Cheap craics

Alex Whybrow does Dublin on the not-very-expensive.

“I’m sorry, I just can’t afford it. Neither the money, nor the time off work.”

The sobering, but inevitable, sentence uttered after the enthusiasm for a little break has been brutally battered by reality. Normally the morning after a night in the pub, following a particularly demoralising week at work. The reality is, you’re not the type to jet off somewhere for a weekend; that’s for investment bankers and injured footballers.

Well, not this time.

Okay,Ireland is not exactly Vegas. And the honeymoon suite on the top floor of Caeser’s Palace is definitely out of the question. But as I recently discovered, it’s possible to have a fun weekend away, on a reasonable budget and without having to eat into precious annual leave.

Here we go; Friday night and work is done. Hop on the train at New Street (£3) and into Birmingham International before my at-home-for-the-weekend colleagues had got their first drink and realised that there was no chance of getting a seat anywhere. I met up with my fellow travellers (six of us, three couples) and we breezed through security.

We had a couple of hours to kill before the flight and so had forked out on the first unnecessary indulgence of the trip; the airport lounge (£20). I cannot recommend these enough. Relax in comfortable seats, help yourself to salads and pastries, order a hot meal, and most importantly, unwind with a complimentary drink. Or several. If you were planning on eating or drinking at the airport anyway, this would work out cheaper than most other options and infinitely more enjoyable.

Before we knew it, it was time to head to our gate. While it was difficult saying goodbye to the Langley’s gin, we made our way over. The flights were a steal at £28.50 return (such prices are easy to find with little effort), and the fact that flight was only forty minutes meant that the hen do in front were amusing rather than deeply irritating.

When we landed in Dublin, we were quickly through security and in a taxi (£5 each) and on our way to our home for the weekend. We were about 20 minutes outside Dublin, in Malahide. In order to get a good deal on accommodation, I find it’s best to stay in bigger groups; the six of us we managed to get a massive house (it could have slept 14 comfortably!) for £75 each for the whole weekend. A little searching on Airbnb or equivalent sites will bring you similar results.

Desperate to make the most of our trip, we dumped our bags in the house and head straight back out to experience an authentic Irish Friday night. The common perception of reland is that drink is expensive, and it is (particularly in Dublin), but not ridiculously so. We were paying €4.50 (£3.50) for a pint, which is good compared to a lot of pubs in Birmingham city centre.

Another common perception, and obvious cliché: the Guinness over there is amazing. I spent the weekend baffled about why it tasted so incredible. Was it just psychological? Were my taste buds influenced by the surroundings? Or is it genuinely better? I wouldn’t normally have one at home but I couldn’t get enough over there.

Anyway, we eventually retired back to the house for some much needed rest, and charged whoever was up first with the task of sourcing breakfast. Predictably, and despite my best efforts at pretending to be asleep, it was my wife and I. At the local shops we picked up bread, milk, porridge, spreads, eggs, tea and coffee for everyone (£2.50 each), which was gratefully consumed by the rest of our all-of-a-sudden-awake party.

There’s plenty to do around Malahide, so we spent Saturday milling around. We walked around the castle grounds and along the beach, we pottered around the shops (all delightfully free activities) and stopped for lunch at one of the pubs for lunch for €5 (£4) and a couple of, the now obligatory, Guinnesses. The day flew by.

If we were to really watch the pennies we could have brought food and cooked back at the house or grabbed something in a pub for dinner, but we decided to splash out on a meal in a restaurant (£25), before heading to another pub to just double check the Guinness was as nice in that one as well. (It was).

On the Sunday morning, all with slightly fuzzy heads, we ate the remaining bits of breakfast and spent thetime before our flight in Dublin. We got a taxi into the city centre (£5) and started to explore.

One day really isn’t enough to really scratch the surface of what the city has to offer, but we did our best. There are so many things to do, see, eat and drink, that you have to concentrate on whatever appeals to you most. The city bus tours are a good way to see everything in a short space of time (£8) and as you can hop on and off, you can get around for not much money, and they often get you discounts at any other attraction you want to visit. Plenty are available for free.

We had a quick lunch at a restaurant at Temple Bar, and paid just €10 (£8) for two courses and a glass of wine before a bit more wandering then it was time to get a taxi back to the airport (£4 each) and wait for the flight.

We landed back in Birmingham at around 19.30, we got the train back to New Street (£3) and went home. A great weekend, and at a price you could easily save up for.

Total cost per person:
£173 (based on a don’t-tell-your-doctor 10 pints of Guinness)
£231 (with airport lounge, dinner at a restaurant and city bus tour)