Best Boutique Hostels and Unique Budget Stays Along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Best Boutique Hostels and Unique Budget Stays Along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

When I suggested we stay in hostels on our Wild Atlantic Way trip, Liam groaned, “I did hostels thirty years ago. I’m waaaaaay beyond the age of traveling like that.”

He proceeded to recount tales of waking up to a goat in his room, a bathroom with a clear glass door that didn’t lock, and a blanket covered in creepy-crawlies. I assured him I had vetted the properties on my list and, at the very least, promised clean rooms with no bugs.

Meanwhile, Tony resorted to negotiation, “I’m okay with hostels, but I want our room to have its own bathroom… and no stinky dorms.”

“No problem,” I answered and began dialing the number for the hostel in Killybegs. Two minutes later we were booked into a family room at The Ritz… a name not connected with a famed hotel, but rather a carryover from when the hostel was the Ritz Cinema.

A visit to a modern hostel

The lads were skittish as we walked up the sidewalk to the hostel. Liam announced, “If this place is a dump, I’m finding someplace else.” He and Tony even crafted a special signal that was supposed to alert me if they were not satisfied with the accommodations.

“Just give it a chance,” I pleaded.

We stepped into the lobby, and they had not raised the alarm. The owner appeared with her arms stacked with clean linen, and she greeted us with a cheery, “You’re welcome.” She emptied her bundle and guided us to the lounge, kitchen, and dining area… still no signs of concern from my finicky travel partners. Finally, after we inspected the room, both Liam and Tony gave a nod affirming; they were happy with the place.

Tony’s reaction, “Everything is really clean. I mean really, really clean.”

Liam seconded, “Hostels have come a looooong way. The kitchen and sitting room are huge.”

Raising the bar

We slept well that night; and the next morning we shared the dining room with a group of German’s taking a motorcycle tour of the newly designated Wild Atlantic Way coastal driving route. While the German’s cooked their sausages and eggs, we fueled up with the milk, cereal, toast, jam, and tea that was included in the stay. The conversation centered on how impressed Tony and Liam were with their first “modern” Irish hostel, and how satisfied they were with the simple breakfast.

I worried their glowing review might have been colored by their very low expectations of hostels. However, those concerns were buried when we arrived in Dunfanaghy the next afternoon. The collection of unique sleeping quarters at Corcreggan Mill — train cars, lodge rooms, high-end bell tents, and well-appointed apartments — left them begging me to reveal what other pleasant surprises our hostel adventure had in store.

After we returned from our hosteling adventure, I sat down with Tony and Liam and asked them to tell me about their reaction to the trip. You can have a listen here.

Best Boutique Hostels and Unique Budget Stay Along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

Best Hostels on the Wild Atlantic Way

My search for the best hostels and budget accommodations continued throughout the summer; and in that time, I found a few amazing places along the Wild Atlantic Way that provided both a unique experience and didn’t break the bank.

A Night in a Converted Irish Railway Sleeper

CORCREGGAN MILL, Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal

Nostalgic train cars like those used in the opening scenes of classic film “The Quiet Man” no longer carry John Wayne to Innisfree, they have been carefully converted into cozy sleeping quarters for guests venturing to the northern reaches of Donegal.

Options include cars with a comfy double bed or a pair of bunk beds crafted from sturdy railroad ties. A stay features a light continental breakfast, and guests share a spacious lounge and dining room. For those preferring en suite facilities, the lodge at Corcreggan Mill provides unique, tidy twin, double, family rooms, and apartments.

Starting at €18 per person sharing


An Overnight on Killybegs Harbour

THE RITZ HOSTEL, Killybegs, Co Donegal

The friendly streets of Killbegs are not only home to one of Ireland’s busiest commercial fishing ports but also The Ritz Hostel. The clean, efficient rooms are supplemented with a large kitchen, dining room, and lounge. Just up the lane from the main street, it is easy to walk from the hostel to pubs, restaurants, and shops.

Situated about 25km/15.5 miles from both Donegal town and the stunning cliffs at Slieve League, Killybegs makes a great jumping off point for the southern part of County Donegal. The folk village in Glencolumbkille has been a visitor favorite since the late 1960s.

Starting at €20 per person sharing


An Island Retreat in Clew Bay

GO EXPLORE HOSTEL, Clare Island, Co Mayo

The thoroughly modern hostel on Clare Island offers immaculately clean en suite rooms with six or eight beds. The generous kitchen, dining room, and lounge offer comfy spots to relax, enjoy meals, watch television, and take in the stunning island views. On weekdays, families can avail of special accommodation rates.

The island’s size favors hikers and cyclists by offering dramatic cliff views from the historic lighthouse and the early 1800s Napoleonic signal tower. Meanwhile, the scene from the patio of the hostel and attached restaurant includes postcard-perfect images of Croagh Patrick and the Mayo coastline.

Starting at €18 per person sharing


Urban Getaways in the City of Tribes

SAVOY HOSTEL and KINLAY HOSTEL, Galway City, Co Galway

The colorful and spacious design of the Savoy Hostel provides an unexpected treat in the centre of Galway City. The lounge and kitchen have a clean, comfortable feel and offer a continental breakfast. Meanwhile, the subdued four and six bed en suite rooms include a hotel-quality bathroom, and each deluxe bunk includes a light, two USB outlets, and two electric outlets.

For those looking for more diverse bed configurations — such as double and triple rooms — the Kinlay Hostel has become a busy, budget beacon in the heart of Galway. Guests are welcome to a continental breakfast, and they can nurture their healthy side with group jog along the promenade every weekday morning.

Starting at €16 per person sharing

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An Adventure Holiday in Connemara


A blanket of rhododendron trees cover the land between Killary Harbour and the rustic road leading to Connemara Hostel. Because of its remote location, the property tends to attract those with a passion for the outdoors and who enjoy spending a little extra time socializing in the hostel’s public spaces which include a mini-bar with wine, spacious dining area, kitchen, and living rooms.

The 16km/10mile trip to Connemara National Park can include a stopover at the famed Kylemore Abbey. Tea, toast, jam, and butter are on hand each morning to fuel a day of hiking and sightseeing, and an assortment of room types make it convenient for families and groups. Guests can also enquire about discounts at the Killary Adventure Company which operates speedboat tours, kayaking, bike rental, and a high ropes course immediately beside the hostel

Starting at €16 per person sharing


A West Coast Welcome Near the Cliffs of Moher

DOOLIN HOSTEL, Doolin, Co Clare

While the village of Doolin is best known for its traditional music and its walk to the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin Hostel has earned a reputation for its bright rooms and comfy café. Located at the village’s main bus stop, the hostel is a short walk to quaint pubs and shops; the hostel provides a fine location for families and independent travelers.

In addition to the Cliffs and the County Clare coastline, Doolin also provides easy access to the unique landscape known as The Burren which is filled with ancient tombs, forts, and distinct plant life. Doolin Hostel is also Ireland’s first hostel to earn a Gold level Green Hospitality Award for environmental responsibility.

Starting at €17 per person sharing



Small Town Charm Along the Shannon Estuary

THE FERRY HOUSE, Tarbert, Co Kerry

The ferry crossing over the River Shannon provides a scenic shortcut between Counties Clare and Kerry; and the port village of Tarbert offers a quiet respite with a handful of pubs and shops. Located at the village’s main crossroad, the Ferry House offers comfortable accommodations in a restored 200-year-old building.

Room types vary from small dormitory to en suite bedrooms, and guests can upgrade from a continental breakfast to a full Irish. Guests are treated to historic details in the buildings architecture and attractive views of the Shannon Estuary.

Starting at €17 per person sharing


In-Town Delights in the Village of Kenmare

FÁILTE HOSTEL, Kenmare, Co Kerry

This cozy hostel does a wonderful job of combining the old with the new. The rooms and facilities are comfortable and modern, yet vintage tiles, furniture, and an AGA cooker retain a bit of historic charm and gives the place the allure of a handsome 1880s boarding house.

Located the heart of the charming town of Kenmare, restaurants and music pubs are only a few steps away. A 1:30am curfew assures that rowdy guests stay elsewhere. Kenmare serves as an ideal base for traveling the Ring of Kerry or the Ring of Beara.

Starting at €18 per person sharing


A Cliff-Edge Retreat on the Beara Peninsula


Built into the dramatic cliffside, the Dzogchen Beara Tibetan Buddhist Retreat Centre offers dormitory and double room accommodation in its onsite hostel. This hideaway on the Beara Peninsula presents an unmatched location for a peaceful getaway for individuals of any faith.

The centre features meditation areas, outdoor seating spots, and a café — all with views of the ocean. From here, guests can walk, cycle, or drive the extremely scenic loop around the peninsula to the south and winding Healy Pass to the north.

Starting at €18 per person sharing


A Glamping Adventure Along the Pilgrim Path

TOP OF THE ROCK POD PÁIRC, Drimoleague, Co Cork (14km)

Situated at the halfway point of the pilgrim route from Sheep’s Head to Gougane Barra, the Pod Páirc at Top of the Rock offers visitors a comfortable glamping break. The beautiful timber pods resemble upturned ships and provide guests with warm and cozy shelter. Standard pods with glass doors include cots, a lamp, and a heater; meanwhile, the well-equipped luxury pods feature an in-pod toilet, kitchenette, bed, table, and pullout couch.

The modern community area includes a fully-equipped kitchen, games room, lounge, toilets, and showers. Meanwhile, outdoor campfire and play areas are complimented by a working farmyard with resident donkey, cows, sheep, and ducks. The nearby village of Drimoleague is only 17km/10 miles from the Wild Atlantic Way towns of Skibbereen and Bantry.

Starting at €20 per person sharing

Tips to Assure a Great Stay at Budget Accommodations

  • If you want luxury and extra comforts, pay for it; budget accommodations aren’t for everyone, so be honest with yourself before you book the low price option.
  • If you are traveling with a group or looking for an extended stay, contact accommodations directly: they might be able to offer a better rate if you avoid an online booking service.
  • Don’t believe everything you read: hostel reviews can be misleading because some reviewers who travel on the extreme cheap may give high marks to a place simply because they offer running water; meanwhile, those who are more accustomed to four stars may unjustly compare budget accommodations to places that are double the price.
  • Don’t expect a party scene: while some hostels may have a “wild” reputation, most hostel owners are strict about keeping rowdy groups out… especially hen and stag (bachelor and bachelorette) parties.
  • Not all budget accommodations are created equal: although I’m highlighting some of the best accommodation, there are also some undesirable places out there too, so look for trustworthy referrals and reviews.
  • Sometimes budget accommodations aren’t the best value: while some accommodations can offer an amazing price on a bed in a dorm room, if you’re looking for another option — like a private, double room — their price might be the same as a local B&B. It varies from place to place.
  • Get more info on hostel stays in Ireland at and

Note: In an effort to provide a great selection of photos for this feature, I have included images taken during my visits as well as images provided by the property owners and from other sources with permission… including: Clare at, Mary at, IrishAndy Some properties provided me with a media discount (and others bribed me with scones ;).

Author: Corey

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  1. I liked this post very much! Fun to hear your voices! I must agree w/ Liam & Tony re accomodations…but this has led me to rethink my previous opinions of hostels. Hope your summer is going well…any thoughts on fall?

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  2. Corey,
    I’m familiar with some of these hostels, and you’ve added new ones for me to check out. Your tips are right on point too.

    I would add that in autumn and winter, you may find many hostels closed or perhaps open only at the weekend — on the other hand, you may find that those which are open offer deep discounts from their posted listings, so that’s a really good time to make contact directly with the property you’re thinking of. I often travel on my own, and find that discounts for solo travelers are especially prevalent during the off season — but I should add that the festive season (roughly Christmas Eve through Epiphany) is rarely included in the lower prices, as that’s a season when accommodations are often in demand.

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  3. Great chat guys! Lots of info for budget travel! I think you should share this with The Wild Geese! 😉

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  4. Thank you for your lovely reviews. Can’t wait to visit Kenmare

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  5. I stayed at Savoy Hostel for 20 nights
    The whole of my time at Galway Arts Featival
    It was absolutely brilliant
    The staff were great
    Really friendly
    And so helpful . You only had to mention plans and they were helping getting information bus time etc to help
    Totally deserved recognition
    Well done

    Post a Reply
  6. That is a good run down of accommodation along the Wild Atlantic Way. The initiative by the tourism board has definitely breathed fresh air into the west Coast of Ireland

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  7. Okay, I’m giving hostels a second look.

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  8. Doolin Hostel is a fabulous place to stay!!

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  9. Any recommendations for hostels or unique budget stays on the other coast, north or south of Dublin?

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    • There aren’t as many hostels as you might expect along the coast outside of Dublin, but you might take a look at Spoon and the Stars in Drogheda… and Beaches Hostel in Courtown.

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