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