; Dublin’s finest hotels; an eclectic mix of unique places to stay . . . believe every word you read about the beauty of the Emerald Isle. OUR LIST OF IRELAND HOTELS includes all of these variations of Ireland lodgings and range in price from the moderate to the extravagant. However it’s the warmhearted friendly people that make a visit to Ireland truly special.


Airfare:


Karen Brown’s Guides have long recommended Auto Europe for their excellent car rental services. Their air travel division, Destination Europe, an airline broker working with major American and European carriers, offers deeply discounted coach- and business-class fares to over 200 European gateway cities. It also gives Karen Brown travelers an additional 5% discount off its already highly competitive prices (cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions). We recommend making reservations by phone at (800) 835-1555. When phoning, be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to secure your discount.

Another option is to visit Flight Reservations under the blue Travel Tools tab on all of our web pages. Here, you will find a myriad of prices from different air carriers.

Europe now has several low-cost air carriers, the largest being Ryanair, offering excellent prices for air travel within Europe. If you are traveling long distances across Europe it might be advantageous to look into flying rather taking the train.


Transportation:


Readers frequently ask our advice on car rental companies. We always use Auto Europe—a car rental broker that works with the major car rental companies to find the lowest possible price. They also offer motor homes and chauffeur services. Auto Europe’s toll-free phone service, from every European country, connects you to their U.S.-based, 24-hour reservation center (ask for the Europe Phone Numbers Card to be mailed to you). Auto Europe offers our readers a 5% discount (cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions) and, occasionally, free upgrades. Be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to receive your discount and any special offers. To check prices or reserve a car click on Auto Europe under Travel Tools.

Currency:


The unit of currency in Northern Ireland is the pound sterling, while in the Republic of Ireland it is the euro. The two currencies do not have equal value.

An increasingly popular and convenient way to obtain foreign currency is simply to use your bankcard at a seemingly ubiquitous ATM machine. You pay a fixed fee for this but, depending on the amount you withdraw, it is usually less than the percentage-based fee charged to exchange currency or travelers' checks. Be sure to check with your bank or credit card company about their fees and necessary pin numbers prior to departure.

Many establishments accept one or more credit cards. If possible, pay using your credit card as the exchange rate is usually quite favorable. Paying by credit card reduces the need to carry large sums of cash and thus reduces potential loss in the case of theft. Keep a record of your credit card numbers at home as well as with you separately from your cards in case of loss or theft. Also, it is a good idea to contact your card issuer and inform them of your travel plans.

 


Driving:


It is to the countryside that you must go, for to visit Ireland without driving through the country areas is to miss the best she has to offer. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road, which may take a little getting used to if you drive on the right at home, so avoid driving in cities until you feel comfortable with the system. If your arrival city is Dublin, do not pick your car up until you are ready to leave for the countryside. A valid driver’s license from your home country is required. Your car will not be an automatic unless you specifically reserve one. Petrol (gasoline) is extremely expensive. In the Republic, people usually do not use road numbers when giving directions: they refer to roads as where they might lead to (e.g., the Cork road). To add to the confusion, new road signs quote distances in kilometers, while old signs are in miles. The Irish seem to use neither, always quoting distances in the number of hours it takes them to drive. The distances in Ireland are not great, but often the roads are not great either—though they are getting a lot better. Plan on being in a traffic jam every time a road goes through a town. Roads and motorways around Dublin are nearly always congested. Estimate your journey on the basis of an average of 30 miles (about 50 kilometers) per hour. The types of roads found in Ireland are as follows:

MOTORWAYS: The letter “M” precedes these fast roads, which have two or three lanes of traffic either side of a central divider. Motorways are more prevalent in Northern Ireland though they are becoming more common between larger towns in the Republic.

NATIONAL ROADS: The letter “N” precedes the road number in the Republic, while in Northern Ireland, the road number is preceded by the letter “A.” They are the straightest and most direct routes you can take when motorways are not available.

REGIONAL ROADS: The letter “R” precedes the road number on maps, but their numbers rarely, if ever, appear on signposts. They are usually wide enough for two cars or one tractor. Off the major routes, road signs are not posted as often as you might wish, so when you drive it’s best to plan some extra time for asking the way. Asking the way does have its advantages—you get to experience Irish directions from natives always ready to assure you that you cannot miss your destination—which gives you the opportunity of asking another friendly local the way when you do. One of the joys of meandering along less traveled country roads is rounding a bend to find that cows and sheep take precedence over cars as they saunter up the middle of the road.


Electricity:


The voltage is 240. Most hotels, guesthouses, and farmhouses have American-style razor points for 110 volts. If you are coming from overseas, it is recommended that you take only dual-voltage appliances and a kit of electrical plugs. Your host can usually loan you a hairdryer or an iron.

Shopping:


Prices of goods are fairly standard throughout Ireland, so make your purchases as you find items you like, since it is doubtful that you will find them again at a less expensive price. The most popular items to buy are hand-knitted sweaters, tweeds, crystal, china, and hand-embroidered linens. Value Added Tax (VAT) is included in the price of your purchases. There is usually a minimum purchase requirement, but it is possible for visitors from non-EU countries to get a refund of the VAT on the goods they buy in one of two ways: 1. If the goods are shipped overseas direct from the point of purchase, the store can deduct the VAT at the time of sale. 2. Visitors taking the goods with them should ask the store to issue a VAT refund receipt. A passport is needed for identification. On departure, before you check in for your flight, go to the refund office at Shannon or Dublin airport. Your receipts will be stamped and they may ask to see your purchases. You will be given a cash refund in the currency of your choice.

Tourism:


The Irish Tourist Board (bord failte) and Northern Ireland Tourist Board are invaluable sources of information. Outside Ireland, they have combined their organizations under the auspices of “Tourism Ireland.” They can supply you with details on all of Ireland and, on request, specific information on accommodation in homes, farmhouses, and manors; and information on festivals, fishing, and the like. The easiest way to contact them is via www.tourismireland.com. You can also reach them by phone as follows:

Australia: (0)2 9299 6177

Canada: (800) 223 6470

Great Britain: 0800 0397000

New Zealand: 0 9 977 2255

USA: (800) 669 9967


Weather:


It has been said that there is no such thing as climate in Ireland—only weather, and no such thing as bad weather—only the wrong clothes. This is because the changes in conditions from day to day, and even from hour to hour, seem greater than the changes from one season to the next. The Atlantic Ocean and the air masses moving east give Ireland very little seasonal variation in temperature, producing mild winters and cool summers. The ocean’s influence is strongest near the coast, especially in winter when areas bordering the sea are milder than those inland. Coastal areas, particularly in the west, also have less variation in temperature between day and night. Even when it rains, and it does, it never pours—it’s just soft Irish rain that keeps the isle emerald. The best thing is to be prepared for sun and sudden squalls at all times.

Itineraries:


To keep you on the right track, we have created driving itineraries covering the most interesting sightseeing. If time allows, you can link the four itineraries together and travel all around Ireland. Each itinerary explores a region’s scenic beauty, history, and culture, and avoids its large cities. Along the way, we suggest alternative routes and side trips (indicated in italics). At the beginning of each itinerary, we suggest our recommended pacing to help you decide the amount of time to allocate to each region. Do not try to see all of Ireland in a week—this is frankly impossible. You will enjoy yourself much more if you concentrate on a smaller number of destinations and stay for at least a couple of nights in each, rather than spending most of your precious vacation rushing from place to place. The capricious changes in the weather mean that often what appears sparkling and romantic in sunshine, appears dull and depressing under gathering storm clouds. If the weather is stormy, find a nice place to stay with good company. Once the rain clears, there is much to see.

Clothing Summary:


Ireland is an easygoing place and casual clothes are acceptable everywhere, even at the fanciest restaurants. Because the weather is changeable, layers of sweaters and shirts that can be added to and removed are recommended. A lightweight, waterproof jacket with a hood is indispensable. Do not haul huge suitcases into bed & breakfasts; rather, we suggest that you have a small suitcase (the size that fits under your airline seat) that you take into the places you stay, leaving larger luggage in the car.

Maps:


Please, do not assume you can print maps from our site and merrily travel through Ireland. Possibly, the most important item to travel with is a good map, particularly if you are driving. You will need a set of detailed maps that indicate all of the highway numbers, motorways, national roads, alternative little roads, exact distances, etc. Our suggestion is to purchase a comprehensive selection of both city maps and regional maps before your departure, and with a highlight pen mark your own personalized itinerary and pinpoint your city hotels. (Note: Frequently in Ireland the hotels do not have a street address-especially in small towns, the town itself is the only address. However, in most cases the tourist bureau does an excellent job of placing signs strategically to guide you to each of the hotels once you are close.) Be sure to get a map that has an index with it. Our preference for maps are those by Michelin-we use Michelin Map #712 for Ireland. We sell Michelin country maps, city maps, and regional Green Guides on our website store.

Before you leave for Austria, contact the individual hotels you will be staying at for their directions to the property. Even with the best of aids, you will occasionally get lost. Try not to blame the navigator as his is a thankless job.


Pubs:


Ireland’s pubs will not disappoint—if you do not expect sophisticated establishments. Most of the 12,000 pubs, where the Irish share ideas over frothing pints of ale and porter, have a contagious spirit and charm. Stop at a pub and you’ll soon be drawn into conversation. At local pubs, musicians and dancers perform for their own enjoyment, their audience being those who stop by for a drink. If this kind of entertainment appeals to you, ask someone wherever you are staying to recommend a local pub that will have live music that night.

Roots:


The Potato Famine of the 1840s cut population by a fourth. Through the lean decades that followed, the Irish left by the thousands to make new lives, primarily in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The first step in tracing your Irish roots is to collect together as much information on your Irish antecedent as possible, and to find out from relatives or documents (death or marriage certificates) just where he or she came from in Ireland. Armed with this information, your choices are several:

DO IT YOURSELF: If your ancestors hailed from Southern Ireland, visit the genealogical office on Kildare Street in Dublin. If your ancestors came from Northern Ireland, visit the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 66 Balmoral Avenue, Belfast BT9 6NY, which is open for visitors to do their own research.

HAVE SOMEONE DO IT FOR YOU: The Republic’s genealogical office charges a small fee, but often has a backlog, so it takes time to do a general search. Write to Chief Herald, General Office of Ireland, 2 Kildare Street, Dublin 2, tel: (01) 603 0200, enclosing whatever information you have on your ancestors.

If your ancestors came from Northern Ireland, send information about them, along with a letter, to one of the following: General Register Office, Oxford House, 49 Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL; Presbyterian Historical Society, Church House, Fisherwick Place, Belfast BT1 6DU.

The major tourist offices have brochures on tracing your ancestors that give more detailed information and provide information on publications that may be of interest to those of Irish descent.


Meals:


Owners of guesthouses, farmhouses, and bed & breakfasts are often happy to serve an evening meal, if you make arrangements 24 hours in advance. Country houses offer a set menu of more elaborate fare and most offer interesting wines—again, arrangements to dine must be made 24 hours in advance. Whether or not an establishment offers dinner is indicated in the list of icons at the bottom of each description by the symbol /. You cannot just arrive and expect dinner. Hotels and restaurants offer menus and wine lists, giving you more dining choices. If an establishment has a restaurant we indicate it with a g. Our suggestion is that you make arrangements for dinner on the night of your arrival at the same time as you make reservations for accommodation.

Rates:


Rates are those quoted to us, either verbally or by correspondence, for the 2007 high season (June, July, and August). The rates given generally cover the least expensive to the most expensive double room (two people sharing a room) inclusive of taxes and, in most cases, breakfast. We do not quote rates for a single person occupying a room. Please note that these rates are not guaranteed, but rather given as a guideline: it is impossible to cover completely every price possibility because most hotels have an intricate tariff system. When a listing does not include breakfast in its rates, we mention this in the description. We feel a great deal of resentment when an obligatory service charge of 10–15% is added to the bill, and feel that establishments often use this as a way of padding their rates. Forewarned is forearmed, so we have indicated if an establishment adds a service charge. Please always check prices and terms when making a reservation. Rates are quoted in euros in the Republic of Ireland and pounds sterling in Northern Ireland. Prices vary considerably and, on the whole, reflect the type of house in which you will be staying. From the charm of a simple farmhouse to the special ambiance of a vast sporting estate, each listing reflects the Irish way of life.

Self-Catering Accomodation:


An excellent way to explore an area is to rent self-catering accommodation on a weekly basis. You can unpack your bags, put your feet up and make yourself at home, come and go as you please, and eat what you like when you like. Tir Na Fiúise in Terryglass is our only exclusively self-catering properties. Several of the country houses that operate as bed & breakfasts can be rented in their entirety as luxurious homes. A great many listings have additional houses, cottages, and converted outbuildings that range from former coach houses to a one-time hen house. Because our primary focus is on beds, breakfasts, and evening meals, we often do not have space to discuss self-catering accommodation at length. We quote a range of rates: from the smallest unit in the low season to the largest unit in the high season, on a weekly or daily basis. Please discuss your requirements when contacting owners to see if they have accommodation that is suitable for you.

Icons Description Summary:


Position the cursor over the icon on the bottom of the accomodations pages and the resulting text will tell what the icon symbol represents.

Air Conditioning Air conditioning in rooms,

Beach Nearby Beach nearby,

Breakfast Included Breakfast included in room rate,

Children Welcome Children welcome,

Cooking Classes Cooking classes offered,

Credit Cards Welcome Credit cards accepted,

Direct Dial Phones Direct-dial telephone in room,

Dogs by Request Dogs by special request,

Elevator Elevator,

Exercise Room Exercise room,

Refrigerator in Rooms Mini-refrigerator in rooms,

Some Non-Smoking Rooms Some non-smoking rooms,

Parking Available Parking available,

Restaurant Restaurant,

Spa Spa,

Swimming Pool Swimming pool,

Tennis Courts Tennis,

TVs in Rooms Television with English channels,

Wedding Facilities Wedding facilities,

Wheelchair Friendly Wheelchair friendly,

Golf Course Nearby Golf course nearby,

Hiking Trails Nearby Hiking trails nearby,

Horseback Riding Nearby Horseback riding nearby,

Skiing Nearby Skiing nearby,

Water Sports Nearby Water sports nearby,

Wineries Nearby Wineries nearby


Reservations and Contact:


RESERVATIONS

When making your reservations, be sure to identify yourself as a “Karen Brown Traveler.” The hotels appreciate your visit, value their inclusion in our guide, frequently tell us they take special care of our readers, and many offer special rates to Karen Brown members (visit our website at www.karenbrown.com). We hear over and over again that the people who use our guides are such wonderful guests!

It is important to understand that once reservations for accommodation are confirmed, whether verbally by phone or in writing, you are under contract. This means that the proprietor is obligated to provide the accommodation that was promised, and that you are obligated to pay for it. If you cannot, you are liable for a portion of the accommodation charges plus your deposit. Although some proprietors do not strictly enforce a cancellation policy many, particularly the smaller properties in our book, simply cannot afford not to do so. Similarly, many airline tickets cannot be changed or refunded without penalty. We recommend insurance to cover these types of additional expenses arising from cancellation due to unforeseen circumstances. A link on our website (www.karenbrown.com) will connect you to a variety of insurance policies that can be purchased online.

Reservations should always be made in advance for Dublin accommodation. In the countryside, space is not so tight and a room can often be had simply by calling in the morning. July and August are the busiest times and if you are traveling to a popular spot, you should make advance reservations. Be specific as to what your needs are, such as a ground-floor room, en suite shower, twin beds, family room. Check the prices, which may well have changed from those given in the book (summer 2008). Ask what deposit to send or give your credit card number. Tell them about what time you intend to arrive and request dinner if you want it. There are several options for making reservations.

EMAIL: This is our preferred way of making a reservation. If the hotel/bed & breakfast is on our website and has email, its web page contains a link to its email. (Always spell out the month as the Irish reverse the American month/day numbering system.)

FAX: If you have access to a fax machine, this is a very quick way to reach a hotel/bed & breakfast. If the place to stay has a fax, we have included the number in the listing. (See EMAIL above about spelling out the month.)

LETTER: If you write for reservations, you will usually receive your confirmation and a map. You should then send your deposit. (See comment on EMAIL about spelling out month.)

TELEPHONE: By telephoning you have your answer immediately, so if space is not available, you can then decide on an alternative. If calling from the United States, allow for the time difference (Ireland is five hours ahead of New York) so that you can call during their business day. Dial 011 (the international code), 353 (Republic of Ireland’s code) or 44 (Northern Ireland’s code), then the city code (dropping the 0), and the telephone number.