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Ireland Backpacker Tours: Shamrocker Adventures Review

Dunguaire Castle on the shores of Galway Bay - Touring Southern Ireland

Most of the time, I travel on my own.  I spent two years backpacking in South America, Mexico and Central America, so I have no problem travelling solo – in fact, I love it!  However, on my recent trip to Ireland, I only had a few days to try and fit in as much as possible, so I decided to take a 5-day tour of Ireland with Shamrocker Irish Adventures.  Shamrocker Adventures arrange escorted coach tours of Ireland for backpackers and budget travellers, so I was excited to see what was on offer.  After my 5 day trip, I found that these Ireland backpacker tours give you a great taste of the Emerald Isle without breaking the bank!  Here’s my full and honest  Shamrocker Adventures review of their 5 Day Ireland Tour, the Celtic Rocker.

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I received a complimentary tour in exchange for my review, but rest assured that all opinions here are 100% my own!

About Shamrocker Irish Adventures

When I was researching escorted tours of Ireland, I wanted a budget backpacking tour which wasn’t focussed on partying the whole time.  After researching some other Ireland tour companies, Shamrocker offered the best combination of budget, adventure and variety of travellers, so I had no doubts when I contacted them to arrange one of their coach tours in Ireland.

A photo stop at the Rock of Cashel - seat of the Kings of Munster in Ireland
A photo stop at the Rock of Cashel – the seat of the Kings of Munster in Ireland

Shamrocker have been offering backpacking Ireland adventure tours since 1999, and it is their mission “to give independent budget travellers the chance to really discover Ireland and remember it as one of the best times of their life!” 

All Shamrocker guides are 100% Irish, so you know you are getting a true Irish experience, and the guides on my tour shared myths, legends and stories about the legendary Irish ‘craic’ throughout the trip.

Shamrocker also offer a ‘Book and Go Guarantee’ which means they never cancel a trip once you have booked on it.  They offer several different affordable tours around Ireland between 3-7 days, so you can choose the best tour itinerary to suit your travel plans and your budget.

How the Shamrocker Bus Tours of Ireland Work

All of the Shamrocker Adventure Tours leave from Dublin, and there are several different tour options you can choose depending on the length of time you have and where you would like to go.  I was already planning to spend a couple of days in Northern Ireland, so I chose a 5-day tour in the south of Ireland. 

The Celtic Rocker tour leaves Dublin every Monday and Wednesday during the summer season from the end of May to the beginning of September, and on selected dates through the winter, and this fitted perfectly with the rest of my plans in Ireland.

Trim Castle - One of the first stops on our Shamrocker 5 Day Tour of Ireland
Trim Castle – One of the first stops on our Shamrocker 5 Day Tour of Ireland

Shamrocker tours include all transport on the tour(in private coaches between destinations, and occasional public bus and ferry trips mentioned in the itinerary), accommodation in shared hostel dorm rooms (although you can book a private room for an extra fee), breakfast, and a guide who will provide information about the stops, keep everyone together and help out with anything you might need along the way.

On this trip, we had 4 nights’ accommodation and 4 breakfasts included, as well as entry to the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle and stops at a whole host of highlights along the way.  Other extras such as the entrance to a whiskey distillery could be added on when you book.

The Cliffs of Moher on a stormy afternoon - A must on your tour of Ireland
The Cliffs of Moher on a stormy afternoon – A must on your tour of Ireland

Instead of being a specific Ireland walking tour, whiskey tour or castle tour we had a wide variety of activities and tried a bit of everything.  If it is your first time in Ireland or you aren’t quite sure what you’d like to do, a Shamrocker tour will give you a real flavour of the country, taking you to some of the top tourist attractions in Ireland as well as some beautiful areas you might not expect.

The Shamrocker Coaches

The size of the coaches depends on how many people are on the tour.  The second coach was bigger, it was a 37 seater and we had 37 people in our group so it was much cosier than the first coach!  We had USB charging sockets and free wifi on the bus, which was very useful for the longer periods of driving.

Our Shamrocker Bus - A good size for Coach Tours in Ireland
Our Shamrocker Bus – A good size for Coach Tours in Ireland

Accommodation on the Shamrocker Backpacker Tours

Accommodation for the four nights of my tour was included, in hostel 4, 6 or 10-bed dormitories.  There were a few people (mostly couples) who opted to upgrade to a private room in the hostels, so if you don’t fancy sharing a room there is that option for you as well. 

The hostels were all good quality, and all served a basic breakfast of bread, jam, and cereals.  All of the rooms I stayed in had comfy beds and all but the last hostel in Killarney had lockers and wifi in the rooms.  Our last hostel had wifi in the common areas, and I wasn’t too worried about the lockers at that stage as we all knew each other!

Our Hostel at Ennis - On the Shamrocker 5 Day Tour of Ireland
Our Hostel at Ennis – On the Shamrocker 5 Day Tour of Ireland

Our Celtic Rocker 5 Day Ireland Tour Itinerary

Ireland Itinerary Day 1 – Dublin to Galway

From Dublin, our first stop was at the Hill of Tara, where the ancient Kings of Ireland used to come to be crowned.  On our way to the Tullamore we stopped off for a photo opportunity at Trim Castle.  From there, our coach drove to Tullamore Dew Whiskey Museum for an optional distillery tour, and a tasty lunch. 

I chose to take the tour, but those who didn’t had time to explore the pretty town of Tullamore instead.  After lunch we continued in the bus to Galway, where we would be spending two nights in the provided hostel accommodation.  We had some time to explore Galway in the afternoon, but the weather wasn’t great so after a walk around the town we retreated to the pub!

That evening, most of the group joined an optional pub tour of Galway, arranged by Tribes Pub Crawl, which took us around some of Galway’s best pubs, with live music, games and a potato collecting competition.  If you didn’t want to join the pub crawl there are plenty of bars and restaurants to explore in Galway, but it was a great way to get to know the group better.

Whiskey Tasting at Tullamore Dew Whiskey Distillery
Whiskey Tasting at Tullamore Dew Whiskey Distillery

Ireland Itinerary Day 2 – Inis Mór

Inis Mór (or Inishmore) is the largest of the Aran Islands, off the Galway coast.  To get there we took a public bus to the ferry terminal at Rossaveel which is about 45 minutes away from Galway, then a ferry to Inishmore. 

The ferry crossing was a bit rough on the way out, and very bad on the way back – I think partly due to the storm which was coming in from the Atlantic.  Some people who had a hangover from the revelry the night before felt a bit worse for wear, but with some Dramamine I kept my travel sickness at bay. 

In the winter months, instead of visiting Inishmore, the tour itinerary changes to visit Connemara instead.

READ MORE: A Day Trip to Inishmore from Galway

The Cliffs on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands - Shamrocker Adventure Tours Ireland
The Cliffs on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands

Inishmore is definitely worth the journey to get there.  We were also blessed with beautiful weather the whole day, and although it was windy the sun shone and made the island look even more beautiful. 

Miles of stone walls criss-cross the island, where residents made fields to farm on the rocky surface.  Cute cottages, fairy houses and church ruins were just some of the things we saw, but the highlight was Dún Aonghasa, a prehistoric hill fort perched on the cliff top. 

To get around the island you can hire bikes, take a horse and cart or a bus tour to see as much as possible.  We chose the bus tour, which was great as we got to see a lot more than we could have reached by bike in the time available, and our guide Patrick was a hoot!

A Cute Cottage on Inishmore, with a Matching Fairy House - Shamrocker Irish Adventure Tours
A Cute Cottage on Inishmore, with a Matching Fairy House

We spent the night at Galway again, with the chance to see live music at the local pubs if we wanted, or to have an early night after the previous evening’s shenanigans!

Ireland Itinerary Day 3 – Galway to Ennis via the Cliffs of Moher

We left Galway to head towards the Cliffs of Moher.  Along the way we stopped off for a quick visit to Dunguaire Castle on the shores of Galway Bay, then at Poulnabrone, a stone-age tomb.  After a lunch stop, we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher, which had been closed that morning due to high winds from Storm Ali. 

Although the wind blew in strong gusts, the weather stayed dry, and we walked along the top of the cliffs admiring the views.  The cliffs are absolutely stunning, and it was wonderful (and scary at times!) to be so close to the edge.  After a wind-swept couple of hours on the cliffs we boarded the bus again to head to Ennis for dinner and live Irish music at a local pub.

READ MORE: Visiting the Cliffs of Moher from Galway

The Cliffs of Moher - Shamrocker Irish Adventures Tour
The Cliffs of Moher – Shamrocker Irish Adventures Tour

Ireland Itinerary Day 4 – Ennis to Killarney

Today was probably my least favourite day of the tour, partly due to the weather which finally caught up with us, and partly due to some odd timings meaning we didn’t have lunch till about 4pm. Although I did get to hold a baby lamb so it wasn’t all bad!! 

From Ennis we headed towards Killarney, stopping off briefly at Adare for a bathroom break and photos of some gorgeous thatched cottages.  Dingle was our next stop, a tiny town famous for its lone dolphin Fungie who lives in the bay.  We arrived in Dingle about 1pm, and had 45 minutes to wander around and get some snacks, before boarding the bus again to drive around the Slea Head Drive (stopping off at a sheep farm for a photo with a cute lamb!). 

By the time we got back to Dingle it was about 3.30pm, and had lunch then.  This was the only day when timings were a bit off, it would have been better to have lunch in Dingle before taking the Slea Head Drive, especially as the driver had to have a 45-minute break then anyway, so that was a bit strange.

Cuddles with a cute lamb on the Slea Head Drive - Touring Ireland is fun!
Cuddles with a cute lamb on the Slea Head Drive – Touring Ireland is fun!

After a late lunch, we continued on to Killarney, which we sadly didn’t have much time to explore.  Most of our group decided to join our guide William to go to an Irish dancing performance called Celtic Steps, which was fab.  The show had some live music and songs, and some incredible Irish dancers.  I have no hesitation in recommending the show!

Ireland Itinerary Day 5 – Killarney to Dublin

The last day of our Ireland tour was another drive-heavy day, as we made our way back to Dublin across the whole of Ireland.  Along the way, we had a good length of time to visit Blarney Castle (and queue to kiss the Blarney Stone!), and a photo stop for the Rock of Cashel which used to be the castle of the Kings of Munster. 

We made it back to Dublin about 6pm, there was quite a lot of traffic as we headed into the city, and when we arrived back I went for dinner in Dublin with some of the friends I’d made on the tour.

READ MORE: Visiting Blarney Castle and Kissing the Blarney Stone

Blarney Castle and Gardens - on the last day of our Shamrocker Tour of Ireland
Blarney Castle and Gardens – on the last day of our Shamrocker Tour of Ireland

What I Loved About Shamrocker Tours

I felt that the itinerary was well planned for the time we had available (apart from Day 4), and we saw a lot of different places in a short time.  I loved that we stopped off at various points of interest en route between our overnight stops, so I got to see a lot more of the country than I would have done if I was travelling by bus on my own.

The guides were friendly and fun, well organised and did well to talk to everyone in the group and make everyone feel welcome.

I met some lovely people from all over the world, especially Australia and the USA, and it was great to hang out with some new people for several days instead of just meeting them in a hostel for a night!

Poulnabrone - a stone-age portal tomb. Another photo stop while touring southern Ireland
Poulnabrone – a stone-age portal tomb. Another photo stop while touring southern Ireland

Anything I Didn’t Like?

As I mentioned, I am used to travelling alone so I found letting go of control quite difficult.  It is very hard for me now to rely on other people, and to trust they are going to make the right decision for me.  However, there was only one day on the tour when I thought the timings could have been planned better, apart from that I was happy to sit back and relax, even though it felt very strange at times!

One of the downsides of group travel, in general, is having to wait for other people to get ready, wait for other people to get on and off the bus, wait in queues for the toilet etc.  A good tip for this though is to take a seat at the front of the bus, so you are first off and so first in the queue for most things!

On Day 4, instead of seeing more of the coastline, I would have preferred to skip Dingle and the Slea Head drive and go straight to Killarney.  We had already spent two days on the coast, so to have a bit more time inland in Killarney would have been nice, to perhaps go to the Killarney National Park or Ross Castle, which was mentioned in the itinerary but we didn’t have time to do.

A Cloudy Sky on the Slea Head Drive on our Shamrocker Tour of Ireland
A Cloudy Sky on the Slea Head Drive

Would I Recommend These Ireland Backpacker Tours?

Absolutely!  If you are looking for a budget coach tour around Ireland I have no hesitation in recommending Shamrocker, as the value for money, itinerary and overall package is very hard to beat and perfect for backpackers. 

If you want a little more privacy you can upgrade to private rooms in the hostels, but for most people backpacking in Ireland the dorm rooms are more than sufficient.  What’s more, these Shamrocker Ireland backpacker tours are not just for twenty-year old students – I’m 35 and there were plenty of people around my age and older as well.  This isn’t luxury, but most definitely excellent value!

If you want to book, you’ll find all the information you need on their website, or you can check out more Shamrocker Adventures reviews on Tripadvisor.

Where to Stay in Dublin Before/After your Shamrocker Tour

The meeting point for all tours is at the Four Courts Hostel (check more reviews) in Dublin, and we had to meet there are 8.15am so I chose to stay overnight at the Four Courts so I would there for my tour.  However, the bed was very squeaky and there was a large group of noisy students the night I stayed so I didn’t particularly enjoy it. 

When I returned to Dublin after the tour I stayed at the Gardiner House Hostel (check more reviews) which was much more comfortable, although an Uber ride from the drop off point.  You can read my full review of the Gardiner House Hostel here.


Or check the options on Airbnb.  If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip!  Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code or click below for your Airbnb coupon.


Have you taken an Ireland backpacker tour?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to Ireland, get a quote now from World Nomads.

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Last updated: May 30, 2020

9 thoughts on “Ireland Backpacker Tours: Shamrocker Adventures Review

  1. Rosemary says:

    What a great experience overall. The ability to see so much and capture such stunning photography is quite impressive. Shamrocker sounds like they were the perfect partner and a company worth considering in the future.

  2. Vicky and Buddy says:

    This sounds like an amazing way to see Ireland! To be honest, I had no idea there were “backpacker” tours. I have only ever heard of group tours where things cost more because you stay in hotels and have other fancier additions. Knowing that this is more affordable is awesome! I have no issues staying in a hostel, so I would definitely want to do this tour if it means I save some money and am still able to see a lot.

  3. Lisa says:

    Ahh what a great post! I kinda felt like I was in Ireland too, awesome pictures too! The Cliffs of Moher look absolutely stunning, I’m sure that it was a surreal experience! 🙂
    Do you know if lots of people get to see Fungie? 🙂

  4. Nick Kembel says:

    I’ve barely touched Europe, but just beginning to plan an epic cross-Europe trip with my family next year, so this is really useful. I’m like you said; I never take tours and prefer to be in command, but traveling with kids is a whole different thing, so we are open to all options. Also, those cliff shots are amazing!

  5. Mike says:

    Awesome post. We did Ireland by camper, but now you having me wanting to come back and do this tour. Did I miss the section where you link to their site, and/or mention how much this tour costs?

  6. Tami says:

    I was happy to find your post as I am heading to Ireland next year. Also glad to see you would have skipped Dingle, as I was a little sad we couldn’t fit it into our schedule–now I don’t feel so bad. We won’t be joining a tour, but we also prefer to do a little bit of everything and I like the things you got to do. We have also used hostels in our travels, and that can be a great way to save a little money.

  7. Rhonda Albom says:

    What a great itinerary. We made our own way through Ireland but I can totally see the benefits of taking a tour like this.

    Also, your photographs are amazing and really capture the magic of Ireland. Thank you for sharing.

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