Posted: 8/17/19 | October 17th, 2019
Ireland. It’s a scenic country full of rolling green hills, photogenic cliffs, impressive castles, cozy Irish pub, friendly locals, and a lot of Irish charm.
My first trip was a quick 24-hour visit to Dublin, but, I loved it so much I’ve gone back about four times since. Ireland has a special magic to it that makes every visitor fall in love. (Ok, not everyone, but most people love it here!)
While the cities are incredible and have a lot to offer, Ireland is best seen by car so you can get off-road and visit the small little villages, castles, and parks that dot the country.
However, if you’re like me, and not a fan of driving (especially driving on the left!), the next best thing to driving or just city hopping on buses is going on a tour in Ireland. Given the country’s small size, you can see a lot of it in a little time and a tour can be a good way to pack it all in without the hassle of organizing all the details yourself.
There are lots of tour options here — from walking tours in Dublin to multi-day tours around all of Ireland. Here is a list of my favorite tour companies in Ireland, each of which have something unique to offer:
1. Historical Walking Tours of Dublin
The city of Dublin is such a fascinating place to explore, and it’s full of historical spots that you might just wander past if you’re not with a guide from Historical Walking Tours of Dublin. They’ve been operating tours since 1986 and one of the reasons they’re so good is their guides all have postgrad history qualifications – but also know how to lead a tour with a good Irish sense of humor.
Each walking tour is just over two hours long and they start from the front gate of Trinity College at 11am every day, with an extra tour at 3pm from May to September. They’ll take you to many of the highlights of Dublin like the House of Lords, Temple Bar, Christ Church Cathedral, and Dublin Castle and you’ll end up with a great overview of Irish history. Tickets are 14 EUR.
2. Paddywagon Tours
An Irish born-and-bred tour company that started in 1998, Paddywagon Tours offers both day tours for lots of popular tourist attractions in Ireland as well as multi-day tours ranging from two to nine days long, with accommodation choices ranging between B&Bs and hostels.
If you’re time-pressed and looking for some day trips from Dublin to quickly see a bit more of Ireland, Paddywagon has trips to places like the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, and even up to the Giant’s Causeway and other highlights of Northern Ireland. Costs range from 45 EUR to 65 EUR for these trips. They also run day trips out of other centers like Belfast, Limerick, and Cork.
Paddywagon’s multi-day tours range from 149 EUR for a two-day trip up to 689 EUR for their All Ireland nine-day tour, with backpacker accommodation (or 999 EUR if you want B&B stays). Even though you could easily spend a month in Ireland, given its relatively small size you can actually get a lot out of nine days. If you’re a student they also run some student special trips at even lower costs so keep an eye out for them.
3. Shamrocker Adventures
Shamrocker is a great option for budget travelers looking for multi-day tours of Ireland. Their approach is to try and combine the best of independent travel and group trips. That means they give you choices like different levels of accommodation and you can self-cater when it comes to food. They also have great guides who are passionate Irish storytellers — even their bus drivers have a great sense of humor!
Tours range between three and seven days, with the shorter trips focusing on just one part of Ireland — the south or the west — and costing around 300 EUR per person. Shamrocker’s seven-day trip covers all the main sights like the Giant’s Causeway, Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and Blarney Castle and is 609 EUR for adults and 589 EUR for students.
4. Wolfhound Adventure Tours
Wolfhound Adventure Tours is a boutique tour company run by Trinity College history-graduate Dave O’Connor. Tour groups have a maximum of 12 travelers and tours include some biking and hiking, which are optional but definitely a big part of the fun.
Tours range between five and ten days — the shorter tours give you an option of going to the north to the Giant’s Causeway or heading west to see the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, both of which are 985 EUR. Wolfhound trips can include kayaking, horseriding, whale watching, and even surfing lessons and are a great choice for anyone looking to get active!
5. Vagabond Tours
Vagabond Tours is an Irish company and offers two kinds of small group tours, Driftwood Tours if you want to take it easy, and Vagabond Tours which include activities like hiking, sea kayaking, and cycling.
Tours range in length from six to eleven days, and in price from 1,550 EUR to 2,900 EUR per person. They have some of the common itineraries such as a Northern Ireland tour taking in the Giant’s Causeway and Belfast and the Giant Irish tour which circumnavigates the country, but they also have a few specialty trips like a foodie tour, an adventure trip which includes a visit to the Skellig Islands, and a tour for history buffs focusing on castles and kingdoms.
Rob Rankin, co-founder of Vagabond Tours, is a huge advocate of responsible and sustainable tourism and the leader of Ecotourism Ireland, and Vagabond Tours has been eco-tourism gold-certified since 2017.
6. Extreme Ireland
Extreme Ireland offer adventure tours around Ireland, with several Wild Atlantic Way trips available, ranging from six to 12 days long. They take small groups (a maximum of 16 travelers) led by skilled guides who have all the skills necessary to help you have a safe and adventurous tour.
Their 12-day trip will take you all over Ireland — it doesn’t just show you the regular sightseeing highlights!. The tour also includes several bike rides, a stint of stand up paddleboarding, hikes along sea cliffs and wild coastlines, kayaking, and surfing. This one comes in at 2,200 EUR while their shorter tours start at 1,100 EUR.
An Intrepid trip is always a good option — they’re my go-to multi-day tour company no matter where in the world I’m heading. With small groups (a maximum of 12 travelers for Ireland), carefully-hired local guides, and a relaxed pace, Intrepid tours really can’t be beaten. They offer just one trip in Ireland but it covers all the major sights and attractions, an eight-day adventure that spans from Belfast in Northern Ireland to Killarney in the south-west.
Their Ireland tour will take you through Dublin and Galway and includes sightseeing hotspots like the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant’s Causeway, as well a chance to explore the Aran Islands. Accommodation is in a mix of hotels and hostels, with breakfast included. The tour costs 2,300 EUR per person.
From walking tours to help you understand the history and culture of the great city of Dublin to multi-day adventures circumnavigating the whole of the island, taking a tour in Ireland will make sure you get to know lots of interesting locals and learn more about what makes the Irish tick.
Whether it’s the crazy ritual of kissing the Blarney Stone, exploring the incredible landscapes in Northern Ireland Game of Thrones was filmed, or simply knowing which pub in Galway is the best spot for a Guinness, these Ireland tour companies will help make your Irish experience the best it can be!
Book Your Trip to Ireland: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time. My favorite hostels in the country are:
- Generator Hostel (Dublin) – Generator is one of the best hostel chains in Europe. Their places are always clean and comfortable, though a bit generic if you’re looking for something unique.
- Barnacles Quay Street (Galway) – With free breakfast, a free walking tour, and lots of fun events, this is a great hsotel for budget travelers looking to be social.
- Kinlay House (Cork) – This is another social hostel that has lots of common area space, including an outdoor patio. The staff are great and the bathrooms clean (always a plus in hostels!).
- Neptunes Town Hostel (Killarney) – This hostel is in a great location and the staff are super friendly and helpful!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!
Want More Information on Ireland?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Ireland for even more planning tips!