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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.

COVID aside, winter is not an ideal time to visit Ireland. But if you’re ready to plan a trip to the Emerald Isle in spring or summer, winter is a great time to start planning. With seemingly endless natural splendor, a renowned reputation for hospitable residents, and highly walkable cities, a trip to Ireland makes for an excellent re-introduction to Europe, and it doesn’t have to blow your budget. Here are seven prime ways to experience the Emerald Isle without having to uncover a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

RELATED: 9 gorgeous hostels in Europe starting at $10 a night

Let the locals direct your pub crawl

The worldwide reputation of the Irish pub pretty much precedes itself, and if you’re headed to Ireland, it’s somewhere between likely and inevitable that hitting a few pubs is somewhere on your agenda. Rather than agonizing over various reviews and guides ahead of time, here’s a suggestion: Let the locals do the work for you. Pick the closest pub to your accommodations that looks good to you, pop in, chat up the bartender or a willing local, and before you know it, you’ll have a fully loaded, local-approved drinking itinerary. A benefit of this approach is the ability to indicate your preferences, whether you’re looking for something hip and contemporary or if you’re interested in a postcard-perfect spot to hear some trad music (traditional Irish folk music). Who knows, you might even find yourself with some new drinking buddies.

Find great deals on Dublin hotels right here.

Bike your way through Killarney National Park

County Kerry is stunning in general, and Killarney National Park is arguably its crown jewel. Many will suggest you rent a car and drive the full Ring of Kerry, and if you can swing it that’s a fine choice. (Look for car rental deals here.) But with car-rental prices at an all-time high, reaching Killarney via train and renting a bike makes for a budget-friendlier option that puts you within easy distance of sites like Muckross House, Ross Castle, and Torc Waterfall. More ambitious riders can even make a day trip of reaching the stunning Gap of Dunloe. If an extra €10 isn’t too much, the quick ferry to Innisfallen, an island on Lough Leane that includes the ruins of a 10th-century monastery, is well worth the modest price tag.

Find great deals on Killarney hotels right here.

Demolish a full Irish breakfast

Provided that pork is on the menu for you, you’d be remiss not to devour the full Irish breakfast at least once during your trip. For the uninitiated, said breakfast will include some if not all of the following: bacon, sausage, eggs, tomato, beans, mushrooms, toast, and black and white pudding (sausage-like dishes typically stuffed with pork and grains). This is another case where surveying locals is likely to point you in the direction of a good breakfast at a good price, but even if you just fly blind you’re still likely to leave happy and full. The latter element is worth knowing, because if you finish the whole thing, it’s quite possible you won’t need to eat again until dinner.

Add value to your trip by using the “free breakfast” filter when searching hotels.

Stage your own GOT reenactment

Northern Ireland (that’s the six counties that are part of the United Kingdom for those who skipped European history) is rich with sites that figured prominently into the filming of the hit HBO series, with Belfast serving as the primary base of operations during the show’s run. If you want to spring for it, there are plenty of tours that will schlep you around to various sites at a reasonable cost, but if you want to sort out your own transit, most of the sites are free to visit, giving you the chance to channel your inner Arya fleeing Kings Landing via the Dark Hedges or take in Dunluce Castle, which served as the basis for the Greyjoy’s Castle Pyke. Here’s a list of Northern Irish sites used in the show.

Find a lovely place to stay in Belfast here.

Tour a brewery or distillery

If you’re going to be sampling the beer and whiskey in pubs, the least you can do is take some time out to appreciate how it’s made. Guinness’ St. James Gate brewery is a hugely popular destination for a reason, and the pint you’ll enjoy at the culmination of the tour is almost worth the €18.50 admission on its own, thanks to a stunning 360 degree view of Dublin that comes with it. Whiskey aficionados may find themselves drawn to Jameson or Bushmills, but if this sort of thing interests you, be advised that Ireland has seen a surge in craft breweries and distilleries in recent years that may offer more intimate and economical tour options.

Find great deals on Dublin hotels right here.

Get lost in Galway

It’s no secret that putting one foot in front of the other is the best way to get acquainted with most cities, but the charming cobblestone streets of Galway’s Latin Quarter along the River Corrib particularly lend themselves to aimless sightseeing. The medieval city’s got an arty, bohemian vibe so you’ll find plenty of interesting shops and cafes to explore, as. well. The Salthill Promenade is another popular choice for a stroll, offering a pleasant path along Galway Bay and a view of the Aran Islands (where they make those sweaters you’ll see in every Irish gift shop) on a clear day. Basically, Galway is one of Ireland’s most pleasantly walkable cities, so take advantage of it.

Find great deals on Galway hotels right here.

Conquer Ireland’s rugged coastline

Ireland’s coast is rich with stunning scenery and if you have the time and money at your disposal for a car or a guided tour, sites like the Cliffs of Moher or the Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula are well worth the effort. However, if you’re more limited, or if you’re stopping in Dublin as part of a larger European travel experience but still want to sneak in some natural beauty, Howth makes for an excellent choice. It’s easily accessible from Dublin by train, and the scenic paths along the cliffs offer hikes of different lengths depending on how ambitious you’re feeling. Complete the journey with some fish and chips at one of the local pubs.

Find great deals on Dublin hotels right here.

Tagged: Cheap Tips, City, Destinations, International, Types of Travel

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Matt Lynch

Matt Lynch

Matt Lynch

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