It was a pleasure to read a feature in The Guardian newspaper this week extolling the virtues and beauty of travelling around Ireland by train. Luckily in the rush to join a modern age, Ireland did not get rid of all its railway lines though there were many local casualties.
Great Irish Rail Journeys
In recent years some of these abandoned local railways lines have become Greenways and are being reinvigorated by walkers and cyclists. They include the Carlingford to Omeath line, the Great Western Greenway around Clew Bay in Galway and the Waterford to Dungarvan old rail route in the south east.
Discounted Rail Fares
The other point the Guardian made is that the significant drop in rail fares mean that travelling around Ireland by rail is very affordable. For example, the Dublin to Belfast now costs €13.99 single and Longford to Sligo is €9.35 single. The Leap Card also helps to reduce the cost of rail travel particularly in urban areas.
Top Six Irish Train Journeys
Rosslare to Dublin – this route departs from Rosslare Europort, travelling through Norman towns of Wexford and Enniscorthy before cutting through mountainous and woody Wicklow to meet the coast near Arklow. If you sit on the right side off the train heading north you will get great views of the Wicklow coast.
Cork to Cobh – one of the most colourful and picturesque towns in Ireland is Cobha. It is less than half an hour from the city and a beautiful journey. The deep-water harbour in Cobh is famous as the Titanic’s last port and museum. If you like watching ocean liners, it is a popular port of call.
Western Rail Corridor – links Galway to Limerick and was reopened in 2010 after 34 years closed. The train runs inland through some beautiful countryside. Villages and towns along the way include Oranmore, Gort, Athenry, Ennis, Sixmilebridge, Ardrahan and Craughwell.
Dublin to Belfast – on the busiest route in the country the train hugs the coastline as far as Dundalk. It crosses the Malahide Estuary and passes the beaches of Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington. Inland it traverses the longest viaduct in the country at Craigmore in Armagh. Arriving in Belfast Laynon Station leaves you close to the Belfast Harbour where the Titanic Belfast awaits.
Derry to Coleraine – author Michael Palin described this railway journey as one of the most beautiful in the world. The train hugs the coast, popping in and out of dark tunnels into bright daylight and spectacular scenery.
Longford to Sligo – the midlands of Ireland have some spectacular riverine scenery. This journey allows for up close vistas of the famous Shannon River. The rail follows the river to Carrick before turning to Boyle and on through Yeats Country to Sligo.
As an alternative to renting a car, the Irish rail services are a comfortable and inexpensive way to explore the country. One word of advice, there are no onboard refreshment services since the Covid-19 pandemic, so bring a picnic and have a fine day out.