In May, our very good German friends from Nuremberg flew to Ireland for a four day visit with us. For a few reasons, Bell and I had not previously rented a car in Ireland (largely due to nerves driving on the left side of the road). But our friends decided they would rent a car and we would share in the cost of an overnight stay in Galway and a drive around County Clare. Visiting the Cliffs of Moher by rental car from Dublin is an excellent option to consider if you’re visiting Ireland. Here are some tips to get the best value for this trip, along with some stunning pictures of the cliffs!
Where to Rent a Car in Dublin
We rented the car from downtown Dublin’s EuropCar location, one of the cheaper car rental companies, on average. City center locations can be a great option if you don’t need to pick up your car from the airport. You don’t need a car while you’re in Dublin anyway, as it’s generally more hassle than it’s worth. Uber is prevalent and cheap, if you’re not already using the service, sign up here and receive $5 credit.
So if you’re staying in Dublin, consider picking up a car in the city center on your way out of town, like we did, because if you rent a car from any airport in Ireland there is also a 40 euro ($53 US) surcharge, which is especially steep for just a 1 or 2 day rental. The downside with renting from city locations is that they close earlier and open later than airport locations, so check times carefully. Additionally, some car rental companies’ city locations are closed Sundays, but EuropCar’s office is open, albeit from just 9am-3pm both Saturday and Sunday. If you pick up a car in the center of Dublin, try and avoid rush hour traffic if possible.
Tours to the Cliffs of Moher
If you decide not to visit the Cliffs of Moher by rental car from Dublin, there are tours leaving from both Dublin and Galway daily.
Guided Tours from Dublin
This 3 day Southern Ireland Tour including Galway and Kerry from Dublin starts at $298.67. This tour includes visits to Connemara, Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle Peninsula, Killarney and Ring of Kerry. Those are a lot of magnificent places, so after spending 2 days in Dublin, this tour would be a great idea for days 3-5.
Guided Tours from Galway:
You can catch the train from Dublin to Galway (check the schedule on the Irish Rail website), then jump on some tours in Galway if you don’t want to drive a car. Consider this Cliffs of Moher Day Trip from Galway, Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher Day Trip from Galway Including Cliffs of Moher Cruise and Shore Excursion: Cliffs of Moher, Aran Islands and the Burren from Galway. Prices for these tours start from $36 US. You may also want to consider a Galway Food and Drink Walking Tour.
Where to Stay to see the Cliffs of Moher?
It’s a best to base yourself in Galway, or perhaps the smaller towns of Doolin and Liscannor for a quieter stay near the Cliffs of Moher. It’s a good idea to book hotels in advance that offer free cancellation. Families especially will find the best value on short term apartment rentals. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here and receive $40 credit off your first stay!
When we visited the Cliffs of Moher by rental car from Dublin we were on a tight budget and stayed at the Travelodge Galway. We also stayed at Travelodge’s in Limerick and Waterford. It’s no frills, but the rooms are clean and it’s a way to save money traveling around Ireland, especially if you want to avoid Airbnb.
Where to Eat in Galway
After a 2 and 1/2 hour drive west, through the center of Ireland, we arrived in Galway. We had an excellent seafood dinner at McDonagh’s. We highly recommend this takeaway or sit down restaurant for fish n’ chips, oysters (which are great in Galway) or any of their seafood options. It’s one of the most recommended places in town and busy with locals, which is usually a good sign. We then went for a few pints of Guinness and went back to our hotel for an early start in the morning.
County Clare: Home of the Cliffs of Moher
County Clare is amazing and a drive through its narrow and windy roads with dramatic cliffs and picturesque seaside hills made us realize why many Irish people say “you haven’t seen Ireland if you haven’t seen the west coast.” Though this is also because many parts of the west were less influenced by the British and in some small towns Gaelic is still the first language of many locals. When driving on the seaside road south of Galway, there are a few amazing areas to stop before the Cliffs of Moher. You’ll know where based on the other cars pulled over!
Cliffs of Moher Tips
Upon arrival at the cliffs, parking is easy and the cost is €6 ($8.50 US) per person in the vehicle. There is a visitor center where you can buy snacks, drinks and get additional information on the area. For those that don’t wish to have access to the visitors center, you can be dropped off at a pedestrian access to visit the cliffs for free. The photos can tell the rest of the story on why the Cliffs of Moher are the most visited attraction in Ireland, with around 1 million visitors per year.
Where to Stay in Dublin?
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 our 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.
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Have questions about planning a trip to Ireland? Email me at email@example.com as I help personally tailor great itineraries for the Emerald Island!
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