There’s a time and a place for staying in a big-name, high-design hotel, but when it comes to experiencing the best of the Emerald Isle—we’re talking greener-than-green rolling countryside, staggering sea views, and an unmatched level of hospitality—the country’s soul lies in its charming bed and breakfasts. If being treated to cozy fireplaces, storied antiques, friendly innkeepers, and some of the country’s best homemade breakfasts sounds like your perfect Irish vacation, these seven stays won’t let you down.
Seafaring heritage runs deep in coastal Clifden, in westerly County Galway, where Connemara fishermen would moor their Galway Hookers and bring in their daily catch. The oldest house in town, built in 1820 as the home of the Harbour Master, is now The Quay House, one of Ireland’s most beautiful waterside B&Bs. Owners Paddy and Julia Foyle individually decorated the 15 guest rooms (many of which have working fireplaces and views of the harbor) with original paintings, period furniture, and antiques—but it’s their traditional Irish breakfast served in a conservatory and first-hand knowledge of nearby walking trails, golf courses, and fishing and riding spots that sets this B&B apart.
There are only four bedrooms inside this airy bed and breakfast on the shores of Skerries Harbour, in County Dublin, which might give away the kind of personalized service you can expect to find here. Husband-and-wife team Joe and Jackie O’Connor took cues from the building’s waterfront address, dressing up spaces in a nautical-themed blue-and-white-striped color palette with details like driftwood four-poster beds and French doors that open out onto a private terrace. The across-the-water views of the distant Mourne mountains are spectacular, especially from the breezy communal terrace, where breakfasts using only Irish ingredients (like smoked salmon from Cork) are served.
Renowned chef Paul Flynn and his wife Máire opened The Tannery in seaside Dungarvan in 1997 as a restaurant and cooking school spotlighting modern Irish cuisine—it wasn’t until 2005 that he decided to make it an overnight experience, opening up the Townhouse in two 19th-century buildings around the corner. While Tannery is certainly a restaurant first, its accommodations are no afterthought. All 14 rooms are beautiful and bright, with white linens, wooden window shutters, and Cole & Son wallpaper (which has also been used to decorate Buckingham Palace). Breakfast—spotlighting fresh-baked pastries and Waterford ingredients—is brought directly to your room at whatever time you choose to ensure utmost privacy.
Think the heart of a city is no place for an intimate b&b? Think again. One of Dublin’s—dare we say it—best places to sleep is not a hotel at all but a 21-room bolthole smack in the city center. The entrance to Number 31, tucked away behind a vine-covered wall on the Georgian Mile, is as unassuming as its interiors are dramatic. The reception area features a now-famous horseshoe-shaped sunken lounge lined with leather seating, where you can take in the open fire and surrounding abstract art. While you’re here, don’t miss the secret garden that connects 31’s two buildings (a Georgian townhouse and a modernist coach house) or what’s been dubbed “the best breakfast in Dublin.”
RELATED: The Best Hotels in Dublin
An adults-only policy all but guarantees romance at this ivy-covered Georgian country house near the beach in County Wexford. Each of the four guest rooms, spread out among the estate’s converted stable and coach house buildings, features individual details like skylights, pitched ceilings, or solid mahogany dressers and armoires along with French doors that open out onto a walled garden. Rise early for the lauded breakfast—a buffet of fresh-squeezed juices, conserves, and just-baked breads and pastries—followed by a stroll through the 10-acre grounds.
The name “Killiane Castle” is kind of misleading: what you’ll be staying in is actually a yellow 17th-century Georgian farmhouse attached to what remains of a 15th-century Norman castle. All is forgiven once you settle in: eight cozy bedrooms all overlook the family farm which, during the day, you’re free to roam. In addition to grazing cows and hens, the property hosts a tennis court, croquet lawn, and barbecue in a walled garden. You can still enter the castle—stone steps will lead you up to a rooftop view of County Wexford—but it’s just the cherry on top of the kind of peace you’ll find here.
RELATED: 7 Best Castle Hotels in Ireland
First built in 1788, this white-washed Georgian villa passed through many hands—including an Irish colonel, an art dealer, and eventually the dramatist Lady Gregory (who entertained Yeats and Shaw here)—before settling in as the charming B&B by the sea it is today. If you can tear yourself from those views of Galway Bay, you’ll find all amounts of original paintings, antique ceramics, and Arts & Crafts chimneypieces built by painter Augustus John as well as bedrooms overlooking the gardens or sea. Work off that full Irish breakfast (which incorporates organic eggs and mushrooms from a farm up the lane as well as just-caught mackerel from the shore) with a guided walked through surrounding Burren.