Ten Best: Unique Irish Hostels
1 Avalon House, Aungier Street, Dublin One of Dublin's oldest hostels, this is listed with Dublin Corporation as a building of "outstanding architectural merit". With its pine floors, high ceilings and open fire, guests are offered a pleasant and comfortable environment. Rates from €16.00 per night.
Details: 01-475 0001; www.avalon-house.ie
2 traenlaur lodge, newport, co mayo This former hunting lodge boasts its own private harbour and pier. Situated at the crossroads of the Western Way and Bangor trail, it offers great walking, cycling, fishing and swimming on the lake. Local conservation rangers in Mayo National Park conduct bat walks in the area around the hostel using bat detectors. Rates from €16 per night.
Details: 098 41358, www.anoige.ie/ hostels.traenlaur-lodge
3 mountain ventures hostel, donard, co wicklow A traditional farmhouse with lovely views of Lugnaquilla, Leinster's highest mountain. The area offers miles of old coach roads, deserted settlements, heritage gardens and mountain paths once strolled by medieval monks. After a busy day outdoors, relax by the huge open fire. Rates from €16 per night.
Details: 045 404 657; www.mountainventures.ie
4 tullyarvan mill hostel, buncrana, co donegal A 19th-century corn mill just outside the seaside town of Buncrana, this hostel sits on the Inishowen 100, one of Donegal's prettiest stretches of road. It has en suite family dorms and a bright self-catering kitchen. Rates from €10.50 per night.
Details: 074 936 1613; www.tullyarvanmill.com
5dun chaoin hostel, ballyferriter, co kerry In the heart of Kerry's Gaeltacht, the windows of your dorm look out on the Blasket Islands. Apart from that, there's nothing but miles and miles of wild Atlantic -- what do you expect in Europe's most westerly hostel? Rates from €14 per night.
Details: 066 915 6121; www.anoige.ie/ hostels.dun-chaoin
6 valley house holiday hostel, achill, co mayo This Victorian house sits on the former estate of the Earl of Cavan, who often visited in the 1850s. Upon his death the estate was sold to an eccentric English woman known locally as the 'Yellow Lady'. She always collected what was due to her in cash or kind. Now it's a year-round hostel on scenic wooded grounds close to Blue Flag beaches, with a nine-hole pitch and putt course and a lake stocked with trout. Rates from €19 per night.
Details: 098 47 204; www.valley-house.com
7 finnegan's hostel, tralee, co kerry A restored 18th-century Georgian townhouse on Tralee's main street. Its original features are still intact, with fireplaces in the sitting rooms, the old stove cooker in the kitchen and a great staircase leading to en suite rooms and dormitories. Guests eat in the old servants' quarters or the restaurant and bar. Rates from €17 per night.
Details: 066 712 7610; www.finneganshostel.com
8 clare's rock hostel, the burren, co clare This part of a traditional farm overlooks the largest turlough (disappearing lake) in western Europe. The nearby village of Carron was the birthplace of Michael Cusack, the founder of the GAA, and the hostel museum has a jersey from every county in Ireland. Rates from €13.
Details: 065 708 9129; www.claresrock.com
9 gyreum, riverstown, co sligo Offers 360-degree panoramas of Sligo's cairned mountains. You can sit by the fire or sleep in a tent under cover even if the weather is terrible. For those looking to take the plunge into married life in a somewhat different setting, the hostel hosts weddings. Rates from €17 per night.
Details: 071 916 5994; www.gyreum.com
10 Foulksrath castle, jenkinstown, co kilkenny Ireland's oldest hostel is housed in a 15th-century castle. Legend has it that the daughter of the original owner was killed and still wanders the corridors. The towerhouse has a fabulous dining room. Rates from €15 per night.
Details: 056 7767 674; www.anoige.ie/ hostels/foulksrath-castle
All hostels can be booked on www.hostelworld.com. Free podcasts and customised city guides can be downloaded on the site