If you want to enjoy Ireland’s popular tourist attractions without wasting time, you’ll need to decide between simply purchasing a general admission ticket to a tourist attraction or booking a guided tour.
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Here are some of the differences between the two.
Your goal should be to beat the crowds, save money and enjoy Ireland's tourist attractions at the same time.
Purchase Tickets in Advance
Since many of Ireland’s popular tourist attractions like the Book of Kells, the Cliffs of Moher, and Blarney Castle are among Ireland's most popular attractions, it is wise to book your tickets ahead of time.
Tickets for Blarney Castle and Gardens — including the infamous Blarney Stone — can be booked online.
They cost €20 each for adults; €16 for seniors and students; €9 for children (ages 8-16), and €50 for a family of 4.
Since entry is timed at the Book of Kells at Dublin’s Trinity College, it is required that you book online anyway.
Tickets are €18.50 for adults; €15 for seniors and students; €14 for children ages 13-17 as well as groups of 10 or more people; €10 for children ages 6-12, with children under 5 admitted for free, and €46 for a family of 4 (children ages 6-17).
You should be aware that the books in Trinity's Old Library are currently being removed in stages for an important conservation project.
If you are hoping to get a ticket at the entrance to Dublin's Kilmainham Gaol, you will be disappointed since this, too, is a very popular tourist attraction.
Tickets are only available 28 days in advance, so be sure to mark your calendars so you don't forget.
Remember the time difference between your location and Dublin so that you give yourself the best opportunity to securing tickets for the date that you want.
If there are any cancellations for a particular day, they will be released online between 9:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
Tickets are €8 for adults, €6 for seniors (60+), €4 for student (18+) and children 12-17, and €20 for a family of two adults and 2-3 children ages 12-17. The attraction is not recommended for children under the age of 6.
Even if you have a Heritage Card, you still need to pre-book since tickets are timed.
If you want to see Ireland’s sacred site Newgrange (otherwise known as Brú na Bóinne), you’ll also need to book your tickets in advance.
There are different types of tickets available for the attraction, including guided tours of the chamber at Newgrange, access to Knowth (a nearby archaeological site and part of the complex), and tickets that allow you to explore the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre only.
When Guided Tours Makes Sense
While such tours will cost more than a single admission ticket, you’re often getting additional value because you are seeing more than one attraction and you’ll have the benefit of a tour guide.
Regular admission tickets to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin will entitle you to a self-guided tour (no guided tours are offered by Guinness).
Adult tickets cost €26; seniors and student tickets are €22 each; tickets for children (ages 5-17) are €10, with children under 4 admitted free of charge. A family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) costs €62.
Information on the price of other experiences at the Guinness Storehouse can be found on the booking page.
If you want to get a more in-depth understanding of Dublin’s famous brewery, a guided tour is essential.
Viator’s Skip the Line Guinness and Jameson Irish Whiskey Experience tour gives customers skip-the-line access and includes guided tours of both attractions.
Equally, a guided tour of the Book of Kells and the Old Library may make more sense than doing it yourself.
Since Trinity College does not organize such tours, you could listen to the free audio tour available on both iPhone and Android devices or take a walking tour of Dublin that includes the college with Alan Byrne of AB Tours, an Ireland on a Budget Tourism Ambassador.
If you want fast-track access to the Book of Kells, along with a tour of Dublin Castle, this combination tour may be for you.
Rather than booking tickets for the Newgrange Visitor Centre and archaeological site yourself, a guided tour might be more beneficial.
For €75, Mary Gibbons' Newgrange Tours include skip-the-line access to the Newgrange monument as well Knowth, in addition to the Hill of Tara.
Gibbons, a professional tour guide, runs an excellent bus tour that picks up customers at several stops in Dublin.
How to See Some of Ireland’s Famous Attractions for Free
As incredible as it may seem, there are a few of Ireland's tourist attractions that you really don’t have to pay for, even though they are rarely advertised that way.
For example, you could see the beautiful Cliffs of Moher without paying a penny.
This is especially useful if you are staying in Doolin, which is about 4 miles (7.5 km) north of the cliffs.
By taking the 5-mile (8 km) Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk, which starts in Doolin, you can get to the cliffs in about 3 hours.
You won’t regret walking this stretch of the County Clare coastline.
Make your way to the cliffs on this scenic route, which starts near Fisher Street in Doolin (not far from the popular Gus O’Connor’s pub in the village).
Once you reach the cliffs, you’ll see O’Brien’s Tower and the visitor center.
A shuttle bus is available to take you back to Doolin.
The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is another hugely popular attraction, but you don’t need to pay the fee to see that either – if you don’t use the parking lot.
Like the Cliffs of Moher attraction, you’ll need to do some walking to get to the attraction.
Provided the weather is agreeable, I suggest that you take the walk from either Dunseverick Castle known as the North Antrim Cliff Path, 9 kilometers/5 miles away, or from the small seaside village of Portballinatrae, a much shorter walk of about 3.6 miles (almost 6 kilometers).
The beauty of the Coastal Causeway is incredible and what better way to see it than to walk along its shores?
Once you get to the Causeway, you are free to explore to your heart’s content. The visitor center is a short walk away, but again, no need to go there if you don’t want to spend the extra money.
What tourist attractions in Ireland are you planning to visit? Let me know in the comments below.