There are quite a few tour companies in Ireland, but Paddywagon has the biggest selection of budget options. With bright green buses, plastered with a giant leprechaun smoking a pipe, they tend to stand out a little more than the rest on the roadways. Among a few slogans, Paddywagon markets themselves as “the most fun tour in the world.”
Among several multi day options, Paddywagon offers a 4 day southwest tour of Ireland from Dublin starting at $441 per person. They also offer a 3 Day Northern Ireland Tour from Dublin including Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge from $278 per person.
Touring the West Coast of Ireland With Paddywagon Tours
Following the large TBEX travel blogging conference, Bell and I were invited on a Paddywagon media trip to test out the company. Our small group tour included 11 travel bloggers, accompanied by Paddywagon organizer and filmmaker Zachary Griner.
We started by heading west to County Clare and the Burren, near the Cliffs of Moher. After a couple hours driving through the center of Ireland, we stumbled upon a group of donkeys near the road, including a baby, and our driver and guide Mike Coggins, who was seriously fantastic, decided to pull over for photos and ass mingling. The donkeys were surprisingly sociable, though we did have random bits of food that they enjoyed.
We were extremely fortunate to have gorgeous sunny weather and after stops at Kinvara castle and lunch in Doolin, we arrived at Ireland’s most visited attraction, the dramatic Cliffs of Moher. With 1 million visitors per year, the cliffs can be a little busy, but as they stretch for 6km, there’s plenty of room for everyone. This was our second visit to the cliffs,
and with a 1 and 1/2 hour stop we walked in the opposite direction of our previous trip, when we found ourselves in horrendous weather. This time Bell and I took our time in the sun and enjoyed sitting on the edge and photographing the scenery. This meant we once again didn’t have time to experience the visitor’s center, which features an apparently interesting film of the area. A fellow travel blogger felt 1 and 1/2 hours at the Cliffs was perfect, Bell and I felt an additional 30 minutes would have been more ideal. But there was a lot more to see and quite a bit of distance to cover.
From the Cliffs we headed south for our first ever visit to stunning County Kerry, the favorite county of many in Ireland. There was a couple hours of additional driving that also involved a ferry ride across the River Shannon to cut 80km of driving distance. As beautiful as the coastline of County Clare is, the change of scenery in County Kerry is striking, with vastly larger rolling green mountains. As many Irish will tell you, when you see photos of Ireland, they are generally of County Kerry.
Our accommodation for the night was in the small village of Annascaul, where Paddywagon owns a bed and breakfast, hostel and adjoining pub that serves dinner. Bell and I were given a private room with ensuite bathroom in the bed and breakfast which was comfortable, quiet and extremely clean. We all ate dinner together at their wonderfully named, Randy Leprechaun
pub. Bell and I had chicken wings to start and burgers as mains. The chicken wings were heavily breaded and reminded me of the American chain Hooters (minus service with massive cleavage and tiny orange shorts). But given that the Randy Leprechaun is attached to a hostel and caters to budget travelers, Bell and I felt that the price point on the burger and fries, at €11 ($14.80 USD), could have been a little lower.
After dinner, an Irish dancing instructor came by and for just €4 ($5.40 USD), we, along with paying guests, had the option to learn and partake in Irish dancing. Given that I have the coordination of a monkey on ice, I decided to pass and opted to photograph instead. But Bell partook and had an awesome time, and I enjoyed watching her dance and laugh. Everyone that gave it a go really enjoyed it and worked up a sweat in the process. Given that it had been a long day, most of our fellow blogging companions retired early and after the dancing finished, the atmosphere in the pub was a little lacking. This isn’t a high point in tourist season though and we’d suspect that the atmosphere in summer would be much more happening until later
For our full day in County Kerry, the Irish weather gods did not grant us the same fortunes as the previous day, as we were inundated with fog and rain. Fortunately, our phenomenal guide and driver Mike adjusted our schedule to suit the weather conditions. There were a few less photo opportunities but Mike knew some gorgeous, lesser known spots that were just stunning. Along the Slea Head drive of Kerry
, the early 90’s film ‘Far and Away,’ starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman was filmed. During filming, Cruise took quite a liking to a charming elderly widower named Mary, whom he preferred to enjoy his breakfasts with in her home, rather than the ones provided by the catering van. At 82 years of age, Mary still resides in her home for 6 months of the year and allows visitors to tour her charming living room and flip through photo albums of the making of the film, with several photos of her and a far younger Tom Cruise. The €2 charge also includes access to several incredible bee hives. The incredible former residences of monks date back to the 8th century. If you’re passing through this area during tourist season, definitely swing by Mary’s property, it’s an awesome experience for €2!
*Updated July 25th, 2018 Below*
Where to Stay in Dublin Before Touring the West Coast of Ireland With Paddywagon Tours?
It’s a good idea to book a hotel with free cancellation in advance. Later if prices change and you find a better deal, you can easily cancel your reservation and book another one. Here are hotel and bed and breakfast recommendations for Dublin:
Shelbourne Hotel is Dublin’s most historic luxury hotel, as several US Presidents and many foreign dignitaries have stayed there. They have a wonderful cocktail lounge and fantastic dining options. Even if you’re not a guest, swing in for high tea and enjoy a lovely view of St. Stephen’s Green.
The Merrion Hotel is another excellent luxury choice. This 5 star hotel offers an old world luxury experience in a great location.
O’Callaghan is a small chain of centrally located, comfortable hotels with good breakfasts. Trinity College often puts job applicants and guests up in these hotels. We stayed at O’Callaghan St. Stephens Green when Bell interviewed for her post doctoral position at Trinity College and highly recommend it.
ABC House Dublin and Egans House are quintessentially Irish bed and breakfasts a little outside the center of Dublin. They both offer reasonable comfort for those that don’t want to spend a lot to sleep. We spent a week at ABC House Dublin while searching for our apartment when we first moved to Dublin. We stayed at Egans House on a visit to Ireland.
Generator Hostel is conveniently located right next to the Jameson Distillery (fun!) and is part of a reputable chain of hostels in Europe that are known for being clean and having a fun atmosphere.
Families especially will find the best deals on short term apartment rentals. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here for freeand receive $40 credit off your first stay!
Want to travel to Ireland for Free?
Play the credit card points game and use bonus point sign ups for free plane tickets! The most popular card among travel hackers is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The card also includes complimentary priority pass lounge access with free food, drinks and wifi. The annual fee seems steep at $450, but it includes $300 in travel credits. The 50,000 bonus point sign up is good for $750 in travel credit, enough for a free plane ticket to Ireland! They’ll also compensate you $100 for free Global Entry and TSA pre-check to skip airport lines.
If you don’t travel very frequently, the Delta Skymiles American Express Gold Card is free the first year and just $95 each year after. They give a 40,000 point bonus after you charge just $1,000, so this is a great card. You’ll typically need around 60,000+ miles for a free flight to Ireland, but you can earn these miles with everyday purchases. There are other perks to having the Delta SkyMiles AMEX Gold Card, like free checked bags on Delta flights.
Have questions about planning your trip to Ireland? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below and I can assist you!
Disclosure: While our 3 day tour was provided free of charge, all photos and opinions expressed here are ours. Also, this article contains some affiliate links. We receive a small commission when you book or sign up through these links and it costs you nothing extra. When it suits you, please use them, as it helps us help you!
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