|Beach Cove B&B, Ballinskellig, County Kerry|
The idea for this style bed and breakfast holiday sprang up years ago when farmers’ wives or Mammy’s with extra rooms opened up their houses to paying guests during the summer holidays, which I am told put many sons and daughters through university, even if their own had to sleep in the attic! You could roll up of an evening wherever you saw a vacancy sign (you still can) and get a reasonable priced bed for the night and a hearty breakfast often in very wild and lovely places. Basically, you became one of the family, sharing home-cooked meals and sampling what life was like on the farm, that you would not ordinarily get to see if you were staying in an hotel, besides there were not too many hotels in remote locations 50 years ago.
But, gone are the days of shared bathrooms and revolving bedrooms, bed and breakfasts nowadays are Bord Failte approved (and inspected annually) and have the highest standards of hygiene and accommodation while remaining true to their roots of staying with an Irish family. This kind of holiday is not for everyone, many like the anonymity of staying in hotel but if you want an insight into what it is really like to live in a rural community than you should definitely try one or two. Indeed by the end of your stay you will probably feel like one of the family, often lifelong friendships are forged with generations revisiting time and time again.
Apart from a more authentic experience of Ireland, the main difference between bed and breakfasts and hotels is the personal touch and insider knowledge of a particular area. Forget Facebook and Facetime this is back to basics and a ‘real deal’. You will be assured of a genuine Cead Mile Failte an Irish welcome, with complimentary tea or coffee and homemade scones or cake on arrival. Bedrooms, single, double or twin have en-suite bathrooms and breakfast is included in the price which ranges from €29-€39 per person sharing, depending on the quality and location. The breakfasts in Irish bed and breakfasts are legendary (no luke-warm buffets, that have been cooked for hours) but freshly made especially for you with a choice of a ‘full Irish’ which usually includes rashers, sausages, pudding (black and white) tomatoes, mushrooms, toast and brown bread. Or, porridge with cream and honey or continental style cured meats, cheese and fruit. Either way you certainly will not go on your way hungry....
Speaking of which, a sight you will often see after breakfast is the hosts pouring over maps with their guests pointing out best sights to see, walks to go on, picnic stops, deserted beaches, pubs to have lunch in or where the best music is on that night? This kind of information is priceless, no paper guide or website could ever keep track or know what is happening this weekend in Ballydehob but your hosts will, for sure.
With over a 1000 properties nationwide, there is plenty of choice depending on your area of interest. A recent move has seen each bed and breakfast categorized to include specialist activities like walking, angling, golfing, cooking, Irish language, genealogy etc and much, much more which will add an extra dimension to what already is a fantastic and affordable opportunity to see and experience those parts of Ireland most tourists never get to see....
For more information visit BandB Ireland
By Susan Byron author of Irelands Hidden Gems.com